FRUITPORT – The Fruitport girls basketball team had a pretty rough season last year, posting a 4-19 record.

The Trojans got off to a decent start with a 4-3 mark, but then struggled with the competition in the brutally tough O-K Blue conference.

Head coach Brian Packard knew there was a lot of work to be done to get the team back to respectability, and the Trojans have been busy in the offseason finding ways to improve.

“We started way earlier than we probably ever have,” said Packard, whose team will open the season on Tuesday at Fruitport Calvary Christian. “We had girls in the gym all summer and did a couple camps. We also had like 30 girls in the gym for conditioning, which is something we’ve never had before. I’m really proud of the commitment that they’ve made.

Fruitport’s Rhiannon Raleigh battles for a loose ball last season.

“We’re really trying to be more competitive. It’s still going to be a struggle at times because we play in one of the toughest conferences in the West Michigan area. But we’re trying to compete and have overall growth in the program to take a step forward.”

One positive element for the Trojans will be experience, with six returning seniors on the squad – guard Jorja Blackmer, guard Ashton Olson, guard Grace Sweet, guard Aris Ogden, forward Riley Kettel and center Rhiannon Raleigh.

Sweet, Olson and Blackmer were all starters last season.

Also returning to the squad are junior guards McKenzie Beardsley and Kenzie Pate and junior center Lainey Bol.

Fruitport’s Jorja Blackmer dribbles around an opponent last season.

Several of the returning Trojans had good individual efforts last season, at one point or another. Sweet, for instance, scored a game-high 16 points, including three triples, against Coopersville, while Olson scored 15 against North Muskegon.

“We have more experience than last year,” said Packard about having nine returning players. “It’s a lot of these girls’ second year on varsity now and that experience is already showing. Probably the biggest improvement already is that we’re more ready this season.”

Rounding out the Fruitport roster will be junior guards Emma Woycehoski and freshman guard Izzy Hanson-Wilbur.

The Trojans plan to be more competitive this season by playing more to their strengths.

Fruitport’s Ashton Olson

“We’re just trying to play basketball,” Packard said. “We’re not going to be nearly as structured. We’re going to try and play to our strengths and stay away from weaknesses. We have some kids who can shoot the ball and we’re going to try and take care of the ball more.”

Packard believes one key will be better ball security, because turnovers were a big issue last year.

“We just gave opponents 10-15 more possessions every game ast season,” he said. “That’s at least 10 more points you’ve given them and a 10-point game becomes a 20-point game. We will have more games that come down to the wire if we take care of the ball.” eddie