DION Dagostino is excited to be back coaching in the Women’s SBL and wants his Warwick Senators to buy into the confidence he has in them that there’s no reason they can’t win every game they go into in 2019.
Dagostino is making his return to the league coaching at the Senators in 2019 and his tenure got off to a winning start last Saturday night with a 94-82 win on the road against the Perth Redbacks.
They now back up this Saturday night against the Joondalup Wolves at HBF Arena and while they won’t be at full strength yet, the additions of Tayla Hepburn and Bianca Villegas has already shown will make them a force.
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Dagostino made it a focus in the off-season to get as many local products back to the club as possible which has included Sam Roscoe and Maddison Hooper while Hannah and Rebekah Throns will also be back at the conclusion of their college seasons.
To top it off with the signing of imports Villegas and Samaria Howard along with Hepburn and Stacey Barr it gives them a group that he sees no reason can’t be successful.
When you factor in the experience of Emma Berryman and Nicole Jorre d St Jorre, and youth including Caitlyn Jones, Emma Burke and Chloe Forster, and it’s easy to see why Dagostino is so buoyant over the group he has at his disposal.
He believes they can be successful, now the key is getting the players to believe that too.
“I’m excited for them to realise they can do it. When I coached the Hawks back in the day, at the start of the year I said we’d get to the Grand Final,” Dagostino said.
“In the end, they asked if we really thought we would but I did then, and I feel like that with this group. It’s now all about the girls realising that and believing that themselves. There’s no reason why we can’t win most games, that’s what we’ll be trying to do.
“You always want to get to that big game but a lot of things have to go your way with not getting injuries, having the group stay together and how your chemistry works out. We just have to evolve with it and be quick to adjust.”
What Dagostino saw when he took over at the Senators coming into 2019 was that there was good veterans and exciting teenagers, but not so much in between which is where he feels he’s done well with the recruiting of Barr, Hepburn, Roscoe and Hooper on top of the two imports.
The fact that Roscoe and Hooper were returning local products was a big factor and then Hepburn and Barr came almost as a package deal with a history together.
All in all, Dagostino couldn’t be happier with how the roster has come together.
“There was a massive gap in the age in the group when I took it over and we just went hard with what we had,” he said.
“We went hard on recruiting with Sam but she was one of our locals and then Stacey fell in our lap, but we just wanted to get Stirling people back to the club. Bianca fell into our lap too because she knew the Throns girls and they’ll be back too. We let it come to us and it’s gone well.
“We tried to stick with a lot of Stirling juniors and getting Sam back was really important and the same with Maddi Hooper. Those girls are awesome but it’s great they are our local players.
“We got lucky with Stacey Barr because she’s friends with Tayla so that was a win. We went through everybody to see if they would be interested in coming back over the pre-season and it’s worked out well with the squad we’ve put together.”
While by no means is Dagostino concerned his back court won’t be up to it with Hooper and Barr to still come in along with import Howard, but the front court based on last Saturday night he will have is mighty exciting.
Hepburn produced 31 points and 17 rebounds against the Redbacks, and Villegas 18 points, eight boards and five assists with Roscoe still to add to that group.
“She (Hepburn) has sort of been under the radar the last few years since her junior career but she has decided she’s ready to play. You don’t have to do much with her, just let her go out there and go for it,” Dagostino said.
“At training she does a lot and you can tell she’s got it, so that sort of performance wasn’t a surprise. I think she’ll be able to put up solid numbers and she’ll get more help. They’ll double down on her eventually but she’s versatile and physical, and long and agile so she’s the perfect post player for us.
“Bianca’s solid too. She’ll only get better the longer she’s here. She hasn’t really played for the last couple of years and has only been here six weeks. We hope to see a lot more from her even though that was an impressive start.”
Dagostino had always been eyeing an opportunity to get back involved coaching in the SBL and with his daughter now coming through the system at the Senators, he thought there was no better place to put his hand up for and so far, so good with how he’s settling in.
“Basketball is the best part of my life and it’s where I’ve made all my mates and friends and social-wise. For me it’s all about passing that flame onto the girls and winning’s a bonus. Hopefully they can now enjoy their basketball and winning at the same time,” Dagostino said.
“When I left Hawks I didn’t think I would do it again, but it was only because of my daughter Roxy who is at Stirling. With her getting back into the basketball and realising she loves it, and will be soon at this level, I thought I’d be here anyway so I might as well get properly involved and help out.”