Northwestern State women’s basketball will have a different look when the 2020-21 season finally tips off on Nov. 25. With a new head coach comes a different style, expectations, standards and, at least for this year, almost an entirely new team.
The loss of seven players from a year ago means several new faces on the court for first-year head coach Anna Nimz. One position group that will see the biggest change in personnel is the backcourt.
“Although we’re small I think we’re going to have some turn down speed,” Nimz said. “We’ve got some kids that can take it off the bounce and get downhill.
“With that being said, you have to have kids that can spot up and hit the open shot to go along with that. I think we have a couple of those knock-down shooters and the rest can create off the bounce and get themselves open.”
Tristen Washington is one of three backcourt returnees and the only one with more than 10.0 minutes per game of playing time. In her freshman campaign she was thrust into a starting role after an early season injury to senior Gabby Bell. She made 14 starts the remainder of the season and according to Nimz earned extremely valuable experience.
“It forced a quick maturity,” she said. “This year I think she’s able to handle more uncomfortable situations and understand she’s got to be able to get somewhere with the dibble. With her experience last year, it’s allowed her to progress quicker.”
While the experience level on paper may be low – with every player on the roster in either their first or second year at NSU – the junior college ranks have proven lucrative for the Lady Demons in the past and Nimz is hopeful that will be the case again.
Transfers Makayla VanNett and Alexia Marsh fill needed roles inside the offense both strategically and integrally.
“We want them to bring their experience more than anything,” Nimz said. “They both come from highly successful teams – top five in the nation teams – so they are winners and we’re hoping that bleeds into our program.”
VanNett represents the knock-down shooter role that will make the Lady Demons more dynamic on offense. The Minnesota native shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range at Hutchinson Community College a year ago and finished her two-year career ranked third in 3-pointers.
A transfer from a year ago who averaged 8.7 minutes per game, Kalen Green, returns as one of two seniors on the team, and offers a quick release from long distance for another option in that role.
Marsh, a Central Arizona transfer, has begun to take on more of an integral leadership role on the court, a necessary attribute for someone playing with the ball in their hands much of the time.
“Alexia is kind of the glue for us,” Nimz said. “That’s why we wanted her. As time has progressed, she’s filling that recruiting need that we saw and thought she would fit. I think she is getting a little more comfortable everyday taking on a leadership role. She understands what coaches want and she works hard to make that come to light within the program.”
While Nimz is asking VanNett and Marsh to bring their experience she is asking two freshmen to do things early in their careers that she hopes pays off this season and for the entirety of their NSU careers.
Erin Harris enters her first season for the Lady Demons after a highly successful high school career as a point guard, but with her skill set, begins the year playing off the ball.
“She fits more than that point guard need for us,” Nimz said. “She has the ability to get downhill and create for others. She’s got a higher basketball I.Q. which allows her to see the floor a little bit slower than that of a typical true freshman.
“She was a point guard her entire high school career. Moving her off the ball now I have a 3 with the I.Q. and court vision of a point guard. To me that can only be a positive.”
Another freshman that will be asked to do a lot this season is Spain’s Andreea Cojocariu, a 5-foot-9-inch shooter that can also create off the bounce, the perfect combination for her role in the offense.
“She has great court vision and probably one of our best passers,” Nimz said. “Sometimes such a good passer that other people don’t know the ball’s coming. She brings a finessed style but doesn’t fade away from contact.
“Here in the past couple of weeks she’s really been developing into a nice outside shooter, which makes her a dynamic player. She’s going to earn a lot of minutes and be asked to do a lot of things that sometimes you wish you didn’t have to ask freshmen to do, but she’s a mature young lady I can see having good success for us this year.”
Louisiana native, freshman Osha Cummings provide Lady Demon fans an element on defense they’ve gotten used to seeing throughout the past several seasons.
“She’s the kind of kid that every coach wants in the sense that she’ll run through the wall for you,” Nimz said. “She’s going to create chaos on defense and fill a role of hard work. She’s a strong-bodied kid and is going to create problems for other people. She has an incredible work ethic, so we’re excited to have her.”
With plenty of new all around and just one month of nonconference games, the Lady Demons have just a handful of games to gel and find their identity before Southland Conference play begins in January.
The Lady Demons begin their first season under Nimz on Nov. 25 at Ole Miss.