The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team is looking to improve on last year’s 21-11 record when they open the season this weekend at Williston, North Dakota.
The Cougars open against Little Big Horn College Friday afternoon before taking on the College of Southern Idaho Saturday.
Second-year coach Cory Fehringer said it will be a good opening weekend for his squad.
“I don’t have much on Little Big Horn, but being familiar with the territory you can expect high-paced basketball with a lot of shots taken. You just can’t get caught in the trap of taking bad shots because they are going to play a game of freedom of offense,” second-year coach Cory Fehringer said. “Then against the College of Southern Idaho, you have a test against one of the better programs in the country with a team that is ranked No. 10. So, you better bring your best basketball or it might be a rough day.”
Fehringer said they can’t worry too much about results in November, the most important part is growing as a team.
“It is a great stretch for us in the early season,” he said. “We can’t get too caught up in the results, especially in November. I think the most important part is growth. We need to continue to grow together as a team, grow together strategically, grow together through adversity, but to stay the course with is to get better at Western Nebraska basketball.”
WNCC returns five players from a year ago with Vinnie Shahid, a 5-foot-10 guard from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shahid already committed to play next year at the Division I level North Dakota State.
Other returners include Scottsbluff’s Trent Harris, a 6-1 guard; Milos Popovic, a 6-3 guard from Serbia, Marlon Sierra, a 6-6 forward, and Djodje Dimitrijevic, a 6-1 guard from Serbia.
Fehringer said these sophomores have been good leaders.
“We have a group of sophomores returning that we believe will play good basketball together,” he said. “We have a handful of freshmen that we believe that can be in the rotation consistently. But the individual talent you can put aside because you have to play a game with four other people. I am more concerned about their ability to be talented together more than their ability to be talented as individuals.”
WNCC also has the services of transfer Austin Hoffman, a 6-2 guard from Gering, who played last year at Nebraska Wesleyan.
The freshmen on the team include Peter Cherry, a 6-1 guard, and Bryce Sanchioius, a 6-5 forward, both from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Rashad Gillion, a 5-10 guard from Oakland Park, Florida; Shaheem Speers, a 6-2 guard, and Jervay Green, a 6-3 forward, both of Denver, Colorado; TJ O’Connor, a 6-2 guard from Miami; Marko Rajanovic, a 6-7 forward from Serbia; Dillon Waikle, a 6-11 center from San Clemente, California; Zane Bender, a 6-5 forward from Hastings; and Martin Roub, a 6-10 center from the Czech Republic.
Depth shouldn’t be a problem for the Cougars, either.
“We have rotation in with guys fighting for additional minutes,” Fehringer said. “Our depth will determined by consistent preparation. Some of the guys that are fighting for more minutes, the more reps they get to help us, the deeper our bench will be.”
Fehringer said he has seen plenty of growth from this team from the first day they stepped on campus in August to today.
“The kids are amazing in how they learn to trust each other, play and learn about each other in the short amount of time,” he said. “It speaks to the investment that has to be made of time and energy. Where we were during day one and to now can’t be measured, but we still have a long ways to go as far as those relationships are concerned.”
WNCC will open the season the first two weekends on the road and then have five straight games at home, beginning Nov. 17 and 18 when they host Central Wyoming and Western Wyoming. WNCC will also have a Thanksgiving Classic when Frank Phillips, Trinidad State, and Quakerdale Prep Academy come to Scottsbluff.
Fehringer said this team has potential and ready to get going.
“It is always exciting to get going,” he said. “It is a tough trip, a long trip, a cold trip. It will not be easy, but that is where the growth really starts to set in when you start to have some adversity and failure along the way.”