Northwestern State women’s basketball begins the 2022-23 season on Monday night against LeTourneau inside Prather Coliseum.
While the excitement of a new season permeates the team and the arena, as it always does this time of year, the season and home opener is just the first hurdle in a season where the Lady Demons hope to take another step forward in the program as a whole.
Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. and the game will serve as the first home basketball event locally produced on ESPN+ at Northwestern State. Live stats will be available via http://www.nsudemons.com or on the NSU Athletics Mobile app. To purchase your tickets visit nsutickets.com.
Following one of the largest turnarounds in program history in during the 2021-22 season, featuring a record for the largest single-season win increase and one of the largest point per game increases in the country, the Lady Demons return a core of players that head coach Anna Nimz hope will serves as the catalyst for the program’s next step.
Candice Parramore, Jordan Todd and Jasmin Dixon lead a group of eight players that serve as “the core” that all played in nearly every game during the resurgent season and who Nimz hopes can serve as standard bearers for “the process.”
“That core group helped us turn around the program and make one of the biggest jumps in school history,” Nimz said. “To have every single one of them back makes for a smoother ramp up heading into the practices right before the season starts. There’s a little more trust and they help carry on the message that we pushed to them last year. So instead of it just coming from the coaches’ mouths it’s coming from player’s too.”
Their influence on and off the court has helped in the acclimation of eight newcomers, and even split between experienced junior college or Division I transfers and first-year or redshirt freshmen, happen in a seamless manner.
For the group of international players new to the roster this season, building that connection within the team took on an even more important role.
The Lady Demons welcome Bengisu Alper (Turkey), Ivona Miljanic (Serbia), Shelby Rayner (Tasmania) and Gabrielle Robinson-Forde (Canada) to Natchitoches giving NSU the most international players on one team in program history.
“They helped me a lot,” Alper said. “I really struggled with everything when I first got here. A new place, new plays, new players and everything they were a huge help. The conditioning, learning the places even outside the court they were great and I really appreciate all of them.”
Alper is expected to make early contributions on the season after spending the past two seasons coming off the bench for Colorado State.
My excitement level is pretty high,” she said. “I just want to take some good shots and make good shot selections for me. Kind of get used to things in live game situations and win. That’s the most important thing.”
Part of the process that Nimz has preached now into her third season at the helm of NSU women’s basketball is family, playing for, and through, each other and being part of the community. The first two are developed on the court and in team-building activities, the final one is helps create the special environment that the eight new players will see for the first time on Monday – home game in Prather Coliseum.
“Prather has a different environment and energy to it and it’s a privilege to get to play here,” Nimz said. “I’m excited for this new group to feel what it means to play here and for our returners to get back on the court and really be able to come together.
“LeTourneau has a new coach and only have four player’s back from last season so not a lot of scouting will be able to be done. We’re going in really focusing on ourselves. Our discipline, our speed and handling the clock and what we’re trying to do.”
The Lady Demons went 4-1 at home during non-conference play a year ago and 7-5 overall. Part of the next step they want to take is a winning record at home in both non-conference and Southland play. Establishing a deeper home-court advantage starts with games and performances that make opponents dread stepping on the floor.
“We played a couple of scrimmages to give us an idea of how the game’s going to go,” Parramore said. “I think that we’re mentally ready. We’ve been challenged by the coaches on and off the court so I think Monday should be a lot of fun for us.”
With a core group of returners, a group of newcomers that provide more depth and more talent to the roster, the first step of the next step begins on Monday in the season opener.
Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services