With newcomers outnumbering veterans by a two-to-one margin, both Chadron State College basketball teams began practicing on Monday, October 16, trying to get ready for their season-openers on Nov. 10 against teams from Texas.
This is the second year of major building projects for both teams. A year ago, new coaches took over the programs that had been struggling. Both women’s coach Janet Raymer and men’s coach Houston Reed are confident progress has been made. They are particularly pleased with the results of their recruiting efforts.
“We’ve got some players we can build with,” Reed said of his team. Raymer also believes her team is on the right track. Both coaches are proud that several of their recruits are from the college’s service area.
The rosters have similarities. The women have six letterwinners, including three seniors, along with four transfers and seven freshmen. Comparably, there are two seniors among the five lettermen on the men’s roster to go with four transfers and eight freshmen. Additionally, each team returns its top player from a year ago.
Kalli Feddersen of Rawlins, Wyoming, by way of Western Nebraska Community College at Scottsbluff, averaged 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds to go with 84 assists and 42 steals last season, when she earned Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference second-team honors.
Darius Polley of Amarillo, Texas, who played for Reed at Otero Junior College before both came to Chadron State, averaged 13.8 points and 3.5 rebounds while garnering RMAC honorable mention.
The transfers include two starters from North Platte Community College, Mickenzie Brennan of Alliance and Jessica Lovitt of Mullen, along with Allee Williamson of Cheyenne and Savannah Weidauer of Pleasant Grove, Utah.
Williamson, whom Raymer tried to recruit out of high school, played at Laramie County Community College in her hometown last year, while Weidauer, who is 6-foot-3, was the starting center at Miles Community College in Montana the past two years.
Three of the freshmen from the women’s team were all-around athletes from Panhandle high school. They are Celeste Cardona of Mitchell, Jessica Harvey of Morrill and Brooke Turek of Hemingford. Each was a four-year starter on highly-successful teams.
Harvey averaged 20.4 points, Turek 15.2 and Cardona 7.8 last year.
Besides Polley, the only senior on the men’s roster is Matt Reader, the wide receiver on the football team who won’t be available to play hoops until after the grid season ends.
The remaining lettermen are junior Leigh Saffin and sophomores Michael Johnson and Chadron native Vonsinh Sayaloune. Each had flashes of brilliance last season and is striving to become more consistent.
The roster also includes highly-regarded Jaisean Jackson, who transferred from South Dakota Mines a year ago and had to sit out last season. Luke Fick, who also redshirted last season, is still recovering from knee surgery he had this summer.
The transfers are Adoum Mbang, a 6-7 native of Cameroon who was the leading rebounder in Region IX North while playing center at Miles College last season; former Alliance standout Jordan Mills, who has played one year at North Platte CC; Jeremy Ruffin, a 6-5 Chicago native who comes from WNCC in Scottsbluff; and Michael Sparks, a guard from Denver who played at Otero last season after rostering at WNCC the year before last.
All four are expected to make big contributions this season, although Mbang is missing the early practices after returning home because of family circumstances.
The freshman class includes Dru Kuxhausen, the Scottsbluff sharpshooter who averaged 28.5 points last season and scored 2,110 points, the most ever for a high school player from the Panhandle, during his career.
Two freshmen from the Denver area also are being counted on to make an impact this season, Reed said. They are Walker Andrew of Heritage High in Littleton, and Kayden Sund of Golden High. The coach also was expecting help near the basket from Jacob Jefferson of Buckeye, Ariz., but his debut will be delayed by a knee injury that reportedly dates back to a football injury he sustained last fall. All three players are about 6-6.
Among the remaining freshmen is 6-2 Eric Jamerman, an all-stater in both football and basketball and Wyoming’s Class 3A state high jump champion for the Douglas Bearcats last spring.
The other rookies are Lim Choul of Chariton, Iowa, Blake Martinz of Custer, S.D., and Carter Thiele of Oakland, Neb. Since they play guard, where the Eagles have the most experience and depth, they are likely to redshirt, but have good long-range potential, Reed said.
The Chadron State men are the first to go live against intercollegiate opponents. The team played a scrimmage at WNCC on Saturday. Coach Reed said guards Polley and Jackson started and were able to get to the hoop against the Cougars, who featured several NCAA Division I prospects. Kuxhausen and Jamerman played extremely well off the bench. In only five days, however, the Eagles did not have time to prepare for the full court press which WNCC used for three quarters of the game, as junior college has been at work for weeks preparing for the season.
The Eagle men will see Eastern Wyoming College in the Chicoine Center on Thursday for a 5 p.m. scrimmage.
Chadron State fans will get to watch the women’s team first in regular season competition. It will host Texas A&M International and Texas A&M-Kingsville on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 11. The CSC men will be playing at those schools the same dates.
The CSC women finished at 7-18 and the men at 3-23 last year.