Coach Niecee Nelson began her second season with the IPFW women's basketball team when she opened practice Sunday.
program with Sunday's first practice at the Gates Center and There's nowhere to go but up.
The Mastodons went 5-24 in Nelson's inaugural season, and with eight newcomers to the roster, there's a lot of work to be done.
“Our goal is 'kaizen,'” Nelson said. “It's a Japanese word for 'continuous improvement.' ... Everything that we ask of them right now, in this preseason, is make sure you do the little things every day to contribute to the big picture. We focus on the play at hand today and don't look forward too much.”
The team returns five players from last year's team including senior KeShyra McCarver, juniors DeJour Young, Peyton Fallis, sophomore Anna Lappenküper and redshirt freshman Hannah Hess.
“We have a lot of new people this year,” McCarver said, “and everybody's ready to come in, work hard in order to have a successful season. Everyone came ready to go, we just worked hard and had fun at the same time.
“I think, this year, with the people we have and the chemistry, we're going to have better shooters, be better in transition, have better defense and great rebounders. I think we have a lot of new things tying in together.”
Despite having two hours a week to work on skill-work over the summer and conditioning every day, the team increased its intensity in the first two official practices.
“It shifted just because we're more excited, more ready,” Young said. “During the summer, you're practicing every single day and now it's game time. We have 28 days left. We're just ready to go for the next days until first game comes.”
Nelson says the offense and defense will be similar to last year, allowing the returners to assist the newcomers in adjusting to the systems.
“We have a lot of shooters and there's a lot of presence in the block,” Nelson said. “In transition, we always want to get out, run and try and score easy layups but in addition, we have our 6-3 post player (Stevie Luebbert) who bangs back to the basket. Another exciting part is 3-point shooting. With the 3-point shooting and going in-out, we have a lot of threats.
“Team defense. In the post, again, they're not going to be able to go in and score at will in the post with that size in the post, we definitely have an advantage there.”
The Mastodons opens their regular season at 2 p.m. Nov. 10 at Illinois.