New faces, same goal
by Jason Cahn
Basketball season is right around the corner and the UWF men and women’s basketball teams have both been voted in the top five of the Gulf South Conference.
On the women’s side, the three-time GSC East Division Champions are picked to finish third in the GSC with 118 poll points. Even though the 2013-14 GSC Champion Argonauts have lost First Team All-GSC Halee Nieman and GSC Player of the Year Toni Brewer from last year’s squad, they still have their sights on the top spot of the GSC.
After finishing last season at an impressive 24-6 overall (GSC 17-3) West Florida has finished with a winning record in conference play the past six seasons.
The only returning starter for the Argos is sophomore forward Fanny Hulmi, who as a true freshman started all 30 games last season. Hulmi averaged 4.9 points, 3.8 rebounds in over 24 minutes a game.
Other than Hulmi, junior forward Danielle Norquest returns who appeared in all 30 games last season averaging 6.6 points on 41 percent shooting with 3.8 rebounds per game.
When asked about how the team is coming together head coach Stephanie Yelton said, “This year’s team has talent but is lacking experience. We return one starter from last year’s record setting season. We’ll eventually get to the finish line and meet our goals however; we’re taking baby steps right now.”
Even though this team is young, the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in this group.
When asked about the goals for this upcoming season, assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Todd Steelman said, “Coach Yelton has done a great job of focusing our team on the value of each day’s improvements. That way, we set incremental goals that are challenging, but achievable. We’re not sure at this point the ceiling for our group, but we believe that great things are in store for the 2019-20 season.”
The Argonauts season begins at the GSC/SIAC Challenge November 8 in Valdosta, GA where they will play Albany State.
The West Florida home opener will be against the Pensacola Christian Eagles on Friday, November 15th at the UWF Field House.
On the other side, the 2018 GSC Champion UWF men’s basketball team are looking to bounce back after an injury riddled 2019 season. They were voted fifth in the GSC Men’s Basketball preseason poll with 88 total points.
The men’s basketball program finished last season with a record of 12-16 overall (GSC 8-12) head coach Jeff Burkhamer likes how this team is coming together, saying, “I’ve been very pleased with our pre-season workouts. Our players have done a terrific job on the court in workouts, during conditioning, and in the weight room. This is a close group. They get along well, help each other, and work hard. I think they are hungry for success. It has been nice having our whole group together versus last when we had so many early season ending injuries. This group has been fun to coach so far.”
Returning for the Argos is GSC Freshman of the Year Jon Brown who led the team in scoring last year with 14.6 points on 44 percent shooting while adding 5.3 rebounds per contest as well. Brown was voted GSC Freshman of the week six times last season, one off the GSC record of seven.
Redshirt junior Okonkwo came to UWF at the start of the 2018 season after an impressive year with McCook Community College where he averaged 11.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while being selected as the McCook Male Student of the Year.
With nearly a whole new group suiting up this season, coach Jeff Burkhamer wants to take this season slow, saying, “Our goals every year are to get better each day, to be in the mix for a GSC regular season and or Tournament title, and then to make post season play. These are big goals with eight new players, but you have to set your standards and goals high to reach anything worthwhile. Dr. Saunders said we need to dream big. The season is a marathon, so we just have to prepare well for each challenge and worry only about the next game.”
The men’s team will be joining the women in the GSC/SIAC Challenge November 8 in Valdosta, GA where they will play Albany State. Their home opener will be on Wednesday, November 13th against the Webber International Warriors at the UWF Field House.