Men’s and Women’s basketball teams prepare for spring season


The Simpsonian Archive Photo

The men’s basketball team hopes to improve on its 3-7 record from last season.

by Chris Miller, Staff Writer

Due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the American Rivers Conference pushed back all winter sports to compete after Jan. 1. This left the men’s and women’s basketball teams with only conference games. 

Men’s basketball coach Brad Bjorkgren enters his 7th year at Simpson and women’s basketball coach Brian Niemuth enters his 35th season. 

Both coaches faced similar challenges before even playing their first game. 

“We were practicing last year, not knowing when our first game was going to be and trying to tell guys we were gonna have a game, yet we didn’t actually have a game scheduled,” Bjorkren said.

COVID-19 made the team bonding a challenge. Players were not allowed to visit each other’s rooms or eat together. 

“Last year, they weren’t able to play pick-up games inside; the fact that we had freshmen that came and couldn’t visit other players’ rooms and couldn’t eat with the team was a real challenge,” Niemuth said. 


Chris Honz and Cassie Nash were both invited to compete in basketball games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the summer. This is something that would not have been possible last year due to COVID-19. Both Honz and Nash look to use this summer’s experience as a way to help them this season. 

“The Brazil trip helped me appreciate the game of basketball even more and the opportunities it provided me,” Honz said. “Playing with kids all over the country against Brazilian professional teams made my team and I tougher; it helped prepare us for our college seasons. I gained many new friends that I still talk to this day.” 

For Nash, it took a bit of adjusting to get used to playing in Brazil. 

“Here at Simpson, I knew how the team played. In Brazil, there were girls that were quick on defense and ones that got out into transition similarly to how I am,” Nash said.  “We all had to adjust to each other and take on slightly different roles. I had to figure out how I could best help the team, and that did involve a bit of change in the way I usually play.”


The men’s team struggled early on, but they started to find their groove towards the end of the season. The team hopes that the early preseason games this year will allow them to reach their full potential sooner. 

Coach Bjorken said he believes that the 3-7 record last season isn’t indicative of their performance. 

“It was very hard last season, but I am really proud of the group because we didn’t have the success early on, but they kept on hanging in there, and they got better by the end of the year, they made the best of it, so it just shows the resiliency we have,” Bjorkren said. 

The men’s basketball team will shift extra attention to the defensive side this preseason.

“We’re going to work at it to become better defensively,” Bjorkren said. “I know we have some guys that can run and score it but I think we need to put a little more emphasis into the defensive end.”

The men’s team has a lot of incoming freshmen and newcomers who will look to make defense more of a priority. While the defense is highlighted this preseason, the team will still look to score the basketball. The Storm will return their top three scorers from last year in Collin Lister, Andrew Curran and Chris Honz who all averaged over 14 points per game.

“We got a lot of young guys and we got a lot of newcomers, so we gotta make sure that our newcomers gel with our returners,” Bjorkren said. “I think we have a good nucleus that will allow us to play hard, share the basketball and have fun.”

This year the men’s basketball team will have 11 non-conference games. The schedule includes trips to St. Louis, MO and Nashville, Tenn. Notably, the Storm will open the season on the road Nov. 4 against the NCAA Division I South Dakota Coyotes. 


The women’s basketball team is looking to repeat as American Rivers Conference champions after going 12-0 last season. 

“I think the expectations are that they’d like to repeat again (ARC champions),” Niemuth said. “There’s so much that goes into winning, you gotta stay healthy and also gotta have some luck but I know they have been working hard.”

Coach Niemuth is hoping that strength and conditioning training with coach Sam Schmitz is a way for the team to get better this year, especially athletically. 

“I talked with coach Sam Schmitz about trying to increase the way we play; we’re trying to increase our explosion a little bit and get from point A to point B a little quicker,”  Niemuth said. 

The women’s basketball team will bring in some newcomers as well as return many important members from last year’s team. Among the returners include Jenna Taylor who averaged 20.1 points per game and Cameron Kincaid who averaged 14.4 points per game last season. 

With Kia Rasmussen, Hattie Rhodes and Cassie Nash all getting an extra offseason under their belt, the sky’s the limit; however, games aren’t won on paper – they’re won on the court. 

The women’s basketball team is looking to defend their conference championship in the upcoming 2021-22 season.

“You know our end goal is to win a conference championship but we can’t get there if we don’t get better every day, our conference is tough,” Niemuth said.

The women’s basketball team will have ten, non-conference games. This includes games in Dubuque, La-Crosse, Wis. and Daytona, Fla. A noteworthy non-conference game for the Storm is Dec. 4 on the road against the NCAA Division I Drake Bulldogs.