ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — There is an unfamiliar sight at the Franklin gym this year.

A girls basketball team. 

“We’re ready to show everybody what we’ve got,” said freshman captain Laila Jones.

The Bulldogs are fielding a girls team for the first time in a decade, with head coach Chris Bianchi looking to start something special.

“It’s a really good feeling,” said sophomore captain Raylen Gaffney. “It’s not easy, but it’s a really good feeling.

“It’s really about getting kids to believe in something and getting the right leadership,” said Bianchi. “We’ve got some awesome leadership here. I’m super happy with our captains and that’s really where it starts.”

This is Bianchi’s first year at Franklin High School, doing college prep and social-emotional learning work. He has an extensive coaching background, in various roles on the basketball and/or soccer teams at Nazareth Academy, Sutherland, and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. At several of those stops, he helped rebuild the programs which made him the perfect fit for the job.

The support from the school and community has been overwhelming, donating tons of equipment and gear to give the team an opportunity that those before them didn’t have.

“Our coach has been working his butt off this year to get us everything we need for this year,” said Jones. “There’s nothing we really have to worry about right now, just to keep focus and keep doing what we do.”

The team will definitely have some growing pains this year, as none of its players have any previous Varsity experience.

“I think they have the right perspective. They understand where we’re starting from. They’re expecting to learn.” said Bianchi. “We’re literally starting with layups, rebounding, how to pivot.”

However, they’re mindful of the road ahead of them and have a good perspective on what would make a successful season.

“I don’t really care about wins,” said Gaffney. “I just want to see every girl get it and we get there. If you look at us at the beginning of the season and the end, I just want there to be a whole lot of improvement. Forget the wins or points.”

Some questioned whether or not Franklin could even support a girls team, but the turnout has been massive. The team enters its first game tomorrow with 30 players on their roster, calling themselves the largest team girls or boys in New York state.

“A lot of our kids are riding [the bus] an extra hour, hour and fifteen minutes to get to practice on the weekends or just to go home at night,” said Bianchi. “So the commitment level here is just awesome. These girls are sacrificing a lot of extra time just to be here. So I’m just super proud of them.”

“I knew that there was a need for some extracurricular activites at Franklin,” he adds. “The girls just expressed so much interest when I was going around at every lunch period at school.”

“It’s a good thing that we have a girls basketball team here this year so the girls can get to know each other a little bit more and be a little bit more focused on school,” said Jones.

The team opens up its season at home on Wednesday against Finney.