By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
MENDON, Ill. -- It took Breanne Begeman time to learn how to filter her father's instructions.
Now in his third season as the Unity girls basketball coach, Brad Begeman doesn't hesitate to offer constructive criticism to any of his players, including his daughter.
That hasn't always been easy to handle.
"(It was) probably just my dad telling me stuff and what to do. I'll take that negatively, and that makes me play worse," said Breanne, a 5-foot-9 senior forward. "I'll have that in my head that's he picking on me, but he's not."
It's created a few silent car rides home.
"When she's disappointed in the way she or the way the team plays, so am I," Brad said. "Me harping about it or anything else doesn't help. I know she takes it to heart. So we just try to go on."
Without her dad's influence, though, Breanne doesn't think she would have improved as much as she has.
Last season, she averaged a team-high 14.5 points and nine rebounds per game.
"From my sophomore year on, I've played for my dad," Breanne said. "It's a neat experience. He's turned me into a better player I think. He's made me more of an athlete than I would have expected to be. He's helped me improve all-around. My shooting, dribbling and ball-handling have improved."
Developing their relationship also has been a work in progress for Brad.
His coaching career started with YMCA basketball when Breanne was in third grade. Learning the best way to handle the situation ranged from asking others to getting first-hand experience.
"Initially, it was a challenge," he said. "I took a lot of advice from a lot other parent-coaches who talked about how you had to separate your child from the coach aspect. The first year or two was tough, but I had an opportunity to coach at the junior high level and it was best thing I ever did.
"Her and I have talked about it, and anymore, she's just another player on the court. Until the game is done, I don't look at her any other way."
Brad took over the Lady Mustangs program when Breanne was a sophomore and has gone 41-15 since, including Unity's first two West Central Conference South Division titles. The Lady Mustangs finished last season 25-6 -- the most wins in program history.
Breanne's game has blossomed since her freshman season, when she served mostly as a perimeter threat.
Last year, she led Unity in scoring, rebounding, assists and 3-pointers made, while earning first-team all-area honors. Her development has drawn notice from some small colleges, including Culver-Stockton College.
"When she became a freshman, the coach back then had her designated as a 3-point shooter, and that was her game," Brad said. "... She's changed her game to a broad style of play. If people want to play us man or zone, she's adapted to it well. She's a good post player for her height and a great outside shooter. As years progressed, she turned into all-around player."
There's only one thing missing from her resume -- a regional championship.
The Lady Mustangs also return 5-10 senior Brooklyn Moore, who averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game last season, and point guard Jill Donley, while the coach expects Maggie Bowles and Whitney Murphy to step up and surprise people this season.
"Each year, our goal is to get regionals, but there's always been a bump in the road," Breanne said. "This year, were hoping to get over that bump and get out of regionals."