By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE November 9, 2001 Years ago, Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) fielded a womens basketball team but as time marched on, the local community college dropped the program for reasons that nobody can quite seem to remember.
Three years ago, Dean Smith got then athletic director Jack Mager to get the SCCC womens basketball program up and running again.
Last year, the Lady Generals would have made the regional playoffs, but were deprived of their chance when the total number of womens teams in NJCAA Region XV dropped below 12. The rulebook says that if there are more than 12 squads, eight make it to the playoffs; but if the magic number falls below 12, only six make it to the tourney.
Smith was a part-time coach, and according to current SCCC Athletic Director Chris DePew, when Smith left the area to pursue a job opportunity, the push was on to fill the position with someone from within the full-time instructional staff at the college.
As AD, I dont want to be looked at as the doormat in volleyball, golf and womens basketball, said DePew. I want to be one of the leaders.
Noting that the 2001-2002 edition of the Lady Generals features several players who graduated from local high schools in addition to talent from outside the immediate area, DePew added, Our excitement as a coaching staff is going to breed excitement for the team, and make it a more attractive place to be.
Kyle Walter was hired an a full-time sports management instructor at SCCC this year, and as a collateral duty assumed the job of coaching the Lady Generals. Walter is a familar face on the local sports scene, as he has served as a basketball referee for nine years.
Walter graduated from Tri-Vallery Central School in 1987. He went on to SCCC, where he earned an associates degree in business administration. Walter got his bachelors degree in business administration from Delaware Valley College.
His basketball experience includes working as a counselor/instructor at Golden Valley Basketball Camp, playing the game of hoops at SCCC and Delaware Valley College and competing in various recreational leagues in the area.
Asked to assess the Lady Generals, Walter replied, I feel like theres a lot of potential here with the local talent.
The early season team roster lists five players who graduated from area high schools: Amanda Cox (Livingston Manor), Edith Ann DeGroot (Liberty), Rachelle Irwin (Livingston Manor), Dorthel Seibles (Livingston Manor) and Carly Sklar (Liberty).
The rest of the line-up: Jennifer Arango, Ronda Dowdy, Nicole Feller, Bonnie Fraticelli, Shante Roberts, Tiffany Simmonds, Keisha Stewart and Marsha Stewart.
Cox and Simmonds are the captains of the squad. They are returnees from last season, as is Sklar.
I feel fortunate to have inherited a couple of players that as a referee Ive seen play and I know what they can do, said Walter.
Hopefully, that will make my job easier for the first year.
Walters view of his teams strengths this season?
I like how we look down inside with Dorthel Seibles and Amanda Cox, and with Rachelle lrwin and Edith Ann DeGroot at guard, he said. Im looking for big things from my forwards, Marsha Stewart and Bonnie Fraticelli.
Nicole Feller may be our most fundamentally sound player, and Im looking at Carly Sklar coming off the bench, he added.
On the weaknesses side of the equation, Walter said areas ripe for improvement include team speed, conditioning and overall endurance on the court.
We have some players who are fast, but I dont need my two fastest players up front with nobody else there to help them, he said. We really have to work on our team speed and defense.
According to Walter, the Lady Generals will have to get their defensive game up to speed by the time their regular season starts with an away game against nationally ranked Manhattan Community College on Sunday, January 13. Their first home game is scheduled for Thursday, January 17, when they face Westchester Community College at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
The Lady Generals will take to the floor 20 times during regular season play. The NJCAA Region XV playoffs will be on Feb. 26. For the second consecutive year, SCCC will host the NJCAA Region XV tourney, which is scheduled for March 2 and 3.
Walter said that when his players showed up for several early season practices at 6 a.m., that showed him they really want to play and are willing to make the sacrifices.
They have a great attitude, and are a real pleasure to work with, he said.
I feel Im in a basketball area, said Walter of the local basketball scene. I look forward to the challenge of making a successful womens team in an area that really hasnt been tapped yet. I think we can build a really good program.
What about his goals for the 2001-2002 hoops season?
Our goal this year is to qualify for the Region XV tournament, Walter replied. Im cautiously optimistic . . . I think we can make some noise in the tourney this year.
Im also looking forward to being on the other side of the fence from the officials, to see how that is, added the veteran ref who has traded in his black and white stripes for a set of gold and green warmups.