Excitement buzzed in Prather Coliseum as players entered the court. Soon, a scrimmage began between the players, showcasing new additions to each team. Impressive as each team was, Vic the Demon stole the show by sinking a one-handed dunk, earning some of the loudest cheers of the night.
After an entertaining tip-off event, both the men’s and women’s Northwestern State basketball teams are ready for the 2017-2018 season to begin in November.
The two teams have the same goal this year: Grow from last year’s season, and win the Southland Conference championship.
“Last year, our expectation was to win the conference championship and make it to the NCAA tournament,” senior point guard Devonte Hall said. “But sometimes things don’t go as planned and we fell a little short.”
Fellow teammate Iziahiah Sweeney agreed.
“Last season started off really good, but then we got unlucky and had some injuries, which threw off our chemistry,” Sweeney said.
The same can be said of the Lady Demons.
“We were 13 [wins] and 17 [losses last year],” said Jordan Depuy, women’s basketball head coach. “I thought we could have been a lot stronger, especially on the road.”
Junior post Cheyenne Brown agreed with Depuy.
“Last season didn’t go as planned, [but] we played as best as we could,” she said. “The returners want to do better, and I know I want to do better.”
The memory of last season is not putting either team down; instead, they use it as motivation for the coming season.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of extra work and trying to be more of a vocal leader in practice,” Sweeney said.
“We’re in pretty decent shape as of right now,” Dupuy said. “We continue to lift weights three days a week, and we’re practicing five days a week. It’s shaping up pretty well, but you don’t know until you’re put into a game-like situation.”
Each team’s hard work will soon be put to the test, and rather than focusing on certain games, they are focusing their thoughts on the season as a whole.
“All the games are pretty much equal,” Hall said. “Every game is important, especially early on because that’s where you get your feet settled.”
Dupuy said the same concept is being applied to the women’s team.
“Every conference game is important, and conference is what you prepare for,” Dupuy said. “You want to make sure you’re playing your best ball going into March and put yourself into a good position to get a good seed in hopes of winning the tournament in the end.”
Both Sweeney and Dupuy mentioned a few players to keep on the radar.
“Of course [there is] Jalan West, and Ishmael Lane is in his junior year, so it’s a big year for him,” Sweeney said. “I feel like [people] should also look out for Czar Perry, who is a fast freshman point guard who brings excitements to the court.”
“We have some new players who can make an immediate impact [such as] Nautica Grant and Leah Barnes who are junior college transfers and Cheyenne Brown who will start the season out with an injury,” the women’s coach said.
Sweeney said the freshmen are starting to make themselves known.
“They’re doing really well. They’ve gone above my expectations by playing with confidence, which is something we’ll need going into this season,” he said.
Both teams are ready to kick their upcoming seasons off.
“I believe when the time comes, [we’ll] be ready. It might be a rough start, but I think we’ll be just fine,” Brown said.
“I’m looking forward to the games and getting out there and playing each night,” Sweeney said. “Just enjoying the experience one last time.”
Both teams kick off their seasons on the road. While the men began with a game preview exhibition at Grambling Nov. 6, the first official games will be played Nov. 10 against the men’s team at the University of Texas at Austin and the women’s team at Ole Miss. The Demons make their home debut against LeTourneau University Nov. 12; Lady Demons play at 2 p.m., followed by the men at 4 p.m.