NORMAN — Norman North played last year with a very young an inexperienced roster with the hope of returning a more seasoned squad this time around. And, while the T-Wolves do bring back several key players from last season’s 12-12 team, the roster this year is even younger.
Between graduating two starters and having several players leave to focus on other sports, North has just one senior in Carlee Wright on this year’s team. And because of the football team’s run at the state championship, the Timberwolves are getting started later than planned. They’ll take the floor at 1:40 p.m. today at the Durant Lion Classic against Putnam City North in the first game of the year.
“We’re younger this year, but we have a lot of depth and we have Bri and Haley back,” coach Jeff Blough said. “And we had a great summer. We went undefeated in summer league and only lost one game at the team camp we attended.”
Blough was referring to junior Bri Kuestersteffen and sophomore Haley Woodard, both of whom were instrumental to last year’s squad and figure to be a potent, one-two punch this year. Already dangerous driving the basket, Woodard has expanded her game to include a jump shot, while Kuestersteffen said she has been focusing on her defense and other intangibles to help lead the team. Also back from last year’s squad is sometimes-starter Julian Mougell, who at 6-3 is an inside force for the Timberwolves.
North also will receive a boost from sophomore Tia Williams, who averaged a double-double on the freshman team with 14 points and 10 rebounds a game. Blough expects to have plenty of scorers on the floor at any given time, both in his starting lineup and coming from his bench.
Blough knows there will be challenges early for a team that hasn’t even scrimmaged since before Thanksgiving, but he’s also confident he has the right players to figure it out.
“It helps when your two best players are also your two hardest workers,” he said. “That sets a great example for the younger girls on the team.”
And the T-Wolves will find out early how far they’ve come since the summer. If they win today’s game with PC North, they’ll likely meet Class 5A’s second-ranked team in Deer Creek on Friday.
Kuestersteffen said the team is ready. With the depth the T-Wolves look to have, she said practices have been intense and the competition has helped North improve.
“As one of the only players back who has a lot of varsity experience, I’ve done my best to make it a game-like situation in practice,” she said. “We’re trying to make it to state this year and get better every day. We’re not going to be satisfied until then. We’re going to keep working so we don’t plateau and instead we keep climbing and peak at the right time.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org