Basketball brainiacs


by Ashley Van Alstine

Dribble, shoot, study. Run a play, read a book. Make a free throw, ace a test.

Simpson women’s basketball team knows what it takes to succeed. The team has already won a pre-season academic award, putting it in the top-25 of DIII teams for team grade-point average. The women were 19th on the list assembled by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

“Our team’s academic honors show we’re successful on and off of the court,” junior guard Tessa Van Oosbree said. “We have to use good time-management skills. So I try to get my homework done before practice and on the bus when we’re on our way to a game. We really support each other in basketball and other aspects of our life as well.”

As a team, the Storm has some impressive statistics as well. They made appearances at NCAA tournaments in 1983, 1985, 1999, 2000 and 2005. The team competed at the Iowa Conference Championships in 1985, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2003. The women took home the title of Iowa Conference Tournament Champions in 2000 and 2005.

“The girls take pride in their accomplishments,” said Brian Niemuth, head women’s basketball coach. “I think that the girls would be very stressed if they didn’t do well academically, which would ultimately have an impact on their game then,” Niemuth said.

Coach Niemuth placed 35th among DIII coaches based on his wins. He also is ranked 44th in winning percentages. Niemuth has led the Storm to four Iowa Conference titles in the last seven years – and he’s done so while still maintaining a focus on schoolwork.

“We have an odd practice schedule,” Niemuth said. “I try to work around classes because school ultimately comes first.”

Niemuth tries to stress to the team the importance of academic success. If one of his players is struggling, he’ll set something up to help them.

“Coach really cares and tries to make sure that we have good grades,” senior center Sara Pearson said. “Ultimately our goal for next season is to better ourselves from the season before.”

The Storm is expecting a good season. The team has two players who earned All-Conference honors, and posted a 22-7 record last year. It also has an impressive school record of six players earning Academic All-Conference. Eleven letter-winners are returning this year.

Niemuth said in the 25 years he has coached women’s basketball, every player has graduated. Niemuth contributes the success of the team in several ways: he recruits motivated people, he doesn’t require them to miss a lot of class, and even though basketball has the longest sports season, he said it helps them with time management.

“I’m very proud of the young ladies in their accomplishments,” Niemuth said.