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Women’s basketball: Ready or not, the season is here

Women’s basketball: Ready or not, the season is here

For some people, colder weather means pumpkin-spiced everything. To others, it means basketball. That’s right, the Utah Valley women’s basketball team will tip-off for an exhibition game on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. MST. 

After finishing last season in losing fashion, the Wolverines look to bounce back with some new faces and fresh talent. The 2018-2019 season ended with four consecutive losses, plus a tough loss in the WAC tournament. The season ended with an overall record of 14-16, and a conference record of 8-8.

The offseason has been full of changes for the women’s basketball team — both on the business and player sides of things. A new head coach, along with three new assistant coaches, all joined the Wolverines over the summer on the business end. On the players side, two transfer students and two new freshmen joined the UVU squad.

HEAD COACH

Dan Nielson was made head coach after Cathy Nixon hung up her clipboard to take a Sr. Associate Athletic Director position after 24 years as the Wolverines head coach. Nielson returns to UVU after six years with the Brigham Young University women’s basketball program. He originally started his employment at UVU as an assistant coach in the ‘09-’10 season and would stay until the ‘12-’13 season. Through those four years, Nielson helped the Wolverines to two Great West Championships. 

Nielson brings with him 18 years college basketball experience as an assistant coach, assistant head coach, film director and director of operations between his times BYU and UVU.

ASSISTANT COACHES

Ashley Garfield came with Nielson from BYU. Her coaching experience is two years deep along with two years as director of basketball operations, all at the Y. 

Morgan Bailey also comes with two years coaching experience. One year came as an assistant coach at Snow College, and last year as an assistant at Southern Utah.  

Keilani Unga looks to kickoff her college coaching career with the Wolverines, but don’t let her lack of college coaching fool you, she knows basketball. Unga played basketball at BYU and has been an assistant coach at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah. 

THE PLAYERS

Two impressive transfers joined the UVU squad this offseason in sophomore guard Macy Markus and junior guard Naomi McKenzie. Each bring their own unique skill sets to the table, so don’t sleep on them. 

Markus averaged 12.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game during her time at Treasure Valley Community College. She also claims the accomplishment of the second leading scorer in her high school’s history at Herriman High School.

McKenzie, on the other hand can shoot lights out from behind the arc as she put up an impressive 41 percent from the 3-point line last season at Highland Community College. She helped her team win a pair of championships, one at the region level, the other at the conference level. To add to her already impressive resume, McKenzie was also region IV’s top-ranked shooting guard.  

The most notable player to watch for is senior forward/center Jordan Holland, who received Preseason All-WAC first team honors. Holland averaged 13.8 points per game last season to go along with a field goal percentage of 41, 3-point percentage of 33 and a free-throw percentage of 69.  

THE SEASON

The Wolverines will play a myriad of teams before starting WAC play, including four fellow Utah schools. Southern Utah University will come to Orem just three games into UVU’s season. The remaining three Utah team games will happen in a row in mid-December starting with BYU, followed by Weber State and Utah State. WAC play will begin at the start of the new year when the Wolverines host Chicago State on Jan. 2 at 6 p.m. MST.

“We are excited to get going, we know this year will have ups and downs, but we are hoping there will be more ups than down,” Nielson said to reporters. “We have a chance to be better than most people expect.” 

There is plenty to look forward to with this UVU team, so be sure to don your favorite Wolverine green attire and fill The Den to cheer on the women’s basketball team.

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Jared Jensen

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