NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - The NPCC women's basketball team finished with a 5-22 record in last year's regular season, but made an improbable run in the playoffs to make the National Tournament.
The Knights have six returning players to this year's team, which made it to Nationals last season (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)
Six girls from last year's team return for this season, but there are also seven freshmen on the roster, and one sophomore transfer.
"It's still early, but we've had great preseason workouts where everybody's been active, everybody's been engaged. So, we're really excited, right now it's still early, but we're excited for what's ahead, especially with the success we had last year. Building off of last year, the end of the year, that's our goal. We want to build. We're building off that success, and we're building for the future," second year head coach Jeff Thurman said.
A return to Nationals is a goal for the team this year, as they are hoping for a better regular season, but similar post season, to make it back.
"We want to go harder than we did last year. We ended up going to Nationals, and I want to do that again, get another banner up there. So, we've been working really hard, a lot of conditioning, a lot of running, getting chemistry early, so I think we'll have a good year compared to last year," sophomore forward and team captain Dehje Belmore said.
Katie Cox, another sophomore forward, and team captain, echoed the same thoughts as Belmore.
"It's an individual mindset, as well as a team mindset. We went to Nationals last year, and it was the best experience of my life, so to be able to do that again is the goal," Cox said.
By the time the Knights played made it to Nationals, there were only 10 players on the roster, and one girl was injured. This year, the Knights have 14 girls on the roster, and Thurman hopes all 14 get significant playing time in each game, saying, "I didn't bring them here to not play."
Thurman is hoping the depth on the team can make it harder for teams to prepare to play them.
"My goal is not to have two or three average 20 points a game. I want to have 11 or 12 average six, seven, or eight points a game, where you don't know who's going to have a good night, or someone has a bad night we have someone picking them up," Thurman said.
With practices having not started yet, Thurman isn't sure what the team's strengths and weaknesses will be, but he just hopes the team can play well at important times in the season.
"We want them to find their identity and we want to be playing our best basketball by the end of January, end of February, March. That's what we always talk about, because we can't win the region in November and December. so we really want to be playing our best basketball come the end of the year like we did last year and that will build for success," Thurman said.
Practices will start for the Knights on Oct. 1, and their first game will be hosting Little Priest Tribal College on Nov. 1.