Trapper athletic programs set for opening weekend of 2021

Posted 1/21/21

A new year means a new athletic season for Northwest College.

Three Trapper programs — men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball — begin official competition …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Trapper athletic programs set for opening weekend of 2021


A new year means a new athletic season for Northwest College.

Three Trapper programs — men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball — begin official competition this weekend. All three teams kick off the season away from home, with the basketball teams in Salt Lake City and volleyball in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

After testing student-athletes for COVID-19 the week of Jan. 4-8, Northwest teams have been back in the gym for the past week and a half, preparing for the 2021 season.


Men’s basketball

NWC men’s hoops will play a handful of games this weekend at the Salt Lake Community College Tournament, an event the Trappers compete in annually.

After six weeks away from the court, the team has looked sharp since returning to campus.

“Practice has been going great,” head coach Jay Collins said. “I think this is a really great group of dudes who want to work hard. They’re bought in.”

In the first week and a half, the coach noted Jerome Mabry, Alan Swenson and Hayden Peterson as players who have stood out.

“They all came back and are in superior shape,” Collins said of the group. “They’re all ready to rock and roll.”

The Trappers played a handful of exhibitions in the fall, but two members of the roster did not: Colton Thorness and Jameel Damon. Collins added those two to the squad over winter break.

Thorness is a 6-foot-7 forward from Bigfork, Montana, who helped lead Bigfork High School to a state title in 2020. Damon is another 6-foot-7 post from Turks and Caicos, who Collins describes as “high-flying.”

Just like every other NWC team — and any other athletic program across the country — COVID-19 is a looming obstacle. The Trappers already had to scrap a game against Colorado Northwestern this weekend due to positive cases on its roster.

Upon arriving back in Powell, Collins has stressed the importance of following the school’s pandemic protocols.

“It’s happening all over, so if we’re not careful, it could happen to us,” Collins said. “It’s probably inevitable, so we just have to be thankful for the times that we do have on the court.”


Women’s basketball

The Trapper women’s basketball team also heads to Utah for a tournament this weekend, beginning today (Thursday) against the Utah All-Stars.

Last weekend, just six days before the season opener, the NWC girls were slated to play a scrimmage against Dawson Community College. But positive COVID-19 cases on Dawson’s side canceled the game just an hour before tipoff.

According to head coach Camden Levett, the girls were ready to play, calling the situation a “bummer.” But he doesn’t expect the cancellation to negatively impact the squad as it opens the regular season.

“I think they’ll be fine,” Levett said. “They’re ready to play somebody else. All they want to do is play.”

For various reasons, the squad won’t be at full strength to open the year. Adela Smutna, the leading scorer on last year’s team, had her flight from Czech Republic delayed and won’t be in the United States until Sunday. And Raquel Turner — another key piece from last year’s team — has dealt with unspecified health issues and won’t be on hand for the opening tournament.

Because of these absences and the short week-and-a-half of practice leading up to it, the coach admitted that it may take time for the Trappers to find their groove.

“I don’t expect us to be playing our best basketball this weekend,” Levett said. “I expect us to play hard and get some wins out of it for sure. Just try to be on the same page and get some game experience.”

More than anything, Levett just wants to see toughness through adversity in his squad’s opening weekend.

“Just how we come together on the court in tough times,” the coach said. “How we respond after timeouts when another team makes a run.”



Unlike the NWC basketball programs, Trapper volleyball ventures east to Scottsbluff to begin 2021. The team will play four matches in two days to officially kick off Scott Keister’s tenure as head coach.

After what Keister described as a successful fall practice season, he noticed some rust from his girls upon returning from winter break. But the players have quickly returned to polished form as they’ve returned to their rhythm.

“It’s the same thing everyone’s dealing with in the whole country,” Keister said. “It’s starting to click a little bit. I knew it would; it just took a week. The girls are just excited to play a match.”

None of the NWC players have competed in an official match setting since the end of November 2019 due to COVID scrapping the 2020 fall season. Every member of the Northwest roster — as well as Keister — has been anxious to get back on the court.

“I want to see them compete,” the coach said. “It’s been 14 to 15 months, so they’re itching.”

Keister admitted that he does not yet have his starting six finalized, but it will be set soon. The first-year coach said he hopes both the starters and bench players can be the best teammates in every situation as the season begins.

“I tell these kids all the time, ‘Accept your role, but don’t be OK with it,’” Keister said. “Do your best at it, but fight for something more. Be ready just in case, support your teammate.”

Keister, along with other staff at NWC, hopes fans will be able to attend matches later in the season when the Trappers play their first home competitions. But until then, the coach hopes Powell supports his squad from afar.

“The support that we feel from the community is important,” Keister said. “Even though they aren’t in the gym with us, they sense it when we’re in town. When they are out and people recognize them, it really helps them. We’re just excited to be playing.”