LADY BOBCAT BASKETBALL 2015-2016 PREVIEW
The College of the Ozarks’ Lady Bobcats and third-year head coach Becky Vest are eager to take the court for the 2015-16 season.
The Lady Cats, who were last season’s MCAC Champions, return a strong core of four upperclassmen alongside four sophomores who saw significant minutes during their freshman season. As a result, the Cats have strong leadership to hopefully guide them back to Sioux City, Iowa and an opportunity to compete for the NAIA DII National Championship.
Key leaders for the Lady Cats this season will be senior forward Brandy Uchtman and junior guard Hannah Wisdom, both of whom were 2014-15 MCAC All-Conference selections. Uchtman posted 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 82% from the free throw line and 43% from the field. She is a talented, versatile athlete who has invested five years in the program and brings a winning attitude to the team. Wisdom joins Uchtman as the centerpiece of the team, serving as a catalyst for the offense. She is quick, possesses a lethal jump shot, and is extremely competitive. Wisdom averaged 12 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season. While she is a strong shooter, draining 34% of her three-pointers and 43% in field goals, she is also an unselfish player, dishing out a team-leading 3.9 assists per game.
Senior guard Jordan Graham will contend for court time with her sound passing skills and court vision. Junior forward Maggie McMenamy, who does “lots of little things the right way,” is stronger this season and will be called upon for her defensive talent.
Vest is also looking to Maison Bovard and MCAC Freshman of the Year Lakin Simmerman to play important roles this season. Both were strong contributors as freshmen in last year’s lineup, each adding 7-8 points and 3-4 rebounds per game. Simmerman will help solidify the Lady Cats’ post, and Bovard’s versatility and improved range on outside shots will make her a greater threat on offense. Playing over 500 minutes apiece in their first year, both have gained confidence at the college level and will be instrumental to the team’s success.
Rounding out the sophomore class are Shelby Roberts and Madison Wells. Roberts is a very positive teammate and leader who has improved every facet of her game and gained confidence playing defense. These attributes will make her a contender for a starting position at guard. Wells has made a good transition to the college game as well, possessing a high basketball intellect, solid fundamentals, and improved speed and strength.
A solid class of incoming freshmen will keep returning players on their toes, as they contend for time on the court. Madisen Brethower (Skyline HS) knows what it takes to win. She is physically strong and very versatile in shooting 3-pointers or driving to the basket. Kelsie Cleeton (Hillcrest HS) has great instincts on the court combined with good ball handling and excellent passing skills. Cassidy Johnson (West Plains HS) is a fierce competitor who brings solid 3-point shooting. Closing out this season’s strong group of newcomers is forward Tristen Underdown (Alpena HS, AR). Underdown has already transitioned well and will contribute a good 3-point shot and the ability to effectively drive to the basket.
The Lady Bobcats do not shy away from strong competition; rather, they seek and utilize it to strengthen their program. This season the Lady Cats play 11 NAIA Division I teams, including the defending champion Oklahoma City University, Elite Eight qualifier Bethel University (TN), and tournament qualifiers William Woods University and Lyon College. Strong NAIA D-II opponents include Ashford University, who advanced to the second round of the national tournament, and qualifier Southwestern College (KS).
Coach Vest states, “Wearing the name Ozarks means something special to these players as well as those who have played over the years for Coach Wilson and herself. The Ozarks name denotes high standards, and along with privilege comes responsibility and integrity both on and off the court. The Lady Cats desire to continue the Ozarks tradition of toughness, trust, and communication.”
The Lady Bobcats believe their talent, combined with the hard work ethic instilled in them, will lead to big things this season. Take time to watch them play this season and experience for yourself the Ozarks’ pride.