The Alaska Nanook Women's Basketball team had their first official practice of the year. Though the players had been up here since August it was the first time they had been able to step on the court in an organized fashion.
Brett Sawyer; Head Coach >> "It was really nice to finally all be able to get on the court at once and have most of us healthy. It was a really intense practice everybody's chomping at the bit and ready to go. They're kind of tired of preseason conditioning and running so it was really nice to get after it and I'm really excited for this season."
This year's squad will be led by two first-time coaches. This will be Brett Sawyer's first year as head coach. He was named interim head coach when Cody Bench left at the end of the season last year. He was then named the official Head Coach in March. Sawyer was previously an assistant coach for Snow College in Utah where he helped lead the team to their first ever NJCAA Region Championship in 2014. Their assistant coach for this season is getting her first opportunity at the NCAA level. Jessie Craig played Basketball at UAF and was most recently the head coach for the West Valley Wolfpack from 2013 to 2016. She earned a 78-27 record with the pack, including an undefeated regular season in 2014, three regional championships and three straight State Tournament Appearances.
Brett Sawyer; Head Coach >> "Starting from square one, well I wouldn't actually say square one. Building off what I've taken from her and to kind of make everything my own has been an overwhelming challenge. Just to start in those Processes. I'm kind of trying to piece together stuff from my dad, who is one of my coaching heroes, and coach Bench and coach Nataly Visker who I coached with at Snow College before here. I'm just trying to take the best stuff from all of them and kind of mix them with my own ideas."
Jessie Craig; Assistant Coach >> "It's been great. You know I joke that you do a lot of things in High School. You have your weight program and you have your conditioning program, your offseason, but you don't get paid to do those things. But yeah it's been a great jump up here really working with coach Brett, learning a lot from him. And you have a team of girls that are really excited to be here. We have a lot of new girls and some returners. So we're just really excited to be up here and put in work and get ready for the season. So it's been a great jump. I miss my girls at West Valley but it's been a great jump."
Last year the Lady Nooks were led by two Star Seniors in the form of Kaillee Skjold and Jordan Wilson. Now this much younger squad will be looking to be much more rounded and fundamentally sound this year. There are 9 players that are completely new to the program and 7 Underclassmen on the 15 player roster. One thing is certain; a new era will begin this year.
Jessie Craig; Assistant Coach >> "Those two are just magnificent players and people, they're gonna be incredibly hard to replace. One of the approaches we're taking this year is hopefully more of a balanced attack. I feel like we've recruited some really talented players. I just want to invite everyone in Fairbanks out to the games. We have to blue and gold game October 27th. And Hawaii Hilo here November 10th and 11th. It'll be a good chance to get out and see the new Lady Nanooks."