Potomac State Basketball have high hopes for '15-'16 season

By Michael Minnich  Tribune Sports Editor  mminnich@newstribune.info

KEYSER, WV—The pieces are on the board. Now, it’s time to play for the Potomac State College Catamounts, who opened their women’s and men’s basketball seasons on Saturday, October 31 at Lough Gymnasium with wins.

The Potomac State women return four players from last season’s 17-5 team: Courtney Davis, Brooke Nesselrodt, Elizabeth Mills, and Keyser alum Lexi Carr.
“They show excellent leadership, on and off the court,” said Walton. “They are great examples for the freshmen.”

Walton points to Carr, who is Keyser High’s all-time leading scorer and was the best player as a senior on the state semifinal team two years, as someone who has taken charge.

“We struggled the other day in our scrimmage. We faced full-court pressure every possession, which we really don’t see during the regular season, so it was great for us. She took on that initiative: give me the ball, and I’ll break that pressure. Give me the ball, and I’ll get a shot,” said Walton. “She wanted to make things happen.”

Carr will team up once again with freshman Katie Hoban: the duo were major parts of Keyser’s unprecedented success in basketball and softball over the past few seasons, starting for state tournament teams.
 Lexi Carr
Lexi Carr

“Katie’s going to be a real asset for us. Great person, and on the court, she brings a lot,” said Walton. “She’s got good size, so she’s good around the basket. She’s got some good basketball sense.”

“I think her role, maybe even more so than it was in high school, will be to do everything,” said Walton. “She brings a lot to the table that you don’t teach.”

“It’s a position that we’re short at, but I think what we have inside is quality. Katie’s one, and then we have another returning player [Mills] that is getting better all the time,” said Walton. “I think our inside game, hopefully, will be a big factor.”

PSC played three scrimmage games to prepare for Saturday’s opener.

“We use it for two reasons: to see what we have, and also to see what combinations are going to work for us,” said Walton. “We’ve progressed after every one of them.”

“We were tired of playing ourselves,” said Walton. “We found our weaknesses, and hopefully we can address them.”

The schedule will be different and difficult for PSC this year with their departure from the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference.

“We’re no longer in the WPCC. It is, by far, even though the number of games is down somewhat, the toughest schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here, and this is my 12th season,” said Walton. “The WPCC had some good teams, but they also had some cupcakes. And it hurt us at the end of the season. I think we went backwards last year. We were on top of our game before Christmas break. And the only thing that I can attribute that to is that we played some teams where we didn’t have to play to win.”

“That’s going to be a big thing this year. I can guarantee that Chesapeake will be on top of their game…Hagerstown. We go up to Garrett’s tournament and play Niagara and Clark, teams we’ve never played before but who only lost three or four games last year,” said Walton. “I was all for this. I want to be ready to play at the end of the year. Yes, you want to win every game, and we’re not going into games thinking that we’re going to lose, but we want to get better. Playing top competition will get us ready to win at regionals and make nationals. And that’s the ultimate goal.”

Then, it’s the men’s turn.

“The guys have done really well,” said head coach Justin Anderson, who led the Catamounts to nationals two years ago. “They’ve worked really hard in the weight room and with their conditioning.”

Travis Brown
Travis Brown
And being in shape is essential for Anderson’s 94-feet, in-your-face style.

“It’s everything. We push it, we pass it, we play. We get up and down. It’s an up-tempo style of play,” said Anderson. “It’s important that we start that pace from the first day and push it every day in practice. We talk about how important it is to be mentally tough, and conditioning is where it starts.”

Potomac State finished last year with a 19-8 mark.

“We have four returners, and at this level you’re going to have a lot of turnover. We have seven guys this year that are from the state of West Virginia,” said Anderson. “We’re down in the Sunshine State again, we still are getting guys from Florida and from Maryland as well. So we’re pretty well-rounded.”

“Position-wise this year, we have the most depth I’ve had, 1 through 5.”

“Our returners are doing a good job. Travis Brown, from Palatka, Fla., is doing a great job of leading. Our freshmen have come in and worked really hard,” said Anderson.

That national berth two years ago has raised the profile of PSC’s program, especially in West Virginia.

“It’s helped tremendously. It’s put us on the map,” said Anderson. “It really opened up a lot of doors for our guys to get recruited. Our reputation over the years of winning have drawn a lot of kids.”

Like the women, the PSC men will no longer play in the WPCC.

“I don’t really think it’s going to affect us, because we’re more region-driven than anything else,” said Anderson. “We’re going to pick up better competition. We play Richard Bland every year, and they won the national championship last year. Of course, you’re looking to play the best of the best. We play in the Maryland JUCO region, and it’s a tough region.”

As for season goals?

“The biggest thing we want to accomplish is preparing our guys to move on. They come here for two years, and we want to prepare them to go to a four-year school. Not just basketball, but with academics and life,” said Anderson. “It’s hard work. We always say, day-in and day-out, that the toughest thing about being good is that you have to prove it every day. We really try to drive that message into our guys.”

“If you’re disciplined, not only in basketball but in the classroom, you give yourself an opportunity to move forward.”