While nearly every basketball coach in the KCAC brought in 10 or 12 new players this season, McPherson College women’s coach Gordon Reimer brought in only five.
The reason being Reimer returned his entire varsity, as last year’s Senior Day was skipped because he didn’t have any.
Reimer’s reasoning was he already had a huge group of experienced players that improved over the season. But the new ones he brought in have blended in famously.
While it’s early, the Bulldogs appear to be a team that will far exceed the bottom-third finish that has been predicted for it. In fact, the Bulldogs are considered an on-the-cusp KCAC playoff team as eight of the 12 advance.
But with Wednesday’s 91-84 victory over previously undefeated Oklahoma Wesleyan, the Bulldogs are 1-0 in the KCAC and 5-1 overall, the only loss coming on the road at Bacone in Oklahoma, a game Mac was right in until the very end.
Reimer has averaged 10 wins in his first four years at Mac and some were wondering if he could ever duplicate the success he had enjoyed at Kansas Wesleyan. But at KW, he won just two more games in his first four years than he did at Mac.
In Reimer’s fifth year at KW, the program took off. In his final four years at the school, the Coyotes won 27, 22, 31 and 18 games, just under 25 a year.
After taking a year off, he took over the Mac program and after winning 10 games his first year, the Bulldogs were just 4-26 in Year 2. But since then he’s had back-to-back 13-win seasons.
He believed his returning players could win. But just to be on the safe side, he brought in a scorer in transfer Sonerka (Slim) White, who can get to the rim about anytime she wants. Julie Olvera, another transfer, comes off the bench with a lot of energy and freshman Nicole Abunaja is a 3-point sniper. Then on Wednesday, freshman Brittany Roberts made her debut after being out with a knee injury and showed she’s going to make a big contribution.
This is still a team that lacks size. Danielle Holt and Brooke Zimmerman are the only 6-footers. But Cami Richardson is a 5-10 guard who gets a lot of rebounds and White can get some rebounds by pure athleticism even though she’s only 5-8.
Kristina Battle is now in her third year as point guard and is comfortable with how Reimer wants things done as his point guards are essential to his team. Brooklyn Coe has turned into an explosive scorer and she already was a good defender. Brooke Racette is like a starter as she’s first off the bench with her high energy and tenacious defense. Emma Van Donselaar joined the team late after soccer and brings physical toughness from the pitch to the hardcourt.
The victory over Oklahoma Wesleyan is the start to a draining 22-game conference schedule. But I believe the Bulldogs have the depth and experience now to handle it. They’ll be deeper than about every team they play and be much more adaptable than most if injuries pop up.
Saturday the team plays at Tabor, the KCAC preseason favorite. Even though Mac finished low in the conference last year, the Bulldogs played the Bluejays tough both times. We’ll get a true reading on the team because there’s no tougher place to play in the KCAC.