After leading a young team to a 7-18 record last season, North Nodaway coach Jake Shipman is excited to enter this season with much more experience on his roster. The Mustangs return four starters this season.
“It is nice not to have to reinvent the wheel,” Shipman said. “We’ve been running a lot of the same stuff, same systems the entire time they have been in high school. So for those guys just to have another year under their belts, get a little bigger, get a little stronger and another year older, absolutely that is a big advantage for us right now.”
The team is led by one of the most versatile players in the area with 275 Conference Second-Team selection Arron Coleman moving all over the court last season and Cole Bird primarily playing the five-spot for the Mustangs. With Bird graduating this season, the senior is likely to be in the post more often and with a plethora of guards on the roster, he may be the lone post player in the starting lineup.
The idea of being the lone big guy on the court is something that has Coleman excited going into the season, because that will likely lead to a faster pace of basketball for the Mustangs.
“We will be able to run up and down a little quicker now and get the ball moving a little faster than what we could last year,” Coleman said.
Senior Logan Wood returns to the starting lineup after averaging 10.1 points a game last season — second on the team to Coleman’s 10.3. Wood provides the team with a proven floor spacer after shooting 38.4 percent from three last year with 28 makes.
“I can’t even explain it,” Wood said of his excitement for the season. “It is senior year and this is my team and we are going to be pretty good this year.”
Tyler Bix was the team’s third leading scorer last year with a 9.5 average as the squad’s primary ball handler. Shipman is hoping to further unlock Bix’s game this year by moving him off-ball more often.
Allowing Bix to play more on the wing is the emergence of sophomore point guard Andrew Blackford in the early portions of preseason practice.
“We did have some young guards last year, but we’ve been working through the summer and improving,” Coleman said. “Andrew is working with the ball some and working on ball handling.”
The Mustangs will be helped by plenty of depth this season to help allow them to play a faster pace. Junior Austin Bird, junior Ryan Riley, junior Wyatt O’Riley and sophomore Karson Oberhauser all saw significant minutes last season and give Shipman plenty of lineup options.
“I do think we are going to be a little bit deeper this year,” Shipman said.
The Mustangs will play in the Platte Valley Invitational next week with their opening round game coming Monday at 8:30 p.m. on the road against Union Star.
“This is a year we’ve been looking forward to for a while,” Shipman said.