By Rich Winter
Each day as Anthony Muilenburg and Abbie Saxton walk into Bennett County basketball practice they are greeted by a 30-strong throng of young ladies ready to get better.
Through the first ten days of practice, Muilenberg said the mood is good and the ladies are anxious to get the season started.
Each day as the girls walk into practice, Muilenburg has just two requirements.
“Effort,” he said. “And when you walk through those doors you need to be ready, emotionally and physically, to compete.”
The Lady Warriors are coming off a 3-18 season with several returners, including senior Jessica Begeman Lainee Link and talented junior, Lexi Bair.
“Jessica is really getting after it,” Muilenberg said. “She’s improved tremendously, comes to work and she’s one of my leaders and I’m looking forward to her leadership, on and off the court.”
While Begeman will be a presence in the middle, Muilenberg said he’s looking for senior guard Link to take a step forward.
“Lainee is really good at finding the open person and she’s looking to get everyone involved,” Muilenberg said.
Bair had a breakout sophomore season and looks to be one of the top guards in Region 7.
“We’re hoping for big things from Lexi. She’s incredible when she penetrates, she’s a good passer and she takes it strong to the basket,” Muilenberg said. “Lexi is really aggressive and she takes on the challenge of checking the other team’s best guard.”
With the starters and varsity not set leading into Saturday’s game with Todd County, Muilenburg talked about several players he thinks will have significant impacts this season.
“Nicole Porch played a little bit last year and she’s a good athlete this is going to continue to improve. Priscilla Has No Horse should see some more time this season as she’s one of our tallest players that gives us another presence down low. Erica Bakley – She’s a senior that can post up or take it outside... terrific mid-range game.”
Muilenberg really liked the way his squad improved last year saying his team got better, despite what the score said.
The Lady Warriors open their home schedule on December 14 against Gordon-Rushville. During the regular season, the squad will see every one of the girls teams from Region 7A, considered one of the toughest A regions in the state.
“We know how tough our region is, and that’s fine and I love the competition,” Muilenberg said. “I wouldn’t want to play teams that wouldn’t give us a tough time. That competition is what we need, and if we want to improve and get better we have to face the best competition.”
While coach Muilenberg thought his team played hard a season ago, he felt like slow starts and complete effort weren’t there all the time.
“My expectation is we are going to work hard every single time we get on the court,” Muilenberg said. “No matter the score, win or lose, we are going to play as a team and we are going to out-work our opponents.”
One of the things Muilenberg noted about the start of the season has been an active parent population and some benefits from off-season strength and conditioning.
“We have a lot of parents involved this year and we lacked that in years past,” Coach said. “This summer we started a lifting program, and a lot of our younger kids showed up and worked their tails off. That’s something since I’ve been here that I just haven’t seen. The younger kids are really buying into that and that will be the foundation as these young kids are going to stick with it and work hard in the off-season.”