The Kamiakin girls basketball team has a new coach, a new league and a new offense.
But it still has Courtney Nelson, and that’s trouble for her opponents.
The three-year starter quit playing volleyball this year to concentrate on basketball and hopes for a big season, despite all the change surrounding the team.
“We won’t have our 23-0 (regular) season like last year,” she said. “We’re going to lose a couple just because we’re getting used to a new system. But I can tell you we will go far this year. In the end, we’ll end up getting it together and do good because I think we have a good team this year.”
Longtime Columbia Basin College men’s coach Lane Schumacher has taken over at Kamiakin, replacing Tammy Hutchison, who resigned over the summer.
Schumacher plans on keeping the Braves in an uptempo offense, which plays into Nelson’s strengths because she is a diverse player who does a lot of different things well.
“She’s our team captain and is a great leader,” Schumacher said. “She does so many things well and understands the game. She has helped everyone get on the same page.”
Nelson has been one of Kamiakin’s best players throughout her career, but in the past, she was overshadowed a bit by Khadidja Toure, who now plays at Oregon State.
“She is an amazing player, and I think this will be the year that will show what her abilities are,” said Laura Walter, Nelson’s club coach the past two years. “Courtney was kind of behind the scenes (at Kamiakin). I think this is the year for her to show what she can do.”
If Nelson hasn’t shown her best yet, the rest of the Mid-Columbia Conference could be in trouble.
She averaged 15.2 points, 8.5 re-bounds and 5.0 assists per game last season and made first team all-CBBN 3A. As a sophomore, she scored 11.3 points per game.
She helped lead the Braves to an unbeaten regular season before they lost their first two games at the Class 3A state tournament and failed to place. She will need to have a big season again to fulfill her promises of a deep playoff run.
“I definitely am trying to take the leader role,” she said. “I will lead the team to the best of my abilities, whether that is scoring or assists. I want to help everyone the best I can.”
Schumacher is confident in Nelson’s ability to not only be a team leader, but also to rack up big numbers this season.
“She comes from a great basketball family,” the coach said, citing Courtney’s mom, Heidi, who played at Kamiakin. “I look forward to working with her all year long.”
Nelson also recently guaranteed her basketball career won’t stop when Kamiakin’s season ends in the spring.
She signed a letter of intent to play at Northwest Nazarene, an NCAA Division II school in Nampa, Idaho.
The coaching staff and the ability to play right away were big factors in Nelson’s decision to attend NNU.
She should do quite well there, according to her club coach.
“The first time I saw her, I knew she was the real deal,” Walter said. “What is unique about her is a college can use her at several positions because of her size, ability to score. She is a player that can be utilized at the next level.”
And at the high school level, as Kamiakin’s opponents soon will be reminded.
w Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org