Former Rocket star Josh Pickell named Reese girls basketball coach

Former Saginaw Valley State University guard Josh Pickell dribbles up the court against Michigan defender Caris LeVert.

By Mike Gallagher

Sports Writer


REESE — Reese High School has found its new girls basketball coach, tabbing former Rocket basketball star Josh Pickell to lead the program into a new era after longtime coach Dennis Gruber retired this past season.

“I played here for four years, and I’ve always really wanted to come back and coach,” Pickell said. “As soon as coach Gruber retired, I knew that I wanted to apply for the job. I’m thankful that I got it, and Im pretty excited.”

Pickell played four years of varsity basketball at Reese, earning all-state honors twice. During his senior season he averaged 19 points, seven assists, three steals and three rebounds per game. He signed with Saginaw Valley State University and played three years for the Cardinals.

Pickell feels that his time playing college basketball will be a big advantage for him as a coach.

“I gathered as much knowledge as I could from my college coaches during my time at SVSU,” said Pickell. “I think the experience is going to help a lot. For my four years at Reese we ran the (Jeff) Casler system, and when I went to college I learned a completely different system, so I’m hoping that I can kind of intertwine those two systems and have something special.”

The Casler system, named for longtime Reese boys basketball coach Jeff Casler, preaches high intensity, tough defense and an up-tempo style of play. Pickell will look to mold his Rocket team the same way.

“To sum up my offensive and defensive philosophy in one word would be: conditioning,” said Pickell. “Getting up and down the court, playing fast paced, that’s the way I’ve played, and what I’ve learned is that’s what works best.”

The Rockets know all about high-scoring offense, as they were one of the top-scoring teams in the area last season, averaging 51.2 points per game.

While Pickell will have to replace four-time all-state performer Reyna Frost, who is taking her talents to Central Michigan University in the fall, he will still have a talented group returning. Guard Maddie Coulter was all-Greater Thumb Conference first team last season, while forward Emily Fleischmann earned honorable mention all conference.

“We have a young team coming back,” Pickell said. “I know that there’s some pieces coming back, and I know that there’s some seniors that will hopefully bring in some good leadership, and a hard work ethic that the younger girls can learn from.”

Pickell already has plans for his program this offseason.

Pickell puts up a shot against Harbor Beach during his high school playing days with the Rockets.

“Right now the plan is the freshman and JV teams will be going to the Millington Shootout, and the varsity will be going to the SVSU team camp after we work out and have some practices,” said Pickell.

Pickell says the summer will be a good time to decide how his teams will be made up, and he will use the summer practices to decide where the girls will play.

“If you’re a freshman, you are going to start on the freshman team, and if you’re a sophomore, you will be playing on the JV team,” Pickell said. “I’m going to be watching all of the practices, and whoever me and my assistant coaches think is ready for the varsity level will be moved up.”

Steven Schrader and Ethan Stockmeyer will assist Pickell at the varsity level, Bill Frost will coach the JV along with Jade Ackerman, and Jeff Young and Amy Hecht will coach the freshman team.

Pickell, 23, feels that his youth is something that will work in his favor as a coach.

“The way I look at it , being young is a big positive,” said Pickell. “When I was a player, if I had a coach that was able to condition and scrimmage with us, I respected that coach a lot more than a coach that was just there telling me what to do.”

As for expectations for this season, Pickell is looking to continue the success of Gruber, who has won seven straight outright or shared Greater Thumb West titles.

“I’m expecting to compete,” said Pickell. “ Competing for the league title is going to come first, and then competing for a district title is next on the list.”

Although Gruber leaves big shoes to fill, Pickell says he’s the man for the job.

“It’s going to be tough of course,” Pickell said. “He’s got a lot of wins under his belt, but I think I’m up for the challenge, and Im ready to take on the challenge.”

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