Northwest College hoop season tips off Wednesday

Posted 11/1/11

“This first game, you really can’t do a whole lot of scouting,” said Trapper women’s coach Janis Beal. “It’s more about how and what we do. I want to see us competing on every possession and taking care of ourselves.”

Beal’s squad …

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Northwest College hoop season tips off Wednesday


Trapper teams host Rocky Mountain JV to open year

The 2011-2012 men’s and women’s basketball season at Northwest College officially begins this Wednesday as the Trapper teams host the Rocky Mountain College JV squad at Cabre Gymnasium. The NWC women will call Ken Rochlitz Court to order at 5:30 p.m. with the men’s game to follow.

“This first game, you really can’t do a whole lot of scouting,” said Trapper women’s coach Janis Beal. “It’s more about how and what we do. I want to see us competing on every possession and taking care of ourselves.”

Beal’s squad this season features a solid core of returning sophomores with experience. Team captains Mariah Duran and Layana De Souza are among a group of four players with starting experience from a year ago. Classmate Meagan Butler and redshirt sophomore Taylor Ryan also saw extensive court time a year ago.

That group is joined by Saige Hartman, a transfer from Wenatchee Valley in Washington.

“Layana really put in a lot of time and hard work this offseason to improve,” Beal said. “You can tell that by her being named a captain despite not seeing a lot of floor time last year. Her teammates recognized the effort she’s put in. She’s an explosive player who can get to the rim. I’m excited to see what she can do this year.”

Duran, the Trappers’ other captain, split time last season between the point and shooting guard slots in the Northwest lineup. Expect to see her more at the shooting slot this year as the Trappers added depth and experience at the point position, enabling the team to utilize Duran’s shooting touch from the perimeter.

Butler started 10 games at the point a season ago and should return to that position this year.

“She brings experience and sees the floor very well,” said Beal.

As for Ryan and Hartman, a pair of post players for the Trappers, Ryan will see some changes.

“We’re going to transform her from a center-type post to more of a 4,” said Beal. “With her size, she’ll be a mismatch for us when she’s on the outside.”

Hartman, meanwhile, brings a pure post game to Powell. Early on, her ability to defend and rebound has stood out for the Trappers’ coaching staff.

Among the new faces at NWC are a pair of local products in Powell’s Leslie Thronburg and Cowley’s Leslie Blackburn. Both, according to Beal, have stood out for their athleticism on the floor early on.

“With both of them, it’s mostly a case of just learning how to adapt to the pace and style of play at the college level,” said Beal. “They’re both great athletes. They just need to get more familiar with our schemes and how we do things.”

Freshman Kennedy Allen will provide more depth at the post. Standing 6-foot-1, Allen has stood out for her ability to establish position on the blocks.

“We need to get her more touches,” said Beal. “She doesn’t have to score every time, but she does a great job of getting position that we need to get the ball to her so the defense can collapse.”

Another of the Trappers’ taller players, Mikail Burningham, a 5-10 wing, is waiting for the results of a shoulder MRI. Beal is hoping for good news as Burningham is another mismatch player for the Trappers with her ability to play both as a guard and on the wings.

“She’s been playing so far in scrimmages, but she’s in quite a bit of pain,” said Beal. “Hopefully when we get the MRI results, it’ll be good news for her.”

Rounding out the Trappers’ roster are a pair of twins from Russia, Daria and Ekaterina Sharova.

“They’re two different types of players,” Beal said. “Ekaterina is more of an outside shooter while Daria is a penetrator who gets to the rim. With them, its a matter of adjusting to how the game is played in the U.S., getting used to the language and terminology and that sort of thing.”

On the men’s side, Trapper fans had better be prepared for a host of new faces. Head coach Andy Ward returns just two players who saw court time last season and one redshirt who practiced with the team.

Diego Pasos is Northwest’s only starter on the men’s side and has been called on early and often this year to help acclimate a young Trapper team to the rigors of the college game.

“He’s done an excellent job in helping the guys to understand what we’re doing in practice and demonstrating what’s expected in practice,” Ward said.

Pasos shot better than 50 percent from 3-point range last year, but also can run inside. Pasos had knee surgury in the off-season, but appears to have mended fine and is ready for play.

Ty Ackelson is the Trappers’ only other returner with court time for NWC last year. Ackelson is an outside shooting specialist for the Trappers and will help with an experienced perimeter player.

“He understands the intensity and the speed of the game,” Ward said. “He shoots the ball well and he played a lot of minutes for us a year ago.”

The only other player back from last year’s program is Lovell’s Jonathan Wakelin, who will play as a redshirt freshman.

“He’s come so far and improved so much over the last year,” Ward said of the 7-3 Wakelin. “He’s worked hard on his conditioning. He never quites and never gives up and it’s showing. He’s played well in our scrimmages. We just have to utilize him, because he’s not the sort of post player you typically see at this level. A lot of times he’s going to be paired up against smaller, quicker sorts.”

The only other sophomore on the roster will be Vinicius Meller, a transfer from Olympic College in Washington. At 6-8, Meller is expected to help NWC with his size and strength down low, but has been slowed in the preseason by injury.

De Oliveira is a walk-on who showed up for tryouts and earned a spot on the team through his work ethic, athletic ability and tenacious defensive ability. Oliveira, on the other hand, was recruited for his size (6-8) and is expected to make an impact on the glass. He, too, has been slowed in the early going by injuries.

Filho is another walk-on who earned his way to the program after being brought to the attention of Trapper coaches last spring.

“He was able to make it work through his sacrifice,” Ward said of Filho’s path to the Trappers’ roster. “He has good skill and is very active on the floor. He fractured his elbow and was sidelined early, but we were impressed because when he was cleared to practice, he knew all of our offense just because of his attention on the sideline. His focus and mental preparation are tremendous.”

Other freshmen include Jeffrey Solarin, the leading prep rebounder in Colorado last season; Chris Hansen, Colorado’s leading prep scorer last season; and Junior Coleman, one of the leading prep scorers in Arizona last winter. All three have shined during early scrimmages.

Zach Stanley is a teammate of former Trapper Will Walker, who opted to serve a church mission this season rather than return to the program.

“He has a high basketball IQ and should provide us with some stability at the point,” Ward said.

Devin Gonsalez walked onto the team after playing at Worland last year. Along with Lovell freshman Jeff Lewis, who has been hindered early on by a knee injury, he provides Ward’s lineup with a significant Big Horn Basin presence.

Utah’s Konner Frey, another player whose progress and ability to present outside-inside matchup issues for opponents has stood out for Ward early on, and Newcastle’s Jeremy Beehler round out Northwest’s roster.