When Meadowbrook High School hired Danny Connor as its new varsity girls’ basketball coach this summer, it appeared he was just the man for the job.
An experienced coach and player developer, Connor was an assistant coach at Eastern Illinois, and has also coached at John Marshall. He founded a recreational ministry in North Carolina after his time in Illinois. A multi-sports talent, he also coached baseball, soccer and football through several athletic associations along the way.
Connor brought over a longtime friend and coaching comrade, Ernest Wansley, as an assistant to the Monarchs. Wansley, a Virginia Tech alumnus, briefly played for the NBA’s Washington Bullets in the 1970s and overseas in Italy.
The door opened for the position when Connor met Meadowbrook boys’ coach Kasan Brown during an AAU season, and Brown offered the chance for Connor to come work with Meadowbrook’s junior varsity squad.
Impressed with his work with junior varsity, Meadowbrook extended the job offer for the girls’ coaching spot to Connor; it would be his first girls’ coaching job. Michael Knight, who led the Meadowbrook girls to regionals last year, is pursuing an opportunity in Tennessee.
“It’s a goal to first make our players great students,” said Connor. “And then to develop them into great citizens. It’s my ultimate goal to coach these girls well enough that, if they want to, we can get them in a college program.”
Any time there is a coaching change, players must adjust, but it seems the adjustment has gone well, as Meadowbrook, as of press time, had gotten started with a 3-1 record, including an impressive win against No. 2 Huguenot in the opening round of the Times Dispatch Invitational Tournament, which was postponed by Thursday’s snowfall.
The Lady Monarchs won 58-52.
“It’s going to be us going hard this year,” said senior Briana Arrington. “It’s our last year and we’ve got to do what we need to win, play together as a team.”
The team will be headed by several seniors, and some up-and-coming sophomores.
Those seniors are Arrington; the Marks twins, Katrina and Kiara; guard Torie Cunningham; Chantiqua Tanner and Sydney Howard. Waiting in the wings are sophomores Sycoya Dorsey, Brittany Nicholson and Ashley Pegram, who started a few games as a freshman last year.
“We’re going to expect a lot from our seniors this year,” said Connor. “But we have a number of younger players who will also make contributions this year.”
As for Thomas Dale, a heavy favorite in the district and beyond, Connor said his depth may help give them a good run. As of press time, one of three match-ups will have been completed, since Thomas Dale also advanced to the semi-finals of the Times Dispatch Invitational Tournament. The two teams will also meet in the usual home/away format in the district season.
“I’m counting on the depth of my team and the experience of my seniors to really give Thomas Dale a run this year,” said Connor. “I think it may come down to depth.”
Meadowbrook will look to use whatever successes come its way in the tournament as the season rolls on.