For Bison women's basketball, capitalizing on season of improvement all the more difficult
FARGO — The progress the North Dakota State women’s basketball team made this season was steady and noticeable. It had been many years since the program had a year where it was much better at the end than it was at the beginning.
For first-year head coach Jory Collins, it was the first building block of sorts.
Construction was scheduled to restart two weeks after the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls, where the Bison won a tourney game for the first time since their first year of Division I eligibility in 2009.
But the COVID-19 pandemic shut down those plans.
“Obviously we would have liked to maintain some momentum finishing what we felt like was a good last six weeks of the season,” Collins said. “We’re missing out on that time.”
When the players do resume workouts together, the roster will look different. NDSU is expected to sign two players Wednesday, the first day of an NCAA-revised letter of intent period for all sports that lasts through Aug. 1.
Three players are transferring to another school in freshman guard Nicole Scales, sophomore forward Cirkeline Rimdal and junior center Danneka Voegeli. All played backup roles. NDSU signed three players last November in high school players Abigail Schulte from Maple Grove, Minn., and Kyle Strop from River Falls, Wis., and junior college transfer Reneya Hopkins from Redlands Community College (Okla.).
Hopkins averaged 17.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists and was a third team Division I JUCO all-American.
Recruiting these days because of the campus shutdown is vastly different than when those players signed. Mostly, Collins said, it’s been a lot of phone calls and video conference calls.
“We did an official visit, what we called an official visit, a couple weeks ago where we took the computer around and did a virtual tour live,” Collins said.
Also gone are the April and May evaluation periods for 2021 recruits. It makes gauging the improvement of players from an AAU season this spring to summer basketball camps virtually impossible.
“Honestly, a lot of the kids are kids we’ve been recruiting all year long,” Collins said. “Obviously some new ones have popped up that you’re starting to get film from their high school season. It’s the new kids you’re wanting to bring in, the ‘21 class.”
Collins said the potential for mixed messages to players is out there.
“Some of (programs) are telling them if you have a relationship with a coach and it’s a school you like, take it, who knows when you can visit?” he said. “Other people are telling them to relax and wait, things will get back to normal in the fall. You can take a visit in the fall. So many things are up in the air. It comes down to being on the phone with coaches, players and parents.”
Collins said he’s “crossing his fingers” that his players will be able to return to campus in June for summer school and summer workouts. Coaches are allowed to work with them for a maximum of four hours on the court with another four hours allowed for strength and conditioning per week.
Collins expects his roster to be at 13 players by then. Meanwhile, all of the players are at home trying to work on skills individually.
“We’re missing out on that time, which everybody is,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a disadvantage or not but I think for us early in the tenure we would benefit from it as much as anybody.”