FARGO — Practice had just ended with the North Dakota State women’s basketball team on Monday morning and Emily Dietz, among others, was in no hurry to leave. Now a senior, there’s a lot to enjoy about being on the court.

For one, the Bison are poised to be a better team than what the program has seen in years. For two, the hesitant, less confident Dietz of the first part of her Bison career has transformed into a confident player fit to lead a team.

“She’s just believing in herself a little more,” said NDSU head coach Jory Collins. “I think for a lot of the time last year, I thought she was better than she thought she was. I just think her self confidence and the belief she can be a difference maker for us is probably her biggest area of growth.”

NDSU opens its season at home on Wednesday night against Northern Iowa. No fans will be allowed inside Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex other than a team pass list, but Dietz said she and her teammates are dealing with that on a reality basis.

The intensity will have to start and remain with the players.

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“This group has such great energy,” she said. “As a team, it will be different not having that momentum with the crowd but I think we’ve done a good job in practice working on creating our own energy and making sure we’re building off each other.”

The 6-foot-3 center has built her career with steady progress. She played in 19 games as a freshman averaging 3.9 points and 2.0 rebounds. The breakout year was as a sophomore when she started all 29 games and was second on the team in scoring at 9.1 points per game.

The emergence of Collins as a first-year head coach last season helped take her inside game to another level.

“As a post player, they’ve just developed me so much and helped grow my game and that’s helped my confidence grow,” Dietz said. “As a team, too, they’ve instilled in all of us that confidence that we can step into a game and really believe we’re going to win.”

NDSU finished 11-19 last year, but won a game in the Summit League tournament for the first time since 2009, the first year the Bison were tourney eligible in the league after a Division I reclassification. The Bison won eight of their last 14 games.

That was at least closer to the success she had at Fargo Shanley, where the Deacons won one North Dakota Class A state title and were runnerup in another in her two years as a starter.

“It’s been an incredible experience just to be able to play for my hometown and represent Fargo and NDSU,” Dietz said. “It’s been a gift.”

She has yet to decide if she wants to represent NDSU for another season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA has declared this year a non-counter for eligibility.

“I haven’t made my decision yet,” said Dietz, who last year was named to the Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence. “But I think it’s a really great thing the NCAA is providing that for athletes. I think it’s a great opportunity and we’ll make that decision when the time comes.”