New coach, new team seek answers for the Nicolet girls hoops team
Cupboard not exactly bare for 1-1 squad
Glendale - Corey Wolf has retired as Nicolet girls basketball coach, but she's only a phone call away for her former assistant and now new Knights head coach Rick DeKeyser.
And as far DeKeyser is concerned, that's a good thing as the young and rebuilding Knights are off to a 1-1 start in his regime.
"We're good friends and we talk almost daily," he said. "She's a good shoulder to lean on (laughs)."
And he'll take all the help he can get. The Knights are coming off shares or outright North Shore Conference titles in each of the last four years, but the vast majority of that talent, including powerhouse guards Britney Fair and Courtney Smith, who led Nicolet to a 21-4 record last year and a share of the North Shore title, have headed to college.
Gray leads team
DeKeyser, whose team beat Waukesha South 41-35 on Nov. 20 before falling to Beaver Dam by the same count Saturday, build around 5-10 senior forward Briana Gray, who recently accepted a scholarship to St. Louis University.
Other experienced hands (all seniors) include 5-8 forward Lanoira Duhart, 5-8 guard Michelle Peltz, 5-7 guard Brooke Silverberg, 5-7 point guard Sara Travia and 5-11 post Katherine Richter.
A key newcomer is 5-8 sophomore Liz Benson.
DeKeyser thinks that Gray could have a great season, but she needs to be more selfish when it comes to shooting. "She's trying to be too good a teammate right now," DeKeyser said.
And, as always, he's been very pleased with the defense and rebounding of the short but strong and savvy post Duhart.
"She had to take on girls who were 6-3 and 6-4 this past week and I thought she did a great job," DeKeyser said.
But there are lots of questionmarks. Travia is a good point guard, but DeKeyser said there is a serious lack of depth in the area of ballhandling. Right now, if Travia runs into foul trouble, it's the forward Gray who's the team's next best ballhandler.
"We've got a big mountain to climb," DeKeyser said. "I told the girls that we're not the best basketball team or the most athletic team either, but we can be the team with the most heart and the most desire. … I also like how close this team is. We really stress family and I think they're buying into it."
Conference title up for grabs
In the North Shore this season, the Knights do battle in a shifting landscape. Injuries and defections have shortened up the 2012 tri-champion Whitefish Bay team. Another tri-champion, Grafton, has a new coach and teams like Cedarburg and Germantown are on the move up.
"But we're not conceding anything," DeKeyser said. "We want to play and we want to win. Everytime we go out there, we're going to give it our best shot."
The Knights open North Shore play at home against Homestead on Friday and then visit powerful returning state runner-up Milwaukee King at 7 p.m. Saturday.
In the loss to sixth-ranked in state Beaver Dam in the Brookfield Central Holiday Tournament on Saturday, the Knights fell behind by as many as 12, regained their footing but came up a little short as Gray had nine points, Travia eight, and Silverberg and Duhart six each.
Against South, the Knights built a 12-point advantage after three quarters and then held on for the win as Gray had 19. South helped the Knights by shooting an atrocious 10 of 30 from the foul line.
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