By Derrick Mahone
When the Jonesboro players met their new coach a few weeks before the start of preseason drills, he left a lasting impression on the team.
Beginning the season with a new coach is nothing new for the Jonesboro girls' program since Michael House is the third person to lead the team in as many years. It was House's introduction speech to the team that grabbed their attention.
"You could tell he had a passion for the game," senior LaKeisha Anderson said. "He does a great job of teaching in practice, and he is very detail oriented."
Senior center Jasmine Manning remembers House emphasizing the weight room during his first couple weeks on the job.
"He told us that we had to be strong," Manning said. "He is very big on conditioning training. It has taken us time to get use to it because of the soreness and pain, but it is a sacrifice you have to make."
House replaced former coach Jimmy Fields, who left to take an assistant principal/athletic director job at Twiggs County. Because House got the job at the beginning of October, he didn't have the luxury of taking the team through summer workouts.
But he is not complaining.
"It has been a real smooth transition," said House, who have the Cardinals off to a 1-0 start heading to a tournament in Madison County. "Everybody has such a great attitude. The kids have been great and the parents have been supportive."
Winning is nothing new at Jonesboro, the team compiled a 30-2 record and made its first final four appearance last season. Jonesboro has been to the state playoffs six times this decade. House is implemented an uptempo, aggressive style of defense with a lot of presses. The team is still in the learning process.
"We have some good athletes with some good foot speed," House said. "I expected this level of talent for a program like Jonesboro. The Atlanta area is known for its talent."
House has been successful at all his coaching stops since moving to Georgia. The New York native led the Morgan County eighth-grade team to consecutive unbeaten seasons. Last season at Cedar Shoals, his team won 16 games and reached the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
The players said it has been somewhat of a challenge to adjust to another coaching style just before the start of practice last month.
"At first I was like, wow, we go to the final four and then lose our coach," said senior LaQuinta Gallishaw. "Coach has been cool. I really like his program. When you are an athlete, you do what it takes to win."
Jonesboro returns two starters in Manning and Gallishaw from last year's semifinalist team that lost 43-41 to Fayette County, which snapped its 29-game winning streak.
"There are some big expectations for this season," Gallishaw said. "We definitely want to make it back to the final four. We made a promise to ourselves to get back. I think we can make it back."
Although House wants to win this season, he said the future appears to be bright with 14 freshmen in the program. Freshman guard Tori Florence figures to get a lot of playing time this season.
"She has a lot of athleticism," House said. "Tori has a solid foundation. You can tell she has a lot of poise for her age. We feel we have a road map in place with a young group. We are looking long turn. At Jonesboro they usually don't rebuild, but reload. We want our younger players to play as many games as possible."