Like any year in junior college basketball, the Garden City Community College women’s basketball team has a lot of newcomers to mesh into the program.
But even for junior college standards, having just three returning sophomores and 10 freshmen is a young squad. That’s what second-year head coach Charinee Mitchell has entering the 2018-19 season, which officially tips off on Friday vs. Bethany JV in the Seward County tournament.
So the Broncbusters have been working non-stop to get those 10 freshmen up to speed.
“I think the biggest preparation for us is mental toughness,” Mitchell, who led last year’s Busters to a 20-12 overall record, said. “We have the energy. They work hard … We’re very young, so we’ve only got three people to just get everybody in the groove and know what we want, so it takes a lot from us as a staff to make sure the freshmen get it.”
If they don’t, well it’s time to hit the baseline.
“If they don’t get it, they’re running. They’ll figure it out,” Mitchell said.
The running itself is a necessary preparation for the upcoming season as the Busters will be doing a lot of it, according to Mitchell, who says her defense will consist of a full-time, full-court press.
“We’re doing something different this year in that we’re picking up full (court) for 40 minutes,” Mitchell said. “This year, we are very well-rounded. We’re looking at hopefully, if we can do it, five (players substitute) in, five (sub) out.”
That depth begins with returning starters Daz Johnson (6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season) and Kelcy McHenry (4.4 ppg and 4.2 reg), and Talia Roberts, an offensive specialist off the bench a year ago who was a defensive liability at guard.
But perhaps that’s not true this year.
“My on-ball defense has gotten way better,” Roberts said. “I went to a trainer and worked on my lateral speed and worked on all lower body.”
It’s shown in preseason practice.
“It’s a 360 for her defensively,” Mitchell said. “She basically gave us nothing last year, defensively, but so far she’s giving us much better defense.”
Johnson is a 6-foot-1 post who had 1.0 blocks per game a year ago, and is getting a ton of looks for scholarships at the next level.
Her athleticism is exhibit No. 1 as to why Mitchell feels comfortable going to a full-court press, because Johnson can get up and down the floor and pick up the other team’s post players.
McHenry is the same way at 5-10, with the ability to guard wings and posts.
“We’re all kinda stretch-fours,” Mitchell said. “We’re not heavy — we can get up and go. That fast-paced team, and everybody is kinda the same caliber, so we should be able to pick up everybody for 40 minutes and make them uncomfortable and tired.”
Mitchell grouped several of her freshmen into that same description, including Taneigh Boyd (5-10) and Deborah Ford (5-9).
At guard, the Busters have incoming freshmen Sarah Alsabbaheen, Lonniqua Johnson, Alyssa Boyce, Jaleah Bellany, Felicity Houston and Sariah Serrano.
It was a mix of those freshmen who proved their ability in a preseason scrimmage against Colorado State University-Pueblo.
“It was seven or eight minutes left in the game, we had five freshmen on the floor and we were down 11 (points),” Mitchell said. “They tied the game. If we can do that, we might be alright.”
Mitchell hired assistant coach Al Davis during the summer as the second assistant with returning assistant Kelli Jenkins.
Davis, 28, was an assistant coach at Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla., prior to coming to Garden City.
“I’ve known her for a few years. We built a great relationship in the past, and a position came open and she called me and asked me to come on board, and it was a no-brainer,” Davis said.
Davis and Mitchell first met when Davis recruited one of Mitchell’s players when she was at Cisco.
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at email@example.com.