Both the men’s and women’s Humboldt State basketball teams gathered for preseason practice this week, with the season openers just a few weeks away.
And both squads will begin the campaign with high hopes.
The women’s team returns a core group of starters from last year’s successful team, including all-conference selections Tyla Turner and Isamar Conde.
Turner led the team with 17.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a game a year ago, and was a driving force in the team’s run to the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship.
Conde was second best on the team with 10.8 points and 5.4 boards.
The Jacks closed out the season strong, upsetting the odds to knock off conference frontrunners UC San Diego in a thrilling conference championship game, and followed that with a first NCAA playoff win in eight years, defeating top seed Azusa Pacific in the opening round of the regional tournament.
The Jacks finished the year 19-13, posting 11 more wins than the previous season.
And head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson likes what she’s seen from her players this offseason.
“The team has worked extremely hard for the past seven weeks, primarily with conditioning and skill development,” she said. “And I am really proud of their effort.”
The Jacks open the season at the West Region Crossover Classic in Bellingham, Wash., on Nov. 9.
HSU faces host Western Washington and Seattle Pacific at the two-day tourney.
“We have a very competitive non-conference schedule to look forward to,” Bento-Jackson said. “We open up again by participating in the West Region Crossover Classic where we will face Western Washington and Seattle Pacific, which will be a great test for us.”
New-look men’s team
The men’s team, meanwhile, will be looking to put the disappointment of last season behind them.
And they’ll be looking to a large group of incoming players to do so.
“We are excited about our incoming recruiting class,” head coach Steve Kinder said. “Our roster will have legitimate size and the ability to shoot the basketball effectively beyond the three-point line. Our depth and quickness will be a strength for us as we develop our team play and recharge our overall culture in the program.”
The Jacks feature nine new players this season, and the new-look squad will be tested early.
The HSU men, who finished 9-19 a year ago, including going 6-16 in the CCAA, open the new season with three matchups against Division-I opponents.
That’s a coup of sorts for a school the size of HSU, but it will be a difficult challenge on the court.
HSU opens the season at Fresno State on Nov. 2, and will then head to Hawaii to play both North Texas and the University of Hawaii.
A busy opening two weeks also sees the Jacks head to Canada to play Simon Fraser.
But Kinder is excited about what he’s seen from his players thus far.
“The team has shown great work ethic over our first month of training and workouts, and their conditioning level is ahead of schedule to this point in the season,” he said. “I’m extremely excited about the team camaraderie, they seem to be a tight-knit group.”