Hesston College basketball teams ready for tip off

by Kymee Noll – Horizon Sports Editor

Excitement is in the air as basketball season is upon us, but none are more excited than the players and coaches of the Hesston College basketball teams.  They’ve worked hard through grueling preseason conditioning and are ready to display their potential.

Coach Dan Harrison has some new leadership at his side with assistant coach LaMont Russell, who played for the Hesston College men’s team from 2005-2007, and student assistant Makayla Ladwig (last year’s all-region player).

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Assistant Coach LaMont Russell working on ball handling with the team. Photo by Masayo Satoh.

Both assistants, Harrison said, have crucial roles to play.

“Russell has been working with individual players’ development.  His experience playing professionally overseas has given him a great perspective on teaching the skills that each player can improve on.”

As student assistant, Ladwig is pushing the Larks to prepare them for the competitive season they have ahead.

“Ladwig has been leading the players in a tough multi-dimensional approach to conditioning.  She has created a program that builds muscle strength, a stronger, more flexible core and increases jumping,” said Harrison.

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Dominique Needham focusing during conditioning lead by Mikayla Ladwig. Photo by Masayo Satoh.

The women’s team has several sophomore returners that Coach Harrison is expecting to have a positive impact the team.

A 6′ 3” Bethany Snow (Wichita, Kan.) and high school teammates and friends 5′ 11” Sydni Carter and 5′ 8” J’Liyah Tillman (Muskogee, Okla.) are players to keep an eye out for, Harrison said in an email interview.

“The team’s sophomores are leading with enthusiasm and passion, especially point guard Taelor Drew,” he said.  “I am encouraged with the group’s positive attitude and chemistry.  This should be a great year for the Larks if we continue working and believing in each other.”

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Taelor Drew dribbling up the court in a preseason scrimmage. Photo by Masayo Satoh.

“We have nine new faces that will help us to continue to move forward as a program,” said Harrison.  “Brittany Kramer 5′ 10” guard (Melvern, Kan.), 6′ 1” forward Morgan Coffman (Vassar, Kan.), and a pair of athletic 5′ 11” wings, Mandy Cockrell (Wichita, Kan.) and Dominique Needham (Salt Lake City, Utah) all will have tremendous impact on the team’s success.”

The women’s team started preseason scrimmages after only four days of official practice.  They competed at the KC Jamboree which pitted the Larks against three of last year’s nationally ranked teams.

“This experience was beneficial in helping our players realize how hard and intense they have to play every day in practice,” said Harrison.  “The intensity over the next two weeks was fantastic,” stated Harrison.  Also in preseason, the team played three Jayhawk Division 1 schools, beating two of them and having a close loss to the third team.

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Grant Walker playing defense against Bethel College’s varsity team in a preseason scrimmage. Photo by Masayo Satoh.

Coach Dustin Galyon believes the men’s team will be relying on leadership for their success this season.  The sophomores that are stepping up as team captains are returning guards Grant Walker (Newton, Kan.) and Malcolm Mann (Plano, Tex.).  Gaylon is impressed with his three returners’, Walker, Mann, and Jordan Tanner (Houston, Texas), leadership ability.

“Our leadership is as high as its been when you talk about our two captains,” said Gaylon. Our three returners leadership is great on and off the court, and we’re going to be as good as our leadership is.  The leaders are doing so much of the little things on the floor that good leaders do.  These guys are vocally strong leaders which has been such a joy for the coaching staff because these guys are allowing me to coach them hard.”

Galyon is pleased with how preseason turned out for the Larks, ending with a 4-1 record, traveling to Dallas, Texas for the Mullen/Mitchell Jamboree and playing Sterling and Bethel’s varsity teams.

Along with the returners, Galyon is excited for the ten new teammates joining the team, a few of them being transfer students.  One transfer from the University of North Texas, Austin Mitchell (Plano, Texas), is a high school teammate and friend of Mann’s.

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Malcolm Mann handling the ball against Bethel College’s varsity in a preseason scrimmage. Photo by Masayo Satoh.

“Austin Mitchell’s work ethic is unbelievable,” said Galyon.

Along with the leadership the sophomores bring to the team, the new players are a group of guys that bring a winning attitude, in more than one way: knowing what it takes and having good character. Peyton Thompson (Kalona, Iowa), another transfer, comes from a winning program and has been coached under a Hall of Fame coach, Dwight Gingerich, a past coach of Iowa Mennonite School, said Galyon.

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Jordan Tanner dunking on Bethel College’s varsity in a preseason scrimmage. Photo by Masayo Satoh.

“Kaden Vanderpool (Melvern, Kan.) hasn’t lost a game in two years and is an undefeated state champion,” said Galyon. “Matt Sanders (Towner, Colo.) lead his team to a 3rd place at state.  I don’t think Jake Hansen (Effingham, Kan.) lost more than six games in high school.”

“We’ve always gone after high character kids who can add to our campus other than basketball,” said Galyon. “We do not have a group that’s entitled, they feel fortunate to be at Hesston, fortunate to be playing college basketball; and they’re hungry.  I’ve enjoyed this team thus far, what they’ve been doing on campus.  I think their classmates and community members are really going to enjoy this group of guys.”

There are three areas that Galyon is thrilled his team possesses.  Depth, smart play, and understanding importance of defense.

“I think we’re deep, not just quantity depth, but quality depth” said Galyon. “We’ve got a couple guys coming off the bench that, offensively they’re gifted, but once they figure it out defensively it’ll get fun.”

“Our basketball IQ is just so high,” said Galyon. “Our kids are great listeners and they’re able to execute the things we teach.  Because we have a team of winners, they understand the importance of defense.  When you have those three things, depth, smarts, and understanding the importance of defense, you got a chance every night.”

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