This summer is more important than usual for Mitchell.

The Kernel girls basketball team is in the midst of a roster overhaul, which sees Cole Knippling taking over coaching duties from Wes Morgan.

Knippling knows he returns players from a team which went 14-10 and finished fourth at the Class AA state tournament last season. However, he’s also aware he’ll need to replace the six-senior core of that team.

“I think this is way more important than maybe a regular (summer),” said Knippling, who was an assistant on the boys team last season. “Not every girl is new, but every girl’s role is new. Every girl is going to have to step up and play a bigger and more important role.”

Knippling has head coaching experience, being the boys coach at Elk Point-Jefferson for nine seasons prior to coming to Mitchell. Therefore, he knows he wants to run a fast-paced offense, while getting in the opposition’s face on defense.

He said it’s hard to implement his gameplan with a scattered practice schedule, shifting his focus toward learning Mitchell’s strengths, becoming a more athletic team and fundamentally sound. He’s put a focus on the its ball-handling and shooting, too.

“To me, I think you need to teach them how to play before you teach them how to run a play,” Knippling said. “Right now, we’re working on being a motion team and making good basketball plays on both ends of the floor.”

The Kernels hosted their skills camp, fielded three teams at the Dakota Wesleyan University team camp and played in the Cornbelt team camp so far this summer. Mitchell’s final team camp will be in Mankato, Minnesota, in mid-July when it’ll also attend a Minnesota Lynx game, while it also hosts a weekly summer league and open gyms.

“We’re going to use those team camps and that summer league -- all those games they have to teach us where our strengths are, where our weaknesses are,” Knippling said. “If we’re going to lose a game, how are we going to lose it? If we’re going to win a game, how are we going to win it?”

Knippling has had help from a quartet of former Kernel standouts, too. Macy Miller and Kerri Young emphasized the importance of summer workouts and answered questions at the end of the final day of Mitchell’s skills camp.

They, along with Jeana and Jenna Hoffman, also all submitted workouts for Mitchell’s open gyms, which are for sixth-to-12th graders from 8:15 to 9:30 a.m. every Monday and Tuesday at DWU’s Christen Center.

“Hopefully (we’ll) buy in and want to do some of those skill work and not just play,” Knippling said.

Knippling’s summer goals go beyond the varsity squad, though. He wants to build an excitement around the program, while increasing participation at the younger levels. It’s also about connecting with every player.

“I have a goal that I can see every single girl that plays basketball from Kindergarten through 12th grade and be able to call them by their first name and have a conversation when I walk through the school,” Knippling said. “We got that process started. Hopefully it’ll get them excited to be a Mitchell Kernel someday.”