The Oakland Press: Coaches help develop Royal Oak Shrine girls basketball program

 By Paula Pasche, The Oakland Press

ROYAL OAK >> In their sixth season leading the girls basketball team at Royal Oak Shrine, coach Wayne Gigant and assistant coach Ashley Alles are proud of the program they have built.

In their first season they won just two games and had a JV roster of six or seven girls.

“We had to make cuts this year for first time in a long time. We have 15 on our varsity and 17 on our JV,’’ Alles said.

Last season for the first time in 23 years Shrine won the Catholic High School League Championship. The Cursaders are 2-2 so far this season after a 47-39 loss to Royal Oak on Friday night.

Developing a program is a Herculean task, but they have persevered.

“We had a really nice group of kids that were younger when we started, and they really bought into work hard, get into the gym, put your time in and you’re going to get better. It’s really nice for kids,’’ Alles said.

Obviously it was a young team from the get-go.

“We had some kids who were sophomores when we first came here, by their senior year we won a district championship their senior year, we made it to the regional final their senior year and then last year we were able to win the Catholic League championship,’’ Alles said. “It was that first group that set the tone and ever since then we’ve been rolling, getting excitement in the program, we’ve had great buy-in from the community.’’

She said during the Catholic League championship last spring at Wayne State, they looked from their bench across the gym and were thrilled to see bleachers full of Shrine supporters.

“It was a great moment, that’s what you want for the kids. You want the kids to feel you put the work in and the rewards are going to come,’’ Alles said. “We’ve been lucky that things have rolled our way the last few years I think that’s really the result of the hard work, the commitment, showing up every day.’’

Gigant and Alles have coached together for nine years. They were at University Liggett (where Alles is a middle school teacher) before they came to Shrine.

They both were drawn to Shrine for several reasons including that it was a smaller school.

“It was a good fit for us, it’s a good community, we saw a lot of potential. They have a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) program grades 4 through 8 and we knew we could build from that. There was a lot of potential,’’ Gigant said.

Their philosophy seems simple, but the coaches have to remain consistent or it won’t work.

“When you’re building a program from scratch, you better open the gym doors and you better make yourselves available as coaches and you better give your kids as much opportunity to be in the gym as possible or you’ll never build a program,’’ Gigant said. “You can’t stop at the end of the year. You have to be involved year-round. The main thing is being inside the gym. You have to give kids the opportunity to get better.’’

Gigant, a chiropractor, is the father of four daughters. He got into coaching when the two youngest played basketball.

So he knows a little about how his players think.

“Kids want discipline, they want to be disciplined because it makes them better,’’ Gigant said.

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