ST. GEORGE – The 2016-17 basketball campaign could be the Dixie State women’s basketball team’s own season on the brink.
No other program has suffered through as much instability and uncertainty than the DSU women’s cagers. The program has just hired head coach J.D. Gustin to lead the team this year. Gustin will be the program’s fifth coach in five years.
“Some would look at the recent past of the program as a negative,” said Gustin. “I felt much different when I applied. It is an ideal location from a recruiting standpoint. And I get the opportunity to build and adapt the program to my coaching philosophy.”
Expanding on that, Gustin said he plans to adopt a full-court philosophy.
“The (style) can obviously be restricted to the players’ abilities,” he said. “This year we may have to play some half-court, pound-it-in basketball. But as we grow, we will fast break more and more. We will expand the court with the press on defense and utilize multiple defenses in the half-court set.”
Prior to coming to Dixie State, Gustin most recently has assisted in coaching and other capacities at Weber State and the University of Utah. His most recent head coaching experience came at Westminster College, where Gustin coached from 2004-2011. While at Westminster, the Griffins compiled a 146-83 record and were invited to the NAIA postseason tournament five consecutive years.
Joining Gustin on the bench will be two assistants, Nicole Yazzie and Brennon Schweikart. Yazzie played under Gustin at Westminster and most recently assisted at Montana State University-Northern.
“Nicole was one of our better players,” said Gustin. “She was all-American her senior year and started all four years. She was a very smart player and that has translated into smart coaching.”
Schweikart worked with Gustin while he was a graduate assistant at Weber State. “Brennon did a great job for us at Weber State,” said Gustin. “There were a couple of times where the team was hit with some adversity and Brennon did a good job handling that.”
On the floor, Dixie State returns only a few players that got significant playing time last season. In the backcourt, Tramina Jordan returns. Jordan averaged 5.0 points and 1.6 assists last year. “Tramina will start at one of our wings this year,” said Gustin. “At the other wing, we are looking at Sandria Bolden to step in as the starter.”
Bolden averaged 3.8 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in just a little over 10 minutes of action. In the middle, Dixie State plans to rely on returning starter Ashlee Burge. Though it may be a few games before we see her.
“Ashlee is coming off illness and may not be ready to go yet,” said Gustin. “She is our only true post player and we will rely on her down low.”
Burge started 20 out of 24 games she played in and averaged 7.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in just 18 minutes per night. She shot the ball at a .519 clip.
Joining Burge down low will be Lisa Van Campen, a transfer from Snow College, where she averaged 7.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in just 19 minutes per night.
“Lisa is very athletic,” said Gustin. “Still a bit raw in her skills but has tremendous potential.”
Starting at the point guard and running the offense will be College of Southern Idaho transfer Matti Ventling. She started 25 games last year and averaged 8.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Gustin also anticipates that transfer Shelby Kassuba and true freshman Ali Franks will see plenty of playing time and perhaps challenge for starting positions.
“Right now, and probably in the early going, the players are still learning our system,” said Gustin. “They have only had 17 days to adapt and some are picking it up faster than others.”
The Blazers are picked to finish seventh in the PacWest preseason poll after an eighth place finish last year (9-11) and an overall record of 9-17. Gustin is confident of one thing. “I have no doubt that as this program stabilizes that it will be just as successful as the other sports programs at Dixie State. The support structure here is fantastic and I anticipate that we will improve each year one game at a time.”
Dixie State is sponsoring a tournament to begin the season with visiting teams Colorado Mesa and Simon Fraser. The Trailblazers begin the season against Colorado Mesa tonight at 5 p.m. and will face Simon Fraser on Sunday at 3 p.m.
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