Year two of the “Coach Cam” Levett era kicks off this week for Northwest College women’s basketball. With a talented crew of new recruits to complement a handful of salty veterans, …
Year two of the “Coach Cam” Levett era kicks off this week for Northwest College women’s basketball. With a talented crew of new recruits to complement a handful of salty veterans, the Lady Trappers are poised to make the jump from rebuild to contender.
NWC will open the 2019-20 season on the road at Williston State today (Thursday), followed by games at Dawson Community College Friday and Miles Community College Saturday.
“It’s really just a great group to work with so far,” coach Levett said of this year’s team. “Mix in some returners with a big freshman class — we have some one-year transfers in there as well, and everyone is gelling. It’s been a fun group, we’re healthy and we’re looking forward to a game on Thursday.”
Levett had the interim tag removed from his title last spring, and the program is coming off what could aptly be described as a rebuilding year. Adjusting to a new coach and hampered by a truncated recruiting schedule, the Lady Trappers finished 4-26 overall, 2-13 in Region IX. Levett has been building this current roster for over a year, and is excited to see his work come to fruition.
“I’ve been recruiting a lot of these girls and their families for a while, and they’re finally here,” he said. “It’s fun. And the girls are from all over — we have Powell, Greybull, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Colorado, Utah and Albuquerque. You name a place, we probably have a girl from there.”
Levett has six returners back from last year’s squad: Tayler Groll, Tess Henry, Melissa Martinez, Jenna Lohrenz, Mikkel McIntosh and Juliana Ribeiro. McIntosh, a Lovell native, will redshirt this season, while Ribeiro, who injured her knee earlier this fall and is sidelined for the season, will serve as a student assistant.
“My returners have been a huge help and a huge part of our success during the preseason, and I think they’re really going to play a big role for us,” Levett said. “They know what the expectations are as far as being a student athlete here at NWC, and they’ve been leaders in that aspect since day one, something we kind of missed last year with having a new coach and not a lot of returners.”
While the loss of the 6 foot, 3 inch Ribeiro will hurt, Levett said players like Lohrenz and Martinez have shown a lot of growth from year one to year two.
“I see Melissa [Martinez] as my starting guard right now, and I expect a big year for her,” he said. “She really came on last year, and we need her to do the same.”
Henry battled a concussion last year, but is back and healthy, while Groll has become a player that leads by example, according to Levett.
“Anytime we’re on the court, or doing weight room or conditioning, everyone just kind of follows her [Groll’s] lead,” he said. “I’m really excited to see what kind of year she’s going to have.”
Tess Henry, who will get to play alongside her sister Lily this season, said she’s excited about the team’s potential.
“I think we’re really looking good this year,” she said. “We work well together, and we have a lot of people that can play many positions. I’m confident with our bench — it feels good to be deep, for sure.”
As for recruits, there are 11 new faces on the roster, ranging from local and regional talent to international players. Former Lady Panther Aubrie Stenerson is set to make her debut this week in Trapper red, as is Greybull’s Kendall Wright, last year’s 2A Player of the Year.
Fresh from her exploits on the soccer pitch, where she was the Lady Trappers’ leading scorer, Sapirah Broussard will bring her speed and athleticism to the hardwood, as will Adela Smutna from the Czech Republic, a player who was heavily recruited by a handful of four-year programs. NWC also has a pair of players returning to basketball after taking some time off in Lily Henry and Lucy Tuigamala. At 6 feet and 6 feet, 1 inch, respectively, Levett will be looking to the pair to provide an inside presence.
“Lucy was a last-minute addition for us; she actually graduated in 2017 but took some time off from the game,” Levett said. “She was eager to get back in school and get back on the court, and she’s come in here and really worked her butt off. At 6’1” she’s a bruiser, and all the girls love playing with her. She’s a funny kid, but on the court, she’s all business. She moves people out of the way.”
A freshman from Bridger, Montana, Jessica Adkins is on the roster almost by accident. NWC Athletic Director Brian Erickson saw Adkins playing in a pick-up game and brought her to Levett’s attention.
“She’s a strong, physical post, and she made the team,” Levett said of Adkins. “We’re looking forward to having her play well for us.”
Colorado native Samiyah Worrell will be running the offense from the point, a player Levett calls “a gamer.”
“We had our little scrimmage last week, and I think she probably had 10 points, six or seven assists,” he said. “She’s a playmaker. Everybody likes playing on her team in practice. They all know where No. 21 is at. We feel comfortable with the ball in her hands, that’s for sure.”
One aspect of the game Levett is excited to have this season is height; last year’s top post player was 5 feet, 8 inches “on a good day,” according to Levett. With four players on the active roster now topping 6 feet, the Lady Trappers will have an inside presence of offense and rim protectors at the other end of the floor.
“We’ll still want to move fast, and our posts can do that,” Levett said. “But on the offensive end, it’s a good option to have someone who can score with their back to the basket. Makes the game a little easier.”
“We’re still playing fast, we just have more height,” she said. “Our post players are really quick, which is awesome. We have more height, more strength, so we’re looking pretty good.”
As for team chemistry, Levett said many of the returners and recruits were able to bond earlier in the summer, as they volunteered to help run NWC’s basketball camp.
“We’re going to do that every summer from now on with the camp. That was fantastic,” Levett said. “Not only for them to help out in the community, but they got a heads-up on working together. That’s where it started for us. When fall came around, they already knew each other and felt comfortable together. It really got the ball rolling for us.”
The Lady Trappers will travel 15 players for this week’s road trip, and Levett said it will be a good indicator of where the team is at.
“I expect all 15 to play at some point during this trip,” he said. “I want everybody to be ready to contribute to this team. Everyone looks good in practice, but when the bright lights are on, we need to perform. I want everyone to have fun, but it’s a business trip for us. We want to compete hard all three days. Hopefully, we’re game ready.”