The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team has one goal in mind for this season and that is to win a regional championship.
To accomplish that the team realizes that it will be a slow journey considering the Cougar men have a young team this year. The Cougars have just two players that played on last year’s 26-7 record that lost in the semi-finals of the Region IX tournament.
WNCC coach Russ Beck realizes that he has a young team but is hoping the early rigorous schedule will pay dividends come second semester.
“We are relatively young but we have a lot of talent,” Beck said. “We are still trying to pull it together in defining our roles and comprehend what we want to accomplish. I think as soon as we tie it together, we will be really good. The important thing is we are good at the right time. Right now we are learning, growing, and building, and we want to be the best team we can in March.”
There is no doubt that the Cougars are a young team with just Tahir Little and Sebastian Sebastian Suarez back from last year. Both players started off and on for the Cougars last season. Also back from a year ago are red-shirt players Cody Johnson, 6-foot-10 center from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Charles Ward, 6-2 guard from Phoenix, Ariz.
WNCC has one other sophomore on the team in Chad Calcaterra, a 6-10 center. Calcaterra transferred in from Colorado State University.
The Cougars also have plenty of firepower with the freshmen class, including the trio from Scottsbluff High School in Rich Williams, Isaiah Castellaw and Zach Clemens. The three former Bearcats won the Class B state championship last season.
Also making a return trip to the west it Trey Moore, a 6-0 guard from Papillion-La Vista High School near Omaha. Moore played at North Platte before transferring to Papillion. He also has relatives that live in the valley.
Other newcomers include Quante Cooley (6-3) and Willie Mangum (6-1) of Richmond, Virg., and Doudou Gueye (6-8) and Youssoupha Kane (6-10) of Dakar, Senegal.
Beck said this team has the potential to be really good once they get through the growing stages of the season.
“The positive on the team is we have really good depth. There are a lot of interchangeable parts,” he said. “When we substitute, we really don’t drop off. This team also has a really good chance to be good defensively and to do some things we haven’t seen in the past three years in terms of our full-court pressure. I think they have a chance to be a special defensive team.”
With the tough first semester schedule, which includes a road trip to play defending NJCAA national Champion South Plains College on Nov. 6, along with games against Salt Lake Community College and the College of Southern Idaho at the Casper Classic on Nov. 16-17, Beck knows they could drop some games. He is hoping, however, that those early season hiccups pays off down the stretch.
“We will take some bumps and bruises early, but that will help us build character and toughness that we want,” he said. “I think if we can learn something from every game, win or lose, then we will be in the hunt for a Region IX championship.”
Beck believes that this year’s team has plenty of talent to rival what last year’s team did.
“This team is a little bit different from last year’s team,” he said. “I think we can be every bit as potent offensively but we are going to score in different ways than last year’s team. We have a nice sophomore leadership once we get through this growth phase.
“We had a heck of a team last year where we sent five guys to Division I, we got ranked, and we were third in the nation offensively. There were a lot of positives things, but it is like we peaked too early. We were playing our best basketball in January and we went to these jamborees last year and played really, really well. We have been up and down in the jamborees so far this year, but if we stay humble and stay hungry, then we will be where we need to be in the end.”
The Cougars open the season Nov. 2 and 3 at the Gillette Classic in Gillette, Wyo. The Cougar’s first home game will be Tues., Nov. 20 when they host Western Wyoming Community College.
2-3 — @ Gillette Classic, Gillette, Wyo.; 6 — @ South Plains College, Levelland, Texas; 16-17 — @ Region IX 9/18 Challenge, Casper, Wyo. 20 – Western Wyoming C.C. 27 – Casper College; 30 – Holiday Classic, Sheridan, Wyo.
1 – Holiday Classic, Sheridan, Wyo.; 7 – Northwest Kansas Technical College; 14-15 – Northwest Classic, Powell, Wyo.
7 — @ Northwest Kansas Technical College, Goodland, Kan.; 8 — @ Lamar Community College, Lamar, Colo.; 11 – McCook Community College; 18 – Trinidad State Junior College; 19 – Otero Junior College; 22 – Eastern Wyoming College; 26 — @ Casper College, Casper, Wyo.; 29 – @ Northeastern Junior College, Sterling, Colo.; 31 — @ Laramie County Community College, Cheyenne, Wyo.
2 — @ North Platte Community College, North Platte, Neb.; 8 – Lamar Community College; 9 – Northeastern Junior College; 12 – Laramie County Community College; 15 — @ Otero Junior College, La Junta, Colo.; 16 — @ Trinidad State Junior College, Trinidad, Colo.; 19 — @ McCook Community College, McCook, Neb.; 21 — @ Eastern Wyoming College, Torrington, Wyo.; 23 – North Platte Community College.
2-6 – Regionals at North Winner; 18-23 – Nationals at Hutchinson, Kan.
2012 Men’s Roster
2 Tahir Little 5-10 175 Soph John Marshall
3 Zach Clemens 6-5 200 Fresh Scottsbluff
4 Quante Coolet 6-3 210 Fresh John Marshall
5 Rich Williams 6-1 170 Fresh Scottsbluff
10 Willie Mangum 6-1 200 Fresh John Marshall
12 Trey Moore 6-0 170 Fresh Papillion-La Vista
15 Isaiah Castellaw 6-7 200 Fresh Scottsbluff
21 Doudou Gueye 6-6 205 Fresh Seeds Academy
22 Charles Ward 6-2 195 Soph Arcadia
23 Sebastian Suarez 6-4 210 Soph Liceo Carmela
25 Cody Johnson 6-10 235 Fresh Alta
32 Youssoupha Kane 6-10 215 Fresh Word of God Christian Acad. Dakar, Senagal
33 Chad Calcaterra 6-10 240 Soph Cloquet