FAIRBANKS — As the 2012-13 Alaska Nanooks women’s basketball season draws near, coach Cody Burgess starts her third season with something she hasn’t had before — depth.
“This is the first year we’ve had some real depth on the team,” Burgess said Wednesday afternoon as the Nanooks continued preparations for their season-opener against the Colorado School of Mines at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Patty Center.
“This depth is exciting because there’s not one person our opponents will be able to focus on,” Burgess said. “Teams are going to have to stop three or four and then we have people who can come in and back them up.”
Burgess will have 15 players suited up and ready to go for Saturday’s opener against the Orediggers, who play at Alaska Anchorage Friday night. The Orediggers play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and are from Golden, Colo.
While Burgess didn’t name a starting lineup, there are three returning players who are expected to see a lot of action: Senior guard Taylor Altenburg, sophomore point guard Benissa Bulaya and sophomore guard Kelly Logue.
It’s anybody’s game,” Burgess said when asked about who would be on the floor Saturday night. “We have a lot of competitors on this team and that’s making things interesting for me.”
In the front court, a pair of junior college transfers — juniors Ruth O’Neal and Samantha Thornton have made some strong impressions. At 6-foot-2, junior Jacqueline Bartleson is the tallest player on the team and “unstoppable down low,” Burgess said.
Burgess also is impressed with the quickness and ball-handling skills of junior transfers Destini Lewis and April Fultz and the outside shooting skills of senior transfer Jacqueline Lovato, junior Marissa Atoruk and freshman Tori Durham.
Rounding out the Nanooks roster are freshmen Brianna Kirk, Greer Kieber and Janessa Newman.
“I think we’re going to have an all-around dynamic inside-outside look,” Burgess said. “It’s going to be fun action this weekend.”
Three of the 18 players on the Nanooks roster are redshirts — junior guard Kristin Swim, junior guard Emily Johnson and sophomore Kaelin Reed.
Following Saturday night’s game, the Nanooks hit the road to the San Francisco Bay Area for games against Academy of Art on Nov. 16 and Cal State East Bay on Nov. 17 before returning home to host the Mt. McKinley Bank North Star Invitational on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Nanooks play Upper Iowa on Nov. 22, Anderson on Nov. 23 and Winona State on Nov. 24.
Alaska opens Great Northwest Athletic Conference action at intrastate rival Alaska Anchorage on Dec. 1 at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex in Anchorage.