Rock County men's and women's hoops teams open Friday
The 2013-14 seasons tip off Friday night for the UW-Rock County men's and women's basketball teams.
The Rattlers play in the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference, where the women's team finished third last season and the men were fourth.
Coming off an 18-8 season, the women's team returns all five starters and seven of eight players off last year's season-ending roster.
Coach Scott Lee is excited about the prospects for the upcoming season.
“We've got experience and depth on the women's team, and that's not something we've always had,” Lee said. “I've got a great group of young ladies who are passionate about the game.
“We're going to be vertically challenged with our tallest player at 5-foot-11, but we will make up for it with our speed and athleticism. We call ourselves the “Running Rattlers” because we're going to get up and down the court and put a lot of shots up.”
Leading the list of returnees is All-WCC selection Julia Dement. The Janesville Parker graduate averaged 14 points and four rebounds per game a year ago and will be the point guard once again this season. Dement will be joined in the backcourt by Leeanna Kinney of Evansville.
“We're such a different and much better team when Julia is on the court, which we found out last year when she missed some games,” Lee said. “And Kinney, in my opinion, is the best defensive player in our conference.”
The other returning starters are Kayce Chesebro (Parekr), Kiki Smith (Beloit Turner) and Molly Wellnitz (Orfordville Parkview). Chesebro is the tallest player on the roster at 5-11.
Lee is also excited about newcomers Lexi Wiegand (Fort Atkinson) and Emilee O'Donnell (Janesville Craig), who will provide depth and scoring in the backcourt.
“Lexi was my top recruit two years ago but took last year off,” Lee said. “She is really going to help. She's a special player. And O'Donnell is the healthiest she has been in the last couple of years and can really shoot.”
Kerry Hanus (Oak Hill Academy) and Cassandra Gestrich (Parkview) are also expected to add solid support at both guard positions.
Juda High graduate Jessica Rackow (5-10) will be a back-up in the post.
“The biggest problem I'm having right now is getting all of them to practice at the same time,” Lee said. “They all have jobs to help support the cost of school, which I totally understand, but it makes practicing difficult sometimes.
“But it's very talented and special group. Our goal is to win the WCC championship, which is something we've never done.”
The Rock County men's team finished 9-16 a year ago and has four players returning, including two starters. Elkhorn High graduates Danny Dessent and Kyle Hoskins started a year ago and will be captains this year. The 5-10 Dessent will be the point guard and the 6-7 Hoskins at center.
“Those two are the leaders on the team and have done a great job of mentoring the new players,” Lee said. “They're message has been to not underestimate the level of play. There is a very high level played in the WCC, and sometimes the new guys are overwhelmed by how good some of the players and teams are.”
The other two returnees are guard Braylon Ward out of Beloit and forward Dalton Worley, and Evansville High graduate.
For the first time in program history, Lee was able to recruit two players out of the Chicago area and also landed two players from Rockford.
Lee is especially high on 5-9 guard Safarri Hunt of Machesney Park High School. The coach said Hunt is the quickest player he's ever seen in the WCC and can shoot, as well.
Forward Matt Smith (6-3) of Elkhorn and Charlie Thole (6-2) of Parkview will add depth up front, along with Brandon Barnes (6-3) and Mike Moss (6-4), both out of the Chicago area.
Milton High graduate James Spry will be one of the team's top reserves in the backcourt, along with Jefferson High graduate Tyler Tabor.
Lee also expects Devon Winbush (5-10) and Orlando Reid (5-10), both guards out of Milwaukee Bay View High, to log minutes in the back court.
Lee once again will work with coach Jim Barnstable, an assistant on both teams.
“Jim means so much to both of these programs,” Lee said. “None of this would be possible without him. He knows the game so well and does such a great job of teaching the game the right way.”
NOVEMBER: 1—UW-Marinette, 7:30 p.m. 2—At UW-Waukesha, 2 p.m.; 6—UW-Fond du Lac, 7:30 p.m.; 7—At Illinois Valley Community College, 7:30 p.m.; 9—UW-Marathon, 3 p.m.; 13—UW-Richland, 7:30 p.m.; 16—UW-Sheboygan, 2 p.m.; 19—At Oakton College, 8 p.m.; 25—At Rock Valley College, 7 p.m.; 26—At College of Lake County, 8 p.m.; 30—At UW-Marshfield.
DECEMBER: 4—At UW-Baraboo, 7 p.m.; 7—At UW-Fox Valley, 3 p.m.; 11—UW-Washington County, 7:30 p.m.; 14—At UW-Barron County, 3 p.m.
JANUARY: At Beloit College JV, 6:30 p.m.; 13—UW-Waukesha County, 7:30 p.m.; 15—UW-Baraboo, 7 p.m.; 17—At UW-Marinette, 7:30 p.m.; 22—At UW-Marathon, 7 p.m.; 25—At UW-Manitowoc.
FEBRUARY: 1—UW-Barron County, 2 p.m.; 3—At UW-Richland Center, 5:30 p.m.; 8—UW-Marshfield, 3 p.m.
NOVEMBER: 1—UW-Marinette, 5:30 p.m.; 2—At UW-Waukesha, noon; 6—UW Fond du Lac, 5:30 p.m.; 9—UW-Marathon, 1 p.m.; 18—UW-Mantiowoc, 6 p.m.; 19—At Oakton College, 6 p.m.; 26—At College Of Lake County, 6 p.m.; 30—At UW-Marsfhield, 1 p.m.
DECEMBER: 7—At UW-Fox Valley, 1 p.m.; 11—UW-Washington, 5:30 p.m.; 21—Marantha College, noon.
JANUARY: 13—UW-Waukesha, 5:30 p.m.; 15—At UW-Washington, 5:30 p.m.; 17—At UW-Marinette, 5:30 p.m.; 22—At UW-Marathon, 5 p.m.; 25—At UW-Manitowoc, 1 p.m.; 27—At UW-Fond du Lac, 6 p.m.; 29—UW-Fox Valley, 6 p.m.
FEBRUARY: 1—UW-Barron, noon; 3—At UW-Richland, 7:30 p.m.; 8—UW-Marshfield, 1 p.m.; 13—UW-Richland, 5:30 p.m.