Trying to build a program from the ground floor is difficult enough without a pandemic.
But that’s the task at the College of Southern Nevada for its basketball coaches Russell Beck and Dorothy Kendrick, whose teams will begin play in the 2020-21 season.
“That’s set everything back,” said Kendrick, who joins CSN after 22 years as a high school coach in the valley, the last five of which were at Shadow Ridge. “We have to take baby steps to figure out what we’re going to do at any given time.”
CSN had men’s and women’s basketball for one season in 2002-03, but the programs were terminated because of lack of funding and interest.
The Coyotes have been gearing up for a late-January start after all high school and collegiate sports in Nevada were shut down. But the NCAA announced Wednesday the basketball season can start Nov. 25. Where that leaves junior college programs like CSN, who are governed by the NJCAA, was unclear as of Thursday afternoon.
The Coyotes’ basketball teams, who will play their home games at the North Las Vegas campus, will compete in the Scenic West Athletic Conference. They will join baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball as programs offered at CSN.
Kendrick and Beck are both excited about their teams’ prospects, mostly because they’re in a unique position. While most junior college programs are in smaller cities, Beck pointed out he can go to 45 to 60 high schools within 45 minutes of his office.
“There’s great potential here,” Beck said. “In 16 years of coaching college ball, including 13 at the junior college level, some of the best players I’ve had and some of the best on opposing teams were from Las Vegas. The talent has always been here, but they’ve never had the outlet to play locally.”
That’s what Beck and Kendrick are hoping CSN will become — a landing spot for talented players in the Las Vegas Valley who want to play college basketball close to home but aren’t quite ready to play at the Division I level.
That’s not what Yesenia Wesley-Nash was looking for. The guard from Cimarron-Memorial wanted to go out of state to see “real college life.”
But her mother, Claudine Robinson, died in November, and she began to rethink her future. Staying home became an option and CSN her choice, and it’s one she’s happy she made.
“I feel like we’re going to be really good,” Wesley-Nash said. “I’m super excited because for a while there were only like five of us coming to trainings, but now it’s all of us. So it’s better because you get to work with everybody and get in sync.”
Maysan Raleigh did go away for her first year of college, playing at Taft College in California after her high school career at Bonanza. The forward averaged 9.3 points per game in her one season there.
Raleigh said when she decided to transfer, she wasn’t sure about CSN because she had another offer. But after a conversation with Kendrick, a memory from her high school days resurfaced and let her know it would be a welcoming environment.
“It was Shadow Ridge’s senior night, and we were playing them,” Raleigh said. “At the end, she gives us cupcakes because we had seniors on the team, and she said, ‘I just want to congratulate your seniors.’ Remembering that, I knew I was going to a program where I’d be treated really well.”