Gary Burke wants to do more than win games during his first season as coach of the Canal Winchester High School girls basketball team.

Gary Burke wants to do more than win games during his first season as coach of the Canal Winchester High School girls basketball team.

He wants to change the culture of the program and turn it into a perennial winner.

"Basketball is not just something to do between fall and spring when you can't go outside," Burke said. "We want it to be something that (the players) want to do, that they're proud to do and that they want to excel at."

Some of the key returnees appear to be buying in following last season when the Indians finished 11-10 overall after a 50-25 loss to Hartley in the second round of the Division II district tournament.

Thirteen-year coach Adam Twiss resigned after the season to spend more time with his family and athletics director Kent Riggs hired Burke, who has a career record of 238-152.

"I love our new coach," 5-foot-5 senior guard Tay Stokes said. "We have a totally different attitude toward basketball. I like how we're playing at a fast pace and I think it'll work well for us."

Stokes missed the second half of last season after she tore the ACL and meniscus, and sprained the MCL and LCL in her left knee.

"I feel like we're going to win the MSL, honestly," she said. "If we just keep working hard throughout the season, I feel like the MSL is ours."

Ashley Dexter, a 5-10 senior forward, said there's been an attitude adjustment.

"We're actually having fun so far. It's more than just a job," Dexter said. "Our expectations are so high, especially coming from how low we were last year. We could win the league and that would not be enough."

The Indians were 5-9 in the MSL-Buckeye Division last season, finishing sixth behind Teays Valley (12-2), Logan Elm (11-2), Amanda-Clearcreek (9-4), Fairfield Union (9-5) and Bloom-Carroll (6-8), and ahead of Circleville (2-12) and Hamilton Township (1-13).

Canal Winchester won nine of its first 11 games, but collapsed after Stokes suffered her season-ending knee injury.

"We didn't know how to handle the situation. It was hard seeing one of our players go down, especially one of our more upbeat and influential players," 5-10 senior forward Cadyn Krauss said.

While the injury to Stokes ended up derailing last season, it also provided a valuable lesson about maintaining a positive outlook and believing in yourself and your teammates, said Burke, who coached the Bloom-Carroll eighth-grade girls team last year after spending 18 seasons as the varsity girls coach at Fairfield Union.

"It hurt when they lost Tay because she was a lock-down defender and ball-handler, but every team at some point of the year, someone gets hurt," Burke said. "It's an opportunity to step up and you've got to be ready."

The Indians will have to be ready this season for Burke's up-tempo offense and pressure defense. There are 11 players on the roster, and all of them might be called on at any particular time.

"The tempo we want to play, you can't play 8 minutes (in a row) for me if you're playing the way you're supposed to," said Burke, who never wants to see his players standing straight up with their knees locked.

"It tells me two things, you're either tired or lazy, and either one will get you a seat on the bench," he said.

Burke hasn't set his starting five, but he said Dexter, Krauss, Stokes, 5-5 junior guard Katie Hahn, 5-9 junior forward Kayla Scott and 5-7 sophomore guard Kaleigh Whitlatch will be key contributors. The roster also includes 5-7 senior guard Alley Duckworth, 5-7 senior forward Jordan Guiler, 5-5 junior forward Gina Kirby, 6-0 sophomore post player Sarah Miles and 5-6 junior guard Carrie Strawser.

Canal Winchester lost three players from a year ago to graduation in Emily Barnhart (guard), Cara Jeffers (guard) and Tykia Savage (post player).

Dexter believes the Indians are better than last year's team mentally and physically.

"Coach's message is legit and he teaches it in a way we understand quickly," Dexter said. "I can recall from last year that everybody was not looking forward to practice and here we come (this season) ready to practice. We know we're learning more, we're getting in shape, everything just kind of flows together."

Burke senses the players are starting to believe in his system.

"This is the first group of kids I've had that came and asked me to add a day of conditioning, which I did. They want to do well," Burke said. "I know I'm very excited about being back at this level. I'm excited to be at Canal Winchester."