Basketball

Torrie Schutzman (left) dribbles past Kennedi Niemann on Dec. 2 during practice at Sweitzer Gym.

Brittan Bower likes all the youthful energy in the Cody girls basketball team this season.

The junior, who is one of the more experienced players on the roster, is impressed.

“The younger classmen have been doing really well,” she said.

This year youth may be one of the strengths of a team returning only one starter from last year’s 12-10 team.

With that in mind, the veterans are committing to a leadership role.

“I definitely just want to step up as a leader,” said Teagan Thompson, the team’s lone senior. “I want to be a good role model.”

She’s back after taking the year off last season and as she works to get back into basketball shape, the whole team is working to learn the strategy of new head coach Chris Wagner.

Wagner is in his first year as a head coach after spending four years as the Rock Springs assistant coach. He grew up in Kemmerer and was an undersized 6-foot-3-inch post on the basketball team.

He said he and his wife, also a teacher, wanted to come to the area and when two jobs came open – he’s the middle school physical education teacher and she instructs high school social studies – the couple jumped at the opportunity.

Wagner said he’s bringing in some of the same strategies used by the Lady Tigers as the run-and-gun offense is one he’salways favored.

“The goal is to get out in transition,” he said. “I’m not a fan of bringing it up slow and waiting for one look.”

Former coach Tim Vannoy was also a fan of pushing the tempo, although last year’s team was made more unique by having now University of Wyoming player Paige Powell in the post. She was agile and good on the breaks, but also gave Cody a big post presence.

Wagner said the makeup of this year’s team, small and fast, pairs well with his favored style.

“We’re not going to be able to overpower teams,” he said. “But across the board we’ve got pretty decent speed.”

While pressing and relying on fast breaks could turn into more turnovers, he said the goal is to create more opportunities for the Fillies to score.

“I don’t do it just to give the fans more enjoyment,” he said. “For me as a coach, I find more enjoyment in it.”

Bower likes how the offensive style has challenged her to get out of her spot-shooter comfort zone.

“Lately we’ve been working on driving and getting to the rack more,” she said.

Wagner has been putting in a lot of work installing the new schemes and said it could take some time to adjust, but he’s betting it’ll pay off.

Thompson is too.

“I think we have a lot of new opportunities to do well with a young and fast team,” she said.

While Wagner will be relying on veteran players like Thompson, Bower and returning starter Torrie Schutzman, he’s also putting faith in a large crop of younger players.

“We were not expecting so many freshmen,” he said.

There are enough for a dedicated freshmen team as well as providing the opportunity for a handful to compete for varsity spots.

Wagner mentioned three freshmen in particular as having the ability to make an immediate impact: Ally Boysen and sisters Kennedi and Reece Niemann.

“We’re looking at four to six freshmen playing a lot of JV, varsity,” Wagner said.

He already sees a big varsity role for Kennedi Niemann, who sees herself as a point guard.

She’s excited but is also aware that a young team may take time to gel with each other and a new coach.

“I feel like it’s going to be a struggle at the beginning, but we have good team chemistry,” Kennedi said.

It doesn’t hurt that she’s played with her sister since fourth grade.

“It’s going to be an exciting year because we get to play together,” she said.

The veteran players would concur. They’re thrilled to see a young, talented class step into the spotlight.

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