Core group gives Nimz, Lady Demons confidence

Entering her fourth season at the helm of the Northwestern State women’s basketball program, Anna Nimz is in an unusual situation for her.

“As a junior college product and as a junior college coach, I’m used to coaching kids for two years,” she said at Tuesday’s Southland Conference Media Day. “You coach them for two years and ship them off to their new school, where you hope they do what they’re supposed to. When I transitioned from Kilgore to UTRGV, I coached there for two years. Now I’m rolling into Year Four. For the first time in my entire career, I’m coaching a group who are going into a third year together. You get to see the true benefit of leadership and upperclassmen.”

Six players – guards Sharna Ayres, Karmelah Dean, Jordan McLemore and Jiselle Woodson and forwards Jordan Todd and Jasmin Dixon – enter their third year together in Purple and White.

That group has helped build the culture Nimz wants even if it meant taking some lumps along the way.

“In their first year here, we asked them to be leaders,” Nimz said. “It’s almost unfair. Now, they’re helping the younger kids and transfers in understanding what it means to be a Lady Demon. I’m incredibly excited for this year. I’ll be sad when they’re gone, but there have been a lot of proud moments happening this preseason.”

Coming off a Southland Conference Tournament appearance in which she tied a tournament record with seven made 3-pointers, Woodson has delivered what Nimz termed “incredible leadership” throughout the preseason.

“She has transformed as a basketball player and as a young woman,” Nimz said. “She’s been inspiring if you want to tag it that way. She knows what she wants for her senior year. She has a game plan for how to get there. It’s very thought out. She’s leading and holding players accountable. The other returners are right there with her, holding the line.”

Northwestern State was voted seventh in the league preseason poll, voted on by conference coaches and sports information directors, but NSU’s focus on consistency has the Lady Demons feeling confident in where they are ahead of the Nov. 6 season opener at Nebraska.

“We talk a lot about being consistent from drill to drill, day to day and month to month,” Woodson said. “Now it’s practice to game, going after loose balls, creating habits you can carry over to games so they become second nature. That’s really going to help us be efficient when it comes to game time and help us be able to produce when we’re on the court and the lights are on.”

The lights will be on Northwestern State in the non-conference season.

In addition to a season-opening road trip that takes the Lady Demons to Nebraska, Kansas (Nov. 8) and Tulsa (Nov. 12), Northwestern State will face defending national champion LSU in Baton Rouge on Dec. 17.

After a three-game road trip to start the season, the Lady Demons open their home schedule Nov. 14 against Tarleton.

NSU begins conference play at home against McNeese on Jan. 4.

“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves,” Nimz said. “The girls get to understand elite basketball early, and we hope it sets the tone. We’ll spend a lot of time together on the road. We’ll grow as a team. There’s more to it than just basketball. We’re hoping our non-conference games push us and give us a chance to have success in January.”