Lockport’s Franco taking on challenge of new role
She is front and center in the eyes of the opponents, and she is more than ready, willing and able to face the challenge of whatever comes her way.
A junior in her second season of varsity with the Lockport Lions girls basketball team, Franco made an instant impact last year when she cracked the varsity roster.
While her skill is without question, Franco clearly benefited from the Lions being built around All-Western New York First Team selections and 6-footers Marisa Guyton and Emma Sobieraski.
So while opponents spent every waking moment trying to devise a defensive scheme to contain Sobieraski and/or Guyton, Franco drew little attention and was able to flourish in the role of a support player.
“Emma and Marisa were the best role models for a post player (like me) that was so young,” Franco said. “They really helped me a lot. With practices, they were so good. Trying to get open from them, it prepared me for girls like (Grand Island’s 6-foot-3 senior) Cassie Oursler, to really play up against them.”
But the 6-foot-2 Franco is keenly aware that this season will be far more challenging because she won’t catch any team off guard any more.
“I was kind of like the tucked to the side girl because Emma and Marisa were such a big deal,” Franco said with a smile. “This year, I think teams like to gear toward me because I’m one of the biggest players in the league.
“But it doesn’t really matter because if they try to double team me, I can just pass it to (newcomer) Alyssa (Wagner),” she added. “It works well. It’s a lot more pressure on me but that’s what colleges look for, to see if you can handle the pressure. I think we all work well under pressure.”
With aspirations of playing in college, Franco is certainly relishing as much pressure as the game can throw her way. That’s good because the Niagara Frontier League isn’t short of pressure when it comes to having big post players.
In addition to Ourlser, the league has tough 6-footers like North Tonawanda’s Kali Marsh and Niagara-Wheatfield Allyson Czaja for whom Franco will go toe-to-toe.
“We expect more scoring out of her than last year,” said Lions coach Bill Shaw. “We expect more rebounding. She’s got to do a lot more for our team this year because (Guyton and Sobieraski) are gone.
“And it’s an adjustment for her,” he added. “They’ll be games where she’ll do it and there will be games when she won’t. Hopefully the games she doesn’t will be few and far between, but they’re going to happen until she really figures it out and is able to do it on a consistent basis.”
Shaw said while obviously there are greater expectations on Franco he has no doubt that she is capable of rising to the new challenges.
Franco realizes she doesn’t have to do it all herself. With Wagner down low with her and Alexis Cheatham running the point, they have the basis for a solid team approach that will be the root of their success this year.
Interestingly enough, Shaw said that he felt Franco wasn’t quite herself early in tryouts and it was the intense play of the 5-foot-9 Wagner that helped Franco regain her edge.
As Franco explained, she was ready to go from day one, but it was indeed the play of Wagner, much like Sobieraski and Guyton, that challenged her and brought out her best.
“Playing up against Emma and Marisa was hard to say the least because they were both such great players,” Franco said. “It was easy, honestly, in the beginning, because I was playing up against girls that were 5-foot-4. When Alyssa played up against me it was really hard because you can’t move her.”
Basketball, like life, is filled with new challenges everyday. And Franco isn’t shying away from any of those challenges.