As she enters her seventh season at Friends, coach RaeAnne Boothe has accomplished something many basketball coaches dream about: She has had a winning record in each season.
The Falcons have appeared in the NAIA Division II national tournament in four of the six seasons, including last year.
Don’t look for that to change anytime soon. The Falcons will be getting a lot of attention, and Boothe said that’s fine with her.
“We aren’t afraid of the target (on their backs),” she said. “In fact, we embrace it. We hope to continue to have it. We really enjoy that part of the basketball game itself.”
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Friends returns senior guard Shann Sellers, the reigning KCAC Player of the Year. Sellers’ junior year was loaded with hardware, as she also garnered Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a first-team NAIA All-American – only the second in Friends’ history after Nicole Eitzman in 1997.
In her senior year, Sellers said she’s looking to enjoy it, because suddenly time is short.
“You’re finally a senior, so it’s your time,” she said. “All the girls I’ve played with over the years have shown me that ‘Hey, the hard work pays off,’ so I’m really looking forward to enjoying the last year and having a great time with people I’ve been here with since I was a freshman.”
Sellers was Friends’ leading scorer (18.7 points) and rebounder (9.7) a year ago and is likely to get a lot of attention on the floor every game.
Two of the keys for the season will come from Sellers and junior guard April Quiroz.
“Shann’s numbers are really off the charts,” Boothe said. “In my opinion, (she’s) the best guard in the country.”
Boothe said Sellers excels at driving to the hoop, but this year, she has improved her perimeter game.
“She has added a shot, so they can’t play off of her (on defense),” Boothe said. “She’d beat them, anyway.”
Achievements like Sellers’ can have some drawbacks, Boothe said.
“To have that on your team is a blessing, but it also puts a big target on your back,” she said. “She’s going to have to handle a lot of pressure from every team. But she is our spark and definitely our energy on both ends of the court.”
This is where Quiroz’s contributions play a vital role, Boothe said.
“April can take away a lot of that pressure, and April’s a really good balance,” she said. “It’s a pretty good duo that we have for our leadership. It’s like an analogy for a car: Shann is our engine, but April helps drive it. Both are inside-out players. We’re pretty versatile.”
Quiroz said her role will be different this year.
“I’m going to have to be one of the biggest threats on the floor (offensively),” she said. “I’m excited. My freshman year I was able to watch so many great players, to be a part of great teams, to learn from not only coach but my teammates as well.”
Boothe said the Falcons benefited from a good league showing (15-5), but also from picking up key non-conference victories, including a 55-48 upset of Hastings (Neb.), which was ranked No. 3 at the time.
“Those (non-conference) wins really helped us,” Boothe said. “We’re hoping that when (the first) polls (of the season) come out, that we’re in the top 25 or really close, which will hopefully help us start competing for a great opportunity in March.”