By Spencer Jacobson, Staff Writer
As the semester comes to a close, the men’s and women’s basketball teams are setting their sights on the future as they prepare and build their teams for next season.
The women’s team, which was one win shy of making the MIAA tournament this season, is looking to fill some spots next season with the loss of two graduating seniors, Kaitlyn Potter and Michaela Mack.
Potter, who broke all the program and conference three-point shooting records, was an all-conference player in both the MIAA and Heartland conferences. Mack was among the program and conference leaders in assists.
Darin Spence, the head women’s basketball coach, said that both Potter and Mack had very good two-year careers at the university after transferring from junior colleges.
“Both are special people, and we truly appreciate all they invested in our program for these two years,” he said.
Spence said that Newman has four women set to join the team next season.
Among these new additions are freshman Sydney Nilles, a 5-foot-9 guard from Derby; freshman Elise Kaiser, a 5-foot-10 guard from Hesston; freshman Gabbie Posch, a 5-foot-10 guard from Hutchinson; and freshman Ashanti Day, a 5-foot-5 guard from Moore, Oklahoma.
Spence said that when recruiting, his staff starts by looking for prospects in their “immediate shadow and region,” meaning players from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska, who are familiar with the MIAA conference.
Players from winning programs who have been coached hard and know how to deal with adversity and direction are also something they look for, he said.
“Ideally, we are looking to bring in high school players who we can shape and mold during their four years with us. However, we also keep in mind the immediate impact a juco or four-year school transfer can have here and how they might fill a hole for us on the roster. This really depends on the age and experience of our roster,” he said.
With 10 returning players, Spence said he is excited to see the team’s growth next season.
“They all learned from year one in the MIAA, having some success with big wins, but also navigating through some tough losses and very competitive games. It’s time for this group of returning players to take another step forward and really lead the way and invest more than they ever have in their careers. I want this group to help teach our four incoming freshmen and really show them the way while holding all teammates accountable to the lessons we learned this season,” he said.
The men’s team, which was unable to make the conference tournament this season, is also looking to fill some spots next season.
The Jets will be graduating seniors Anthony Harvey, Marshawn Blackmon, Juwan Davenport and Kalin Johnson.
The Jets will also be saying goodbye to junior Omar Boone and junior Kaleb Allison.
R.J. Allen, the head men’s basketball coach, said that they have already signed four athletes for next season and look to add four more this spring.
Among these new additions are freshman Kwaku Ayapong, a 6-foot-9 forward from Toronto, Canada; freshman Jorge Oliva, a 6-foot-8 forward from Orlando; freshman Aleska Jonanovic, a 6-foot-4 guard from San Jose, California; and transfer Braden Bunn, a 6-foot-3 guard from New York City.
Allen said that when recruiting, he looks for athletes who are good people who the entire Newman community can be proud of.
“We also look for guys who are motivated to excel on and off the floor. They have to have a competitive drive and a willingness to get better,” he said.
With a difficult last season, Allen said he is looking for improvement.
“Last year was a tough year, but a great learning experience for myself and our entire program. I believe now we know what is ahead of us, and we plan to be better prepared to compete in the best conference in the entire country,” Allen said.