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Popping with potential: Kernels developing depth early in season

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Mitchell's Camryn Krogman (14) brings the ball up the court as Sturgis' Olivia Jolley (32) defends during a game last season at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Cole Knippling believes games reflect practice habits.

If the Mitchell High School girls basketball team’s attitude and effort are accurate, then the transformation the first-year Kernel coach expects could come into fruition. For now, Knippling has only installed half of his desired system and is closer to the eight-player depth than 10-to-12 player depth he desires.

But he’s confident his up-tempo offense and aggressive defensive system will get there, even though last year’s fourth-place Class AA Kernels need to replace six key seniors. It might just take a few games.

“I really think if you come and watch us in December and come and watch us at the end of January, we’re going to look like two totally different teams,” Knippling said.

The change starts in practice, as players learn the level of intensity he desires and clean up their defensive rotations in the paint. Protecting and scoring in the paint are both areas Knippling envisions developing, though the Kernels’ evident strength comes on the perimeter.

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Avia Haley, Macy Kempf and Camryn Krogman will all be thrust into larger roles after seeing limited action off the bench last season. Ethan transfer Adaya Plastow has given Mitchell an unexpected boost, too.

“I think we have a lot of talent. We’re really quick. We have a lot of skilled guards,” Knippling said. “... I’d like to think our post could really be a strength, too, but I think that will take some development in terms of the technique we want to see.”

He also points to Regan Waddell, Kelsey Dahme and Gia Winger as consistent role players and leaders. Mitchell will need to be deeper than the seven aforementioned players -- or even last year’s squad -- to run his aggressive style, though.

Knippling wants to play as many as 12 players by January and February, but knows a 10-player rotation is more realistic. The depth allows the Kernels to stay fresh throughout the game and not worry if a player gets in foul trouble.

“We’re so young still,” Knippling said. “Can we develop enough players that are ready to go that can play that aggressive, intense defensive style all game without getting tired out and fouling?”

That question might not be answered for a few months, but Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. contest at Huron will be Mitchell’s first chance to look for one.

Its next four games are at the Corn Palace, including against No. 3 Rapid City Stevens (Dec. 21), No. 5 Brandon Valley (Jan. 3) and Twin Cities Academy (Minnesota) on Dec. 28 in the Hoop City Classic.

Knippling’s thankful for the early, albeit tough, homes games. It prepares his team for tough road environments later in the year, but they also carry significant weight during Mitchell’s learning period.

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“I think our expectations is I know we’re going to be good by the end of the year,” he said. “I think the goal is, can we win games when we’re learning early in the year? That will determine where our expectations fall, determined on how quickly we can get up to speed.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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