Fresh off of a tumultuous 2-18 season that saw the cancellation of the confence portion of the slate, second-year Harper women's basketball coach Nicole Jones is trying to keep things in perspective.
"We are in a better place (than last season), we will be able to compete," Jones said. "When you see Harper College on your schedule, I don't want you to assume that's a win for you."
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Jones has made changes to the coaching staff, as Jenny Turple will be in her first full season as assistant coach. "She brings a level of credibility (to the basketball court)," said Jones.
The Hawks tip off a five-game homestand on the tartan court of the Sports and Wellness Center with a 5 p.m. tipoff against Elgin Community College on tonight. On Thursday, the Hawks welcome McHenry County Community College for another 5 p.m. tip.
"That is a plus for us -- I'm just preparing for Elgin," said Jones of playing so many home games early.
Another advantage is getting to start the season with some friendly faces in the stands.
"Having their families there will be great," Jones said.
The Hawks begin North Central Community College Conference play at Joliet on Jan. 9. After that, it's a Jan. 12 date at No. 1-ranked Rock Valley. The Hawks will host Rock Valley on Feb. 6.
Numbers will not be a factor this season, as Harper has 10 player on the roster.
The good news is that Jones has enough bodies for a solid rotation. The bad news is that she'll be relying on nine freshmen, but she likes what she's seen so far and believes she'll be able to put what she called a "solid five" on the court.
"They are pretty dedicated to the game," Jones said of her first full recruiting class.
One of the newcomers Jones is particularly excited about is 6-foot center Monica Hinderer. She's coming off a stint as the goalie for the women's soccer team which finished fifth over the weekend in the NJCAA tournament in Dryden, N.Y.
"(Hinderer) has an excellent low-post game, absolutely wonderful hands," Jones said.
One of the atributes Jones likes about Hinderer is her ability as a "natural leader."
Also joining the team is point guard Nicole Soderholm (Buffalo Grove). Jones has nicknamed her the Rocky Balboa of the Hawks, for her ability to knock down the long-range jump shot.
Christian Liberty's Janya Rowland will be asked to play the small forward position. Jones likes her versatility and says, "She is able to do a number of things."
Inside the lockeroom, the team is already talking about big things.
"They want to be a team to bring the ring," Jones said. "I want them to have those types of goals."
Look for the Hawks to implement a motion offense. Defensively, Jones has yet to decided on how the Hawks will attack their opponents.
Jones says she'd prefer to play primarily man-to-man defense, but that the Hawks will also mix some exotic zones into the gameplan.
"Based on our size, we have to be quick enough (man to man)," Jones said.
If the season goes well, the Hawks will have an added plus at season's end, as Harper will host the semifinals and championship game of the Region IV tournament.
Jones said hosting the regional tournament provides "a sense of validation."