HHS girls aiming to make strides under new coach

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays High's Aleyia Ruder was a second-team All-Western Athletic Conference pick last year.

Before the Hays High girls basketball team can take a big leap forward, new coach Len Melvin wants his team to focus on taking baby steps.

“We haven’t talked about anything long-term, and that’s been intentional,” Melvin said. “Right now, I just want them focused on a daily pattern. How can we get better every single day?”

The Indians will officially start that quest against Hugoton at 6:30 on Thursday in the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout at Hays High.

The program has seen coaching changes following each of the last three seasons. Melvin is looking to provide stability for the program.

He entered with a familiarity with several players on the team, having coached them at the youth or middle school levels.

“They’ve just worked hard,” Melvin said. “We’re throwing a lot at them but they have worked so hard. I’m just grateful for that. It’s still pretty sloppy, but you can’t fault their effort, that’s for sure.”

The Indians went 6-15 last year in the lone season under Kyle Porter, who left Hays to take the head girls’ coaching job at Silver Lake.

Junior forward Aleyia Ruder is back for the Indians after earning second-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors last year.

“She’s really done a nice job and she’s been a good leader,” Melvin said.

The Indians have three seniors in Re Green, Maia Lummus and Ginny Ke.

“(Green’s) told me, ’I’m sick of losing coach,’ ” Melvin said. “That’s the kind fervor I like to see.

“Maia Lummus, we’re playing her at a lot of positions she hasn’t played before. We’re kind of playing her inside a little bit. Some players, that would come with some negative body language and bad attitude. She’s totally embraced it.

“Ginny Ke just works hard every day.”

The Indians will look for sophomore Carly Lang to play a big role again after she started as a freshman.

“Carly works her tail off,” Melvin said. “She’s going to help us a lot.”

Other players who could see significant time include Morgan Engel, Jersey Johnson, Claire Humphrey and Caroline Robben. Melvin said a few others could work their way into the mix.

“From player number four to number 14, we are so similar,” Melvin said. “I’m not saying we’re going to play 14 girls, but we probably could. There’s not much difference between them. There’s a lot of competition right now in this gym.”

On Friday, the Indians will play Life Prep at 6:30. They will close out the tournament at 5 p.m. Saturday against Thomas More Prep-Marian. All games will be played at Hays High and no fans will be allowed because of COVID-19 guidelines set by the Kansas State High School Activities Association.

Melvin is eager to see the HHS girls in a game setting.

“For me, I just want to see the girls take what we learned and do it as well as they can,” Melvin said. “We’ve really been harping on being great defensively and limiting mistakes on offense.

“We really need to value the basketball. If we don’t value the basketball, it’s going to be a long game every night. It’s going to be really important that we take care of the basketball, make the most of every possession and do those little things right.”