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A brand new team: DSU women’s basketball starts season with no returners

Everything about the Dickinson State women's basketball team is new. Head coach Liz Lewis was appointed in May, at which point she expected to have three athletes returning from last year's squad. However, between injuries and eligibility issues,...

Dickinson State head coach Liz Lewis (middle) stands with juniors Karen Hopkins (left) and Riley Helmick (right) in Scott Gymnasium. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson State head coach Liz Lewis (middle) stands with juniors Karen Hopkins (left) and Riley Helmick (right) in Scott Gymnasium. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

Everything about the Dickinson State women's basketball team is new.

Head coach Liz Lewis was appointed in May, at which point she expected to have three athletes returning from last year's squad. However, between injuries and eligibility issues, her team is full of fresh faces.

Creating chemistry and consistency between the players has been one of the main focuses during preseason practices.

"Practice-wise we're not quite to the intensity that I would like," Lewis said. "We have some good days when we're actually really good and then some days it doesn't quite come together. It's still early. We've only been practicing for three weeks, but like they say, it's a marathon not a sprint."

That marathon starts Thursday, Oct. 19 in Montana at Yellowstone Christian College and Saturday, Oct. 21 at Salish Kootenai College.

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The Blue Hawks host their first home game on Monday, Nov. 6 against Montana State Northern and don't start facing conference teams until Friday, Dec. 1.

"Our preseason is going to be very tough," Lewis said. "We're playing some NCAA Division II schools, some NAIA Division I over in the Frontier (conference), but that's the thing, I love to have a tough preseason so we can prepare for conference, which helps us prepare for the tournament."

While the team's identity is still emerging, Lewis said with their size, and a roster made up of mostly guards, they will focus on defense.

"We're going to have to keep the scores down in the 50's and 60's," Lewis said. "We probably won't be a run and gun team as much as I like, but when we have those opportunities we'll take them."

The Blue Hawks are built of 10 players. Seven are guards, three are forwards and their average height is 5-foot-7.2 inches.

"I think we'll be really good at defense," junior Karen Hopkins said. "We focus a lot on defense, especially blocking out and rebounds because we're so small."

While only eight will be ready and eligible to start the season this weekend, the entire team consists of five juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.

"At first it's been kind of tough to get everyone on the same page," junior Riley Helmick said. "Obviously we're still working on that because it's pretty early. So far we're making good connections and we have good chemistry on the court."

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Helmick is a transfer from Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Ore., where she held the all time leading 3-point percentage.

Hopkins hails from Western Oklahoma junior college where she averaged 11 points-per-game.

"We'll be expecting her to do a lot.," Lewis said. "She's probably our best defender. She's actually very good offensively. She can get to the rim and shoot the three too."

Those two, along with junior Lacey Waid have started showing leadership qualities, Lewis said, something a young team needs more of.

"We need to become a little bit more confident in our abilities and realize that it's the little things that win games," Lewis said. "It''s not necessarily the biggest team or the most talented team, it's the little things that win games. ... I believe that anybody can anybody can beat anybody on any night. So if we come ready to go and are willing to do the little things and keep preparing, we're going to be just fine."

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
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