The last time Katie Jackson was the head coach of a high school basketball team, she was pregnant with twin daughters Saniya and Nevaeh.
On Monday, the sisters, now juniors, were among the Northrop girls basketball players lined up for drills as Jackson opened her first official practice in a decade and a half.
“It's surreal, to be here and to be having this opportunity, to coach my girls, it's surreal to put it mildly,” said Jackson, who previously coached at North Side. “It's a hoop dream come true.”
Jackson and her daughters join a Bruins team that went 9-12 and lost in the second round of the sectional tournament last year. This summer, Saniya and Nevaeh transferred from a Carroll team that won the SAC, strung together 22 straight victories and made it to the Class 4A semistate, before losing to Crown Point.
“A lot of my good friends are the seniors, and they really want to have a good last season,” Nevaeh Jackson said of her new teammates. “We're hoping that we, altogether, can give that to them, because they work really hard.”
J'Asia Scott, one of those Northrop seniors, said it's “a relief” that the team is back in season. The Bruins open play against Leo on Nov. 6.
“We just want to cut down nets and beat teams that we haven't beaten before,” Scott said. “We want to be able to run with everybody and beat everybody.”
Carroll might have something to say about that. The Chargers, who went 25-3 last season, were not fully back in the swing of things Monday, as the school district is on fall break and several team members were visiting colleges.
But the players who were at practice Monday said that the loss of players such as Emily Parrett and Delane Sheets, who both graduated, and the Jackson sisters have not dimmed their ambitions for the season.
“We just really want to go far this season,” junior Taylor Fordyce said. “We did go far last season, and we still want to do the same thing this year. Our goal is state, that's still our goal this year. And I think we can do that. It'll be different, but I think we still have the players to go to state and go far. It will be a big change, but we'll work around it.”
The Chargers will play their first game at Angola on Nov. 9.
Sophomore Lexi Castator, who missed much of the offseason with a high ankle sprain, said she was just happy to be back on the court.
“It feels great. Usually, I would do something with basketball at least three times a week, and since I couldn't do that I was so bored at home. Now I have something to do,” Castator said.
Despite losing numerous key players from last year's team, coach Mark Redding said he was pleased with how his young Chargers jelled during summer tournaments.
“The chemistry is a big thing. This summer, I thought our chemistry was really good and we were very successful,” Redding said. “When you're missing key players from last year's team, it's about, is the chemistry going to be there? What are we missing? And this summer was really nice, because the girls seemed to come together and pick it up. That's the key.”