FAIRBANKS — There were a lot fresh faces and competitive atmosphere when the Alaska Nanooks women’s basketball team took the court for the first time Monday
Coach Cody Burgess welcomed 18 players, including two redshirts, to their first full practice Monday morning and they have some lofty goals heading into the 2012-13 season.
“We’re glad to get on the court,” Burgess said. “These girls are driven, motivated and set high goals for what they want to achieve this season. They’re very competitive and want to win.”
Winning hasn’t been something the Nanooks have been accustomed to the past few years, but Burgess expects that to change with the addition of five junior college transfers and two other transfers from other NCAA Division II schools.
“We purposely tried to bring in transfers to add maturity and experience in playing college basketball,” Burgess said. “The girls signed up knowing what we’ve been through and they all want to make this a successful program. They understand how hard they have to work to be successful. They want it bad and that’s good to see.”
The five returning Nanooks include senior guard 6-foot Taylor Altenburg, senior 5-11 forward Jacqueline Lovato, sophomore 5-9 guard Kelly Lovato, sophomore 5-6 guard Benissa Bulaya and red-shirt junior guard Emily Johnson, who is recovering from knee surgery.
Junior college transfers include 5-4 guard Destini Lewis from North Platte CC in Nebraska, 5-9 guard Kristen Swim form Umpqua in Oregon, 5-6 guard April Fultz from San Bernardino Valley College in California, 5-11 forward Samantha Thornton from Umpqua, 5-9 forward Ruth O’Neal from Sheridan College in Wyoming.
Teanna Boxley, a 5-5 senior guard, is transferring from Montevallo College in Alabama and Jacqueline Bartleson is a 6-2 post coming in as a junior from Fort Hays State in Kansas.
Other newcomers include 5-6 junior guard Marissa Atoruk, of Kiana; 5-5 freshman guard Tori Durham, of from Cameron, Mont.;
5-8 freshman guard Brianna Kirk, of Noatak; 5-7 freshman guard Greer Kleber from Walnut Grove, Calif.; 5-8 freshman guard Jenessa Newman from Hutchison High in Fairbanks; and 6-0 red-shirt sophomore forward Kaelin Reed, who played three seasons of high school basketball at Lathrop and is transferring from Penn State-Berks.
Burgess said the Nanooks have three main goals this season, the first of which is finish among the top six teams in the conference and advance to the conference tournament.
“We don’t want to back in or slide in, we want to be there as competitors,” Burgess said.
The second goal is earn a team grade point average of 3.0 or better and the third is to do a community service project each month.
Last weekend the Nanooks painted the inside of a Habitat for Humanity home in North Pole and the month before the team stacked hay bales at Camp Li-Wa.
“Doing things together helps us create team unity,” Burgess said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to reach out to the community and offer help.”
Burgess will unveil the 2012-13 Nanooks on Nov. 1 in the Blue/Gold scrimmage at the Patty Center. Alaska’s first official game is at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Patty Center.