Cougar men open this weekend
After all the pre-season practices and scrimmages, the Western Nebraska Community College men's team is ready to open this season this weekend at home with the Cougar Classic.
WNCC, who return just two players from last year's 12-19 team, will be young but with four weekends of home games in November, the Cougars should get plenty of experience on the court.
Head coach Russ Beck, who is beginning his fifth year at the college, said his team is ready to get the season started after the number of scrimmages they had throughout October.
"We are excited to get the season started," he said. "We had a really good weekend at Concordia and the team did really well. We saw some progress. We have a young group, but they sure played together hard."
The Cougars open the season Friday and Saturday in a four-team classic. Friday's schedule has Northeastern Junior College taking on Cole College at 5:30 and then WNCC facing Ft. Collins All-stars at 7:30. Saturday's games begin at 1 p.m. with NJC meeting Ft. Collins All-stars and WNCC facing Cole College at 3 p.m.
Beck said they played Ft. Collins All-stars a couple years ago and their roster is practically the same. What that means is Ft. Collins will come in with an experienced team that loves to score. Two years ago, WNCC defeated Ft. Collins 92-76.
"Ft. Collins is a bunch of guys that have been there for a few years and most of them are military guys that live in the Cheyenne and Ft. Collins area," Beck said. "Some of them are former college players. They can really shoot the ball and they have some size and athleticism. We are familiar with them. Just watching them on film from a few years ago, they are talented and will provide a good challenge. They beat a lot of teams in Region IX as they go around to play them. We just need to come out and play our A game."
Beck said the key to the season opener is not worrying about the other teams, but worrying about their play.
"It is more about us right now in making sure we are playing hard enough," Beck said. "A huge focus for us this year is the defensive side of the ball. We need to defend, box out, and rebound and get stops. Easy offense flows out of a good defense."
WNCC will feature a pretty young line-up this season with only Youssoupha Kane and DouDou Gueye back from a year ago. The Cougars also have two redshirts on the team, including Peter Dewtang, a 6-foot-5 forward from Salt Lake City, who was at WNCC last year. Also transferring to WNCC from Southern Utah University is 6-1 Joel Einfeldt of Cedar City, Utah.
The freshmen on the team will be comprised of two Nebraska players, including Gering's Zac Bibb and Alliance's Christian Gunia.
The other newcomers are Thyler Crosbie of Providence, Utah; Preston Christensen of Layton, Utah; Diante Mitchell of Syracuse, Utah; Derrick Bowers of Phoenix, Ariz.; Brandon Morley of South Jordan, Utah; Austin Clark of Richfield, Utah; and Julio Guity of San Diega, Calif.
Beck said this year's team has bought into the Cougar system.
"It comes down to self-discipline and leadership. The three sophomores that we do have are hard workers and they lead by example," he said. "They make the right decisions and are around the right people and that is half the battle. They have bought in and they have drank the Kool-aid as they say in that they believe in what we are doing and the freshmen fall in line. All we have to do is the little things and if we do enough of the little things, big things will happen."
Beck added this young team played its best ball this past weekend in scrimmages at Concordia University, where they faced pre-season No. 2 ranked Indian Hills Community College. WNCC also will be tested during the regular season as they face No. 9 South Plains College, No. 13 College of Southern Idaho, No. 17 Salt Lake Community College, and No. 25 North Platte Community College. South Plains will travel to Scottsbluff next weekend.
"We have a lot of good games this year. The pre-season polls came out and as I look at the Top 25, our guys have a chip on their shoulder but they realize we will earn respect by going out and beating good teams. South Plains, CSI, Salt Lake, and North Platte are all ranked. It will be a good opportunity for us to play South Plains, CSI and Salt Lake when the time comes, but we have to focus on the game in front of us."
Beck said while defense will be the main focus, this team has some shooters and once everything comes together, things should pay off down the stretch.
"We have a lot of shooters on our team. We have a couple of posts that score on the block," he said. "We are not as athletic as our team was two years ago, but at the same time we move the ball a little bit better. This team has a good basketball IQ. This will be a fun year and will be a fun group to watch."
1-2 Â– Cougar Classic; 8-9 Â– WNCC Classic; 15-16 -- @ CSI Tournament; 19 -- @ Casper College; 22-23 Â– Cougar Tournament; 29-30 Â– Thanksgiving Tournament.
3 -- @ Laramie County C.C.; 5 Â– ABCD Prep; 13 Â– Otero Junior College; 14 Â– Trinidad State Junior College.
7 Â– ABCD Prep; 10 Â– North Platte Community College; 11 Â– McCook Community College; 14 Â– Northeastern Junior College; 18 -- @ Lamar Community College; 21 Â– Casper College; 24 -- @ Eastern Wyoming College.
1 Â– Laramie County Community College; 7 -- @ Trinidad State Junior College; 8 -- @ Otero Junior College; 14 Â– @ McCook Community College; 15 -- @ North Platte Community College; 18 Â– Eastern Wyoming College; 21 Â– Lamar Community College; 22 -- @ Northeastern Junior College;
No. Player Ht. Class Hometown
2 Tyler Crosbie 6-0 Fresh Providence, Utah
3 Preston Christensen 6-2 Fresh Layton, Utah
4 Youssoupha Kane 6-10 Soph Dakar, Senegal
5 Diante Mitchell 6-1 Fresh Syracuse, Utah
10 DouDou Gueye 6-10 Soph Dakar,Senegal
12 Joel Einfeldt 6-1 Fresh Cedar City, Utah
15 Zac Bibb 6-5 Fresh Gering, Neb.
20 Peter Dewtang 6-5 Soph Salt Lake City, Utah
21 Derrick Bowers 6-3 Fresh Phoenix, Ariz.
22 Brandon Morley 7-0 Fresh South Jordan, Utah
23 Austin Clark 6-4 Fresh Richfield, Utah
25 Christian Gunia 6-2 Fresh Alliance, Neb.
31 Julio Guity 6-8 Fresh San Diego, Calif.
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