The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team will enter the season with plenty of people watching after the NJCAA men’s basketball pre-season polls were released Monday.
The Cougars, who captured the Region IX title a year ago and went 1-1 at the national tournament, enter the season ranked 14th in the nation. The Cougars opened the season Nov. 1 at Central Wyoming College.
Last season WNCC finished with a 27-8 record and were 14-1 at home while averaging 95.6 points a game.
WNCC head coach Cory Fehringer said he doesn’t know what it will take to win back-to-back regional titles considering he is focused on getting his team ready for the season.
“We are trying to beat Central Wyoming right now; I have no idea what it will take to repeat,” Fehringer said. “We don’t know what the league has to offer and how talented the other teams are. We just know that we have a few pieces that no other team has. I think that gives usconfidence to say it is us against you.”
When WNCC opens the season Thursday, they will see a November slate of games field with competitive teams. Most of those games will be at home, too. WNCC will face No. 3 College of Southern Idaho twice on Friday and then against on Nov. 10 at Cougar Palace. They will also face No. 12 Indian Hills in a home and away series with Indian Hills making a trip to Cougar Palace on Nov. 23 and 24 for the Thanksgiving Classic.
WNCC will battle No. 8 Salt Lake Community College at Cougar Palace on Nov. 9 as well as facing No. 20-Division II ranked Iowa Lakes Community College on the road.
“If there was a time to face adversity, I would say doing it at home is a lot better than doing it on the road,” Fehringer said. “These boys will at least have a chance to have the support at Cougar Palace, the community of Scottsbluff which always gives us a little extra juice when we are in the Palace.”
WNCC will have plenty of firepower when they open the season this week with four players returning that saw plenty of action a year ago. The returners are led by University of Nebraska verbal commit Jervay Green, a 6-foot-3 guard from Denver. Green averaged 14.9 points a year ago while making 49 treys and pulling down five rebounds a game.
Also returning 6-10 Martin Roub, who is a threat from inside and out. Bryce Sanchious, a 6-5 guard from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, will also be counted on this season. The fourth returner, Marko Rajanovic, a 6-7 forward from Serbia, will set out this season because of injuries.
WNCC will also have a handful of transfers this season, including Scottsbluff’s sharpshooting guard Dru Kuxhausen, who played one season at Chadron State College. The Cougars also have a pair of transfers from Central Wyoming College that will add depth. Henry Tanksley, a 6-3 long-range shooting guard from Omaha, and Marquis White, a 6-3 guard from Anchorage, Alaska, will supply depth.
“We have arguably one of the best guards in the country in Jervay Green, who has traveled to Florida, Wichita, Dallas, and Colorado for a lot of major exposure events. A lot of coaches will take Jervay Green on their team besides myself,” Fehringer said. “We also have one of the best bigs you will see on a nightly bases in Martin Roub, who can score inside and out with 3-pointers. He is a great worker.
“And then you still have Dru Kuxhausen. There is not a lot of kids that can shoot it as well as him, but what the fans will be glad to see is how he passes the ball and how hard he defends. He is a winner and he is going to put it on the floor. We added Henry Tanksley, who is one of the best big-win athletes that we added to a program that I coached. Those four kids alone give you a chance to win games. That is before you talk about Eli Cadet, and Bryce Sanchous as a returner, who guards everybody and is really tough. There is enough pieces if these kids want to play together.”
The freshmen class is also talented. TJ O’Connor, a 6-2 guard from Miami is back after redshirting a year ago.
The true freshmen include LeBeck Warren, a 6-4 guard from Grand Island; Ernesto Chavez, a 5-9 guard from Boulder, Colorado; Bryce Haerer, a 5-10 guard from Bottineau, North Dakota; Aloung Kang, a 6-7 forward from Minneapolis, Minnesota; Elie Cadat, a 6-5 forward from West Orlando, Florida; JyDonn Griffith, a 6-8 center from Lewisvile, Texas; and Christian Creech, a 6-8 center from Hastings.
Other members of the team include Sami Harun, a 6-4 guard from Stockholm, Sweden, Ashley Jones, a 6-0 guard from Scottsbluff, and Caeser Nworked, a 6-0 guard from Canarsie, Brooklyn.
While Fehringer is pleased with the talent, the team has had its share of bad breaks with injuries and other issues. He said those adversities has affected the team.
“At one point this season we were at a point of playing seven sophomores and a couple freshmen,” he said. “Now we are looking to playing three or four freshmen and around five sophomores.
“We have dealt with some early stumbles out of the blocks. We had some issues with injuries which I am sure a lot of people are dealing with and they happen to be two pretty good players that we expected to produce for us on a regular basis. We have had some issues academically that are keeping kids off the floor as well. It is just some self-inflicted wounds at this point, but when you are talking about the first weekend of the year against good teams, it will allow us to find some identity facing adversity.”
The key to the hefty early season schedule is just staying the course Fehringer said.
“It is staying healthy and getting some of these kids back next semester and continuing to keep that identity going that will serve us throughout some of these tough games,” he said. “These guys will face being punched in the mouth a couple times and they will have to determine how they will respond.”