In a year that included a pinnacle of 960 career wins and a TAPPS 6A State Championship, Bishop Lynch girls basketball coach Andy Zihlman capped a monumental season as a premier speaker at the Women's Association of Basketball Coaches (WBCA) annual convention on March 31.
Held in conjunction with the 2017 NCAA Women's Final Four in Dallas, the WBCA conference was attended by thousands of coaches ranging from the middle school level to collegiate divisions including NAIA and the NCAA.
"It was an incredible honor to be asked to speak and demonstrate drills and plays that have made our program successful," Zihlman said. "Attending conferences is not only important as a chance to network, but also for coaches to learn what other drills and play sets other successful programs use. In order to stay competitive, we must remain students of the game and conferences such as this one are ideal."
Zihlman was one of only two high school coaches from Texas asked to speak at the conference, specifically on the WBCA High School Coaches Day. In the hopes of attracting more high school coaches to the conference, the WBCA added sessions with programming focused on building high-level scholastic programs and preparing athletes to play on the college stage.
The day included on-court instruction, classroom sessions, lunch and an opportunity to network with collegiate coaches.
Zihlman, along with assistant coaches Delaine Taylor, Paul Gardner, Michele Longoria and Nikki Nester, and 11 members of the Lady Friars program spoke and demonstrated drills to more than 100 coaches in attendance. The attendees were given a 24-page packet of information detailing drills and offensive plays used by the Lady Friars basketball programs.
"When it comes to teaching and coaching basketball, coaches know we are not in the business of reinventing the wheel," Zihlman explained. "Rather, we take these chances to share those age-old philosophies that have worked for years but adapting those to variables of different programs including player personnel, the strength of opponents and coaching styles.
"I have always believed that if we walk away with even one new drill or idea," Zihlman continued, "then the conference was a success. What we demonstrated and explained was well-received. The coaches asked great questions. Just being a part of this experience really validated what we do here as a coaching staff and a program."
Making the WBCA conference that much better was the BL connection to the NCAA Final Four. Former Lady Friar Maryann Baker '07 is the Director of Basketball Operations for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
As a senior, Baker was rated the 25th-best shooting guard in the country by the All-Star Girls Basketball Report and a McDonald's All-American nominee. During her high school career, Baker was a three-time TAPPS All-State and All-District honoree.
After countless offers, Baker ultimately selected Texas A&M University, where she helped the Aggies win two Big 12 conference titles in '08 and '10. She also helped the Aggies get to the Elite Eight, Sweet 16 and NCAA Second Round during her first three seasons. In 2011, her senior year, Baker was named the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year and helped the Aggies win a NCAA National Championship.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the powerhouse from the University of Connecticut in an exciting overtime game during this year's Final Four but lost to South Carolina in the title game.
"We were extremely proud to be represented by Maryann yet again in the NCAA tournament, but in another capacity," Zihlman said. "Even though they lost in the title game, Maryann will forever be a part of the excitement of that semifinal match against UConn and the Bishop Lynch name will always be associated with the best of the best in women's basketball."
Other Bishop Lynch alumni in attendance as coaches were Amie Smith Bradley '93, of Southern Methodist University, and Alexa Hardick '10, of Regis University.