LAYTON From an outsider's perspective, it appears to be a rebuilding year at Northridge for both the boys and girls basketball teams. But neither program chooses to define the new season in such a manner.
Each team's respective head coach sees their job being more about refining existing talent, not starting over from scratch.
"I feel like we have enough talent to have a successful year this year," said Travis Poll, who is in first year coaching the Knights. "I don't know if I want to call it a rebuilding year."
C.K. Hansen, the Northridge boys coach, doesn't think rebuilding is a term which applies to high school sports because most high school teams typically replace a large number of seniors from season to season.
"In high school, I don't believe there's ever such a thing (as) rebuilding," Hansen said. "You just keep working hard and see what happens at the end of the year."
Northridge may not visualize twin construction projects on the basketball court, but there's no denying both teams have quite a climb ahead to guarantee an upper tier Region 1 finish.
BOYS: Describing Northridge as a little raw would be a generous understatement. If any team could give new meaning to the word inexperience, the Knights are it.
Almost every single player who saw any significant varsity time last season has graduated. To put it in perspective, Sean Odekirk is the top returning scorer from 2006-07 and Odekirk scored exactly 15 points as a junior.
Breaking in what amounts to a brand new team is reason enough to explain Northridge's 1-4 start. But Hansen feels pretty confident things won't be down for long.
"They've improved in a lot of areas and that's all you can ask for," Hansen said.
One area where the Knights hope to make strides quickly is in its backcourt. Northridge upset top-seeded Hillcrest in last year's 5A playoffs largely because of inspired play from senior guards Brandon Adams, Tyker Belnap and Colby Bentley.
Belnap rallied the Knights from an early nine point deficit with his three point shooting. Adams and Bentley then combined to seal the win in the final minute Adams with four free throws and Bentley with a couple of crucial steals.
Hansen acknowledged his team has felt their absence early in the season.
"We don't have all the little guards we had," Hansen said. "We had some nice guard play (last year). They all just worked together and knew each other."
The flip side of dealing with so much inexperience is that the Knights have a core group of several young players. Three juniors Tanner Hendry, Blake Smithing, Tice Bockwoldt are in the starting lineup.
Hendry and Smithing are already showing some potential as a backcourt tandem. The duo lead Northridge's offense, scoring a combined 18.2 points per game.
GIRLS: Stability has been difficult to find in recent seasons at Northridge. The girls team has had four coaches in the last four years.
Poll, previously the head coach at Central Davis Junior High for five seasons, becomes the latest coach attempting to rescue the Knights from Region 1 mediocrity.
Poll certainly has his work cut out for him. Northridge won only two games last season and lost all twelve of its region games. In the past three seasons, the Knights have totaled only two region victories and are mired in a 19 game losing streak to region opponents.
Still, he doesn't see a lack of past success adding up to a dim future.
"These girls, once they get a win, there's no doubt about it they're going to start playing better," Poll said. "That's the one thing they need is just confidence. Get a couple of wins under their belts and I really think they're going to start coming around."
One of Poll's biggest challenges is getting his players to internalize a brand new coaching philosophy all over again. Such a transition has not been aided by rocky results in the preseason.
Going into region play this week, Northridge remains winless. The Knights have not tasted victory in girls basketball since a 45-41 victory over West last December giving them one of the state's longest losing streaks at 19 games.
One factor in Northridge's favor is experience. Melinda Perry, the leading scorer from a year ago, is back for a third season in the starting lineup. Nikki Fernandes and Becka Robinson are also returning starters and key contributors early.Those three players provide the bulk of offense for the Knights, accounting for 63 percent of the team's points so far.
Northridge Knights boys basketball
League: Region 1
Last season: 13-10, Third in Region 1, lost in 5A quarterfinals
2007-08 Predicted finish: Fourth
Head coach: C.K. Hansen
Key returning players: Sean Odekirk, 6-4 forward, Sr.
Key newcomers: Tanner Hendry, 6-2 forward, Jr.; Braxton Davis, 6-2 forward, Sr.; Carson Pace, 6-3 forward/center, Sr.; Blake Smithing, 5-9 guard, Jr.; Tyce Bockwoldt, 6-4 center, Jr.; Trevor Poll, 5-9 guard, Sr.
Nov. 27 Riverton 50, Northridge 37
Nov. 30 Jordan 75, Northridge 45
Dec. 4 Roy 62, Northridge 45
Dec. 7 Northridge 59, Olympus 54
Dec. 14 Copper Hills 64, Northridge 37
Dec. 18 Hillcrest at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 Mountain Crest at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Jan. 4 Northridge at Fremont, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 Clearfield at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 Northridge at Davis, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 Weber at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 Northridge at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 Layton at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 Northridge at Viewmont, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 Fremont at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 Northridge at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Davis at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 Northridge at Weber, 7 p.m.
Feb. 12 Syracuse at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 Northridge at Layton, 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 Viewmont at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Northridge Knights girls basketball
League: Region 1
Last season: 2-18, Seventh in Region 1, did not qualify for 5A playoffs.
2007-08 Predicted finish: Sixth
Head coach: Travis Poll
Key returning players: Melinda Perry, center Sr.; Becka Robinson, guard, Sr.; Jaide Lewis, guard/forward, Jr.; Kalie Butler, guard/forward, Jr.; Megan Owens, guard Sr.; Nikki Fernandes, guard, Jr.
Key newcomers: Amanda Gardner, center, Soph.; Bailey Browning, forward, Soph.; Shae Fernandes, guard, Soph.; Kami Carter, guard/forward, Sr.
Nov. 20 Woods Cross 40, Northridge 35
Dec. 3 Roy 48, Northridge 37
Dec. 5 Bingham 72, Northridge 34
Dec. 7 Fremont 57, Northridge 37
Dec. 8 Ogden 43, Northridge 41
Dec. 12 West 52, Northridge 42
Dec. 18 Layton at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 20 Northridge at Viewmont, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 28 Kearns at Northridge, 4 p.m.
Jan. 4 Fremont at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 8 Northridge at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 Davis at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 Northridge at Weber, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 Syracuse at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 Northridge at Layton, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 Viewmont at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 Northridge at Fremont, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 Clearfield at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 Northridge at Davis, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 Weber at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
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