Head coach Brett Gilcrist has just three returning sophomores from last year’s 5-26 team, but the talent pool for this year’s team provides some optimism for this season — if the Spartans can improve their mindset.
“Last year we did not have nearly as much talent as we do this year, but last year we had a whole lot of heart,” Gilcrist said. “Last year’s group worked hard and they worked hard every second they were on the floor. At least this year we’ll have somebody else to put with (Jamee) Miner to share the load, but we’ve just got to step up. That’s the theme. Offensively, there’s no system we can put in unless we get in the mindset we’re going to be aggressive.”
Miner returns for her sophomore season after earning second team all-region honors last season.
Miner led the team and ranked sixth in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference in scoring at 16.3 points per game, while also averaging 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
Among her impressive stats, Miner finished second in the conference with 3.7 steals per game.
“We have three returning sophomores,” Gilcrist said. “The big one is our point guard Jamee Miner. She was a second team all-region player last year, and in all honesty, for us to be good, she has to not only stay at that level, but elevate herself a little.”
Also returning from last year’s team are guard Kaley Folkerts of Bedford and post player Brittany Clark of Omaha.
Folkerts averaged 3.1 points per game with 2.6 rebounds per game last season, while Clark averaged 5.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
“Kaley, we really need her to be able to step up, and really just understand that she can’t make the same mistakes she made last year in order for us to continue to improve,” Gilcrist said. “It’s kind of the same thing with Brittany, too. She’s done all the work she could to develop her post game, but she’s finding out early the shots she needs to be able to hit, she needs to hit the outside jump shot, and if she hits that, we’re going to be OK.”
The rest of the roster is made up of seven freshman, who Gilcrist says he will need all of them to play at a high level this year.
Gilcrist has been impressed by Morgan Knorr of Savannah, Mo., who gives the Spartans another scoring threat at the guard position to go alongside Miner.
“She’s played really well,” Gilcrist said. “She’s kind of progressively gotten better and better. Right now she’s our best outside shooting threat. It’s a matter of if we can get support around her and Miner.”
Miranda Williams, a post player from Orrick, Mo., provides a lot of energy in the frontcourt for the Spartans, while Darian Polson and Alycia Raney also provide depth in the frontcourt.
Raney did not play basketball in high school, so Gilcrist said her biggest obstacle is catching up in terms of basketball intelligence. Gilcrist said Polson has the potential to be the best post player for Southwestern if she gives consistent effort.
Kourtni Stumpf, Taylor Zimmerman and Jaraylia Knight give the Spartans depth at the two-guard and small forward positions.
Defense will be a major point of emphasis for Gilcrist with this group, however.
“We’re not the greatest offensive team, but we can get away with our mistakes on offense if we could play defense,” Gilcrist said. “Our problem is right now, we don’t play defense through the course of an entire game. If we start to do that, I think we’ll be OK.”
Gilcrist predicts Kirkwood to be the runaway favorite in the region this year, with Southeastern and DMACC fighting for the second and third spots.
But, after that, Gilcrist thinks it could be a multi-team fight for the fourth spot.
“I think we have the ability in terms of talent, but our frame of mind is not going to get us there,” Gilcrist said. “I think if we change that frame of mind by the time conference season starts, we could get as high as the four seed.”
The Spartans’ home opener is 5:30 p.m. Wednesday against North Central Missouri.
Sophomores — Kaley Folkerts, G, 5-6, Bedford; Brittany Clark, F, 5-8, Omaha; Jamee Miner, G, 5-6, Elkhorn, Neb.
Freshmen — Alycia Raney, F, 5-11, Elkader; Taylor Zimmerman, G, 5-5, Maysville, Mo.; Morgan Knorr, G, 5-6, Savannah, Mo.; Kourtni Stumpf, G, 5-5, Johnston; Miranda Williams, F, 5-5, Orrick, Mo.; Darian Polson, F, 5-11, Des Moines; Jaraylia Knight, G, 5-5, Pontiac, Mich.
Nov. 7 — vs. North Central Missouri College, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 — at KCK Classic, 6 p.m.
Nov. 10 — at KCK Classic, noon
Nov. 17 — vs. Graceland JV, 1 p.m.
Nov. 20 — at North Central Missouri College, 6 p.m.
Nov. 23 — at Barton Classic, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 24 — at Barton Classic, 1 p.m.
Nov. 30 — at Missouri Valley College JV, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 — at Cottey College, 1 p.m.
Dec. 5 — at Iowa Western, 6 p.m.
Dec. 7 — at Graceland JV, 7 p.m.
Dec. 12 — vs. Iowa Lakes, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 5 — at Southeastern, 1 p.m.
Jan. 12 — at DMACC, 1 p.m.
Jan. 16 — vs. Ellsworth, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 19 — at NIACC, 1 p.m.
Jan. 23 — at Marshalltown, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 26 — vs. Kirkwood, 1 p.m.
Jan. 30 — at Iowa Central, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 2 — at Iowa Lakes, 1 p.m.
Feb. 6 — vs. Southeastern, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 — vs. Northeast (Neb.), 3 p.m.
Feb. 13 — vs. DMACC, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 16 — at Ellsworth, 1 p.m.
Feb. 20 — vs. NIACC, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 23 — vs. Marshalltown, 1 p.m.
Feb. 27 — at Kirkwood, 5:30 p.m.
Mar. 2 — vs. Iowa Central, 1 p.m.
Mar. 5 — Region XI Tournament, 6 p.m.