By Rubin E. Grant
The John Carroll Catholic girls head basketball coach position has resembled a revolving door the past four seasons.
Since Bryan Burgess completed a five-year run at the helm from 2009 to 2014, the Cavaliers have started each succeeding season with a new head coach.
Throughout the coaching carousel, the Cavaliers have had one constant on the court: guard Josie Wannemuehler. She has not let the coaching turnovers keep her from doing what she does best: putting the ball in the basket.
Earlier this month, Wannemuehler became John Carroll’s girls basketball all-time leading scorer. The 5-foot-8- inch senior entered this week with 1,210 career points, eclipsing the previous school record of 1,149 points set by Roni Richardson. Richardson graduated in 2016 and now is a sophomore guard for Shorter University in Rome, Georgia.
Wannemuehler is almost in disbelief that she is the new record holder.
“Ever since I’ve been playing I never thought of that being one of my goals,” Wannemuehler said. “I just tried to go out and play the best I could. I’m blessed to have the record.”
Wannemuehler has been on the varsity since she was a freshman. First-year John Carroll coach Destiny Frazier was familiar with Wannemuehler’s game before she arrived this season.
Frazier was an assistant coach at Spain Park when the Cavaliers played in the Jaguars’ tournament last season.
“We scouted the team and we knew she was the best player on the team,” Frazier said.
Coaching Wannemuehler has given Frazier even more appreciation for her talent. Wannemuehler is averaging 17 points this season while playing for a youthful squad that has stumbled to a 6-10 record.
“I’m impressed with how well she handles pressure,” Frazier said. “We have a very young team with only two seniors, two sophomores and nine freshmen. Josie does well running the team and providing leadership.”
Leading And Learning
Wannemuehler embraces her role as team leader, especially taking the nine freshmen under her wing.
“When I look at them, I remember the role models I had growing up,” she said. “I want to be just like that for them and hear them say, ‘Josie did this, or Josie did that.’ I want to challenge them to work hard because I’ve always prided myself on being an extremely hard worker.”
The hard work is continuing under Frazier, who is trying to expand Wannemuehler’s ability as a scorer.
“She’s primarily an outside shooter and when someone comes on a close out, she can take the ball to the basket,” Frazier said. “I’m working on her mid-range game, so instead oftaking the ball all the way to the basket, I want her to pull up and take a jumper.”
Of course, adjusting to a new coach’s style is nothing new for Wannemuehler. She affably handles the changes and goes about the business of adapting her skills.
“I have had a new coach every year since I was in the seventh grade,” Wannemuehler said. “They have all come in with a different attitude about what they wanted me do and that’s helped my game. I used to be a one-dimensional player, but now I am more well-rounded.
“If they wanted me to be a passer, I’d do that,” she said. “If they wanted me to focus on defense, I’d do that. If they wanted me be a ball handler, I’d do that. If they wanted me to be a shooter, I’d do that.”
Wannemuehler credits her dad, Brian, for helping her approach the game with such a positive outlook.
Brian Wannemuehler is the golf pro at Hoover Country Club.
“My dad played high school basketball in Evansville, Indiana,” Wannemuehler said. “He would always come outside and play with me. And he didn’t take it easy on me. I definitely learned how to be aggressive from him and he always told me to let my game speak for me and not my mouth, and to have a good attitude on the court.”
Frazier likes the way Wannemuehler carries herself on the court.
“She has the best personality, especially for a basketball player,” Frazier said. “She’s always having fun and laughing. She’s definitely unique.”
Wannemuehler mentioned the uniqueness comes from her quirky laugh that sometimes gets on Frazier’s nerves, but she quickly added, “I like playing for her. She’s a great coach and you can see how much she loves the game.”
Wannemuehler plans to play college basketball. She is leaning toward Birmingham-Southern, but she also is considering Jacksonville State, which just happens to be where Frazier played.
“I haven’t fully committed yet, but I think I’m going to Birmingham-Southern,” Wannemuehler said. ❖