The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team will sport a young team when they open the season this weekend on the road.
WNCC will open the season this weekend with a pair of games in Rock Springs, Wyoming, facing Western Wyoming Community College on Friday and Central Wyoming College on Saturday.
WNCC head coach Cory Fehringer, entering his fourth year at that helm, said the early stretch of games will be a learning curve for his young team.
“We are never ready to go in junior college basketball,” Fehringer said. “But the good news is it is about experience. It is about opportunity. It is about failing and learning at this point for a lot of these young men at Western Nebraska.”
The Cougars do enter the season with a very young team from last year’s 24-8 team after WNCC captured the Region IX title two years ago. WNCC returns just two players from a year ago that saw action.
The two players that saw action a year ago include 5-foot-10 guard Bryce Haerer of Bottineau, North Dakota, and 6-4 guard Elie Cadet of West Orlando, Florida.
The Cougars also return a couple of redshirts from a year ago in 6-4 forward Sami Harun of Stockholm, Sweden, and 6-0 Ashley Jones of Scottsbluff.
“The two returners don’t have significant time either,” Fehringer said. “So, we basically have 15 new kids at Western Nebraska competing to be successful. There is a lot of room for growth right now, but I think they have done an extremely good job at showing up and prepared to change, grow, and learn to fit their role and maximize their role in our system.”
The Cougars’ newcomers will be led by sophomore transfer Teddy Allen. Allen is a 6-5 forward from Boys Town High School in Omaha. Allen was the Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017 before making stops at West Virginia University and Wichita State.
“Teddy is a talented scorer. He is a physical and tough kid. He is our oldest player on the team with the most experience, especially at the NCAA and Power 6 conference level. He continues to show up each day and try to get better as an individual player, leader, and teammate.”
The Cougars will also have local 3-point shooting ace 6-4 guard Conner McCracken ready to go. McCracken helped the Scottsbluff Bearcats to the state tournament a year ago.
Other newcomers include 6-7 Jarred Rosser of Newman, California; 6-2 Tayler Johnson of Minneapolis, Minnesota; 6-0 Jordan Smith of Titusville, Florida; 6-2 Kalen Williams of Hephzibah, Georgia; 6-4 James Felton of Denver; 6-4 Kenny Strawbridge of Rockford, Illinois; Mohamed Youssef of Alexandria, Egypt; Filip Karanovic of Herceg Novi, Montenegro; 6-10 Takari Fields of Champaign, Illinois; and 5-11 Nasir El-Amin of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The young players will get a learning curve early with the first five games on the road. After this weekend, the Cougars will travel to Sheridan College on Nov. 5 before heading to Salt Lake City Nov. 8-9 to face Salt Lake Community College and the College of Southern Idaho.
WNCC will then return to Cougar Palace for its home-opener on Tuesday, November 12 when Laramie County Community College comes to town. That is the start of nine of 10 home dates in November, including a Thanksgiving Classic on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30.
“I think the fire is found on the road,” Fehringer said. “These kids need the kitchen to get warmed up. They need to know what it is like to fight for success. We have extreme success at Cougar Palace with the great home stretch for sure, but I think the growth and struggle will be found on the road for this program in the first five games. I think the development of our character will be important for the first five games.”
The team enters this weekend games on the heels of several pre-season contests, including Sunday when they faced Chadron State College. Fehringer said they got better during the scrimmages.
“I think the jamboree [in Windsor, Colorado] and the scrimmages greatest teaching part for our program is we need to learn how to be coached to play a similar style with a similar mentality and a shared vision of what we are attempting to achieve on every possession,” Fehringer said.
Fehringer said the outlook of the team is just to get better as a team the first semester before the conference games hit second semester. The main goal for this year is simple and that is to the South Conference and host the regional tournament in March.
“I love coaching and I love teaching and right now what we are challenging our players is to be thankful and grateful each and every day for the opportunity and repetition that they receive at Western Nebraska. The South needs to be won so we can host because we believe our community deserves to host the Region IX tournament. But ultimately this team will be a product over the next four to five months before we will be able to evaluate and judge them on their growth.”