Kyle Fletcher

First-year Kearney High girls basketball coach Kyle Fletcher directs practice Thursday at Kearney High.

KEARNEY — When Kyle Fletcher walks into the Kearney High School girls basketball practice, he faces stark reality.

“I’m the only new guy in there,” he says.

Most of the players are back from last year. The rest of the coaching staff was in place last year. But Fletcher is the new face.

Fletcher is in his first year as a head coach, taking over for Jason Boyd, who moved up the administrative ladder at KHS after 13 years as the girls basketball coach.

Fletcher isn’t exactly a stranger.

A math teacher at KHS for the past three years, he’s been an assistant coach on the boys team. Before that, he was an assistant coach of the Norfolk boys for 10 years.

All those years coaching boys varsity and junior varsity have given him a wealth of knowledge about the boys game, but it hasn’t afforded him the opportunity to watch many girls games.

“There will be a lot more learning on my end than for the kids,” he said.

He knows he will have to adjust to the speed of the game, the lack of height around the basket and other differences, but some things are the same.

“Defend, rebound, take care of the ball, take good shots and you’ll probably have chance to win a few ball games,” he said.

Most importantly, though:

“The best players are the ones you need to get the ball to,” he said.

For the Bearcats, that list starts with 5-foot-7 senior guard Adi Wood, 5-9 junior forward Aspen Rusher and 6-foot junior post player Lily Novacek. They scored more than half the points put on the board by last year’s 13-11 team. Wood was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 10.9 points per game. Rusher averaged 9.4 and Novacek 6.5.

Other letterwinners being counted on to fill bigger roles this year are 5-6 senior guard Kari Struebing and 5-6 sophomore guard Kierstynn Garner.

All five are outstanding athletes in other sports. Wood earned last year’s Kearney Hub Athlete of the Year honor after standout seasons in three sports and she has signed to play volleyball at UNK. Rusher and Novacek also had outstanding years on the volleyball court while Struebing was one of the leading hitters on the softball team and Garner was the leading scorer on the soccer team as a freshman.

The Bearcats expect to get an additional boost from 6-foot junior Sidney Province, who averaged 9 points per game for Amherst last season.

“Our team will be a balance of veterans with lots of Class A varsity experience and players that have little to no varsity experience going into the season,” Fletcher said. “Our ability to build depth and balanced scoring throughout the season will be pivotal. The development of some talented young players in our program will be a priority in order to compete at the highest level in Class A.”

Looking at the Bearcats’ schedule, Fletcher feels like every team Kearney plays has a Division I player and will be hard to beat.

To prepare for the tough schedule, the team competed in tournaments in Lincoln and Denver during the summer to face some of the best teams and players in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming.

Our goals will be to play hard, play together and to be our best at the end of the season. The season mantra is to Be All In and Go All Out!!

“We found out we can hang in there with lots of good competition,” he said.