2011-12 College of the Ozarks Women’s Basketball Prospectus
Three returning starters, along with plenty of experience from role players a season ago, and the biggest recruiting class during Head Coach George Wilson’s tenure at College of the Ozarks, once again establishes high expectations for the women’s basketball team. A season ago, Wilson led his team to the second round of the NAIA National Tournament before falling to Cedarville University (OH). Wilson believes that the 2011-12 team has the ability to once again be contenders in Sioux City, Iowa at the NAIA National Championship, but it will require hard work and a commitment to upholding the tradition of excellence that has been established in the program.
In his 15th season at C of O, Wilson will rely heavily on returning Second Team All-American Morgan Smith and MCAC Honorable Mention All-Conference performer Maranda Vaught. Smith, a 6-0 forward from Nixa, MO, brings a wealth of success in her young career as a Lady Bobcat. She brings a 16.2 scoring average from a season ago and was the third leading rebounder at 5.8. Last season, Vaught a 5-8 guard from Crane, MO, shot 40.5% from behind the arc, while averaging nearly 9 points per contest. Morgan Hickey, a senior forward from Blue Eye, MO became a starter mid-season and averaged almost 6 points per game while shooting 40.8% from the three point line.
Key reserves from a season ago include5-8 senior guard Kelsey Combs from nearby Branson, MO. She led the team with 115 assists last season and looks to continue in that role this year. Senior guard Julie Posey from Norwood, MO, provided plenty of key minutes for the Lady Bobcats primarily as a defensive stopper. A much improved offensive game should enhance her production this season. Emily Walker, a 5-5 guard from Nixa, MO, gained valuable experience from her freshman season, averaging over 17 minutes a game and 5.2 points per contest. Her hard-nosed approach to the game provides important intensity to the team. Rounding out the list of returners are sophomore forwards Lirona Rexhepi and Wren Wiebe. After adjusting to the rigors of the American college game, Rexhepi, who hails from Kosovo, looks to utilize her pure athleticism and provide much needed depth at the forward position for the Lady Bobcats. Wiebe looks to bounce back from season ending knee surgery and also contribute at the forward position. The 5-10 Lawrence, KS, native provides a solid defensive and rebounding presence for the team.
The biggest recruiting class and possibly most athletic of Wilson’s tenure includes five freshmen and one junior college transfer. The lone transfer, Kenzie Lauffer comes to C of O via Crowder College and originally hails from Aurora, MO. She led the Lady Roughriders in 3 point percent last season and looks to bring that to the court this season along with her tremendous work ethic. The freshmen include two guards, one forward, and two centers. Former conference rivals and now teammates at the guard position are Kaile Weinreis of Ash Grove, MO, and Kayla Kepler of Fair Grove, MO. Weinreis is a 5-9 shooting guard with tremendous athleticism. Kepler is a point guard known for her heady play and competitive nature. The lone forward in this year’s recruiting class is Brandy Uchtman from Fordland, MO. The lanky, athletic six footer brings guard abilities as well as the ability to score around the basket. Centers Hannah Harman and Tanner Merriman round out the 2010-11 recruiting class. The 6-0 Harman hails from Walnut Grove, MO and the 6-1 Merriman calls Flippin, AR, home. They both bring tremendous potential and athleticism and will be called upon to provide valuable minutes this season inside the paint after losing two post players to graduation the past season.
Wilson has a tough non-conference schedule for his team including new NCAA II member Black Hills State (SD) and South Dakota Mines, both of whom will participate in the early season Coca-Cola Classic. The Lady Bobcats will seek revenge from a buzzer beater defeat last season at the hands of NAIA Division I National Tournament second round participants William Woods. Missouri Baptist will also give the Lady Bobcats a chance to redeem themselves from a loss suffered last season. Rounding out the non-conference conference is the 2011 NAIA National Champions Azusa Pacific, who the Lady Bobcats will play in California along with National Tournament qualifier Biola University. It looks to be a challenging schedule which will prepare the Lady Bobcats for MCAC conference play, with the goal of playing in the post season.
Once again, this team could be one of Wilson’s deepest teams with plenty of players vying for playing time. Solid players from one to fourteen will provide plenty of competition in practice in order to earn minutes on the court and looks to be an entertaining season for Bobcat fans.