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Centennial girls’ basketball coach Greg Amundson holds senior center Jill Conrad is high regard.
“If you watch her, she never messes up,” Amundson said. “She’s always spot on with whatever she’s doing.”
Conrad, in her third season as a full-time starter, was quick to point out nobody is perfect. But few pursue perfection with Conrad’s zeal.
The 6-foot center “always leads us in practice drills,” Amundson said.
She also led the Cougars to a 2-0 start this season, an 83-66 victory against Park Center and a 61-49 defeat of Minnetonka. She led the Cougars with 27 points against the Skippers and grabbed nine rebounds.
Conrad, who signed to play at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., also performs in three school choirs, teaches Sunday school and coaches and officiates at the youth level. She spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about work ethic, gaining confidence in outside shooting and sympathy for referees.
Q: Coach Amundson said you never mess up. Have you always had a pretty good grip on your overall game?
A: I think I improved a lot my sophomore year. That’s when I started to be more aware of being smarter with the ball. Everyone makes mistakes, but I think I got smarter.
Q: He also credited your work ethic in practice. Where did you develop that commitment?
A: I had a really good coach growing up when I played traveling basketball — Scott Antl, who is now the head coach at Anoka. And it was also how I was raised, to practice as you play. Because that’s where you get better.
Q: Your team started 2-0 and while that is a small sample size, what have you seen that gives you confidence going forward?
A: Both of the teams we played so far were very good teams. So winning both shows we’re off to a really good start. Hopefully, we only go up from here.
Q: What are some of the games you are looking forward to this season?
A: Obviously that Hopkins game [Dec. 19] is always in our minds. It helps motivate me even more in practice to work hard because that game is really important and you want to be as prepared as you can.
Q: What will this team do well this season?
A: We really have been focusing on our defense. We have a lot of speed and quickness with so many guards. Our transition offense goes hand-in-hand with our defense. Also, our experience will help. Four of our five starters have been on the team since freshman year.
Q: What more did you do to be ready for your senior season?
A: I’m used to playing on the inside only for Centennial. But on my AAU team I was able to get out and make shooting more a part of my game.
Q: Your coach did say he wants you to have an opportunity to shoot more. Is that something new?
A: Coach always gives us the green light to shoot. But I don’t think I was consistent or confident in the past. But he’s seen that I have grown in that area, so this year he’s trying to make it more prominent.
Q: You serve as a coach and referee in youth basketball?
A: Yeah, I coach a seventh-grade Centennial girls’ team this year. And I ref second through sixth grade girls and boys.
Q: How has the life of a referee treated you?
A: You know, it definitely makes you understand how difficult it is.
David La Vaque