PRINCETON — Kevin Hieronymus is bringing back an old Illinois State University motto to motivate the Princeton girls basketball team this year.
First introduced in the 1970s by ISU coach Gene Smithson, the mantra MTXE (Mental Toughness Xtra Effort) is something Hieronymus has shared with his team in practice and will remind them before each game this year.
“I was a big follower of ISU basketball growing up as a kid around there,” said Hieronymus, who graduated from ISU. “Those were some good days as a junior high and high school kid going to watch the Redbirds at old Horton Fieldhouse and seeing their MTXE logo.”
Mental toughness, the first part of the slogan, is something the Tigresses will have to focus on early in the season. With only two returning varsity players on a roster of 11, the hope is team chemistry will develop sooner rather than later. With so much turnover on the roster, Hieronymus may not have a set starting five early in the season.
“Every position is up for grabs at this point,” said Hieronymus, now in his second year as coach. “We’ll be looking closely at practices and evaluating everyone’s skills and work ethic.”
Zoe Mead, a 5-11 senior, started last season for Princeton and averaged a solid 6.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. She will play in the post along with fellow senior Kelly Schmidt. Both have played all four years in the program.
“It says a lot for Kelly and Zoe to represent their class all these years,” Hieronymus said. “I look for them to be strong team leaders.”
Michaela Strom, a sophomore, is the lone underclassmen to be called up. She will bring depth to the guard position, along with juniors Danielle Hughes, Ann Sims and Megan Hendrickson.
Juniors Brianna Barajas, Taylor Clark and Stephenney Farrell will play in the post. Classmates Alison VanDenBussche and Becca Frank will play wing.
Extra effort, the second part of the slogan, will be needed this year as Princeton joins the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, moving over from the disbanded NCIC conference. They will be joined by Hall, St. Bede, Kewanee, Rockridge, Orion and Sherrard in the South Division.
“I see our division and the conference as a whole being very competitive,” Hieronymus said. “You’re going to have to come play every night to be competitive.”
“We’ve got to play as a team. We’re going to need to strive to play good defense and make for some lower scoring games.”
The Tigresses will tip off their season against Midland on Monday, when they host their annual Holiday Tournament sponsored by the PHS Boosters at Prouty Gym.
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