The Marshalltown Community College women's basketball team has just three sophomores returning to the squad this season and none of them have been present at practice for more than two weeks.
Combine that with the fact that new coach Steve Garber didn't get to the Marshalltown campus until Sept. 7, and the process to turn around the Tiger program may be slow moving.
"We are behind in more than one way," said Garber. "The three sophomores we have on the roster were all playing another sport and have not been with us very long. Right now we are just practicing with who we have and trying to do the best job we can to get everyone on the same page."
Garber's three returning sophomores will be forward Mackenzie Gott and guards Ashley Salgado and Rusty Henio.
Gott, who also plays softball, averaged a double-double last year when she scored 11 points per game and grabbed 10 boards per contest. She is going to be one player Garber will rely on heavily for production.
"We will look to lean on anyone who can produce and she'll be one who can produce for us," said Garber. "She is going to be a contributor, but you can't have just one or two of those. We need to find out who is going to help her out."
Salgado and Henio are both members of the Tiger volleyball team. They have practiced just once a week for the first three weeks of practice, but Salgado averaged eight points per game last year and led the Tigers in assists and steals.
Henio played sparingly a year ago but looks to expand that role this year after the Tigers lost three starters, including first-team all-region selection Mady Van Metre.
With the three sophomores being limited in the early stages of the season, Garber knows the incoming freshmen class could be key to the entire season. He admits though that it will likely take most of the year before they get fully acclimated into the college game.
"I really think we will be behind most of the way this year," Garber said. "It will be slow going to start, but we hope to get better every day, play as a team and play hard. If we do those three things, we'll get going in the right direction."
Kayla Hosoda and Birana McGinty are two freshmen who will have been sidelined with injuries. Others who are expected to play significant roles include South Tama County prep Kaleigh Sieck and Jasmin Howe, a 5-foot-7 guard from Australia.
Sieck averged more than 17 points and four rebounds per game with the Trojans last year. Garber said Sieck is one of the hardest working players on the team and that will help her stay ahead of the rest of the freshmen.
Garber also said Howe is much further along than any other freshman on the roster so far. It sounds like she could be a starter when the squad tips off their season Saturday.
"She is above anyone else right now because she is savvy and she knows the game," Garber said. "She just does things on the floor that you can't teach. She is a scorer and can create offense on her own."
Two other newcomers who are expected to battle for minutes are freshmen Danielle Montgomery and Ilsie Calles.
Calles averaged 16.7 points per game for Fulton Prep High School out in California. Montgomery, who stands 6-2, graduated from BCLUW two years ago and averaged 10.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in her final year with the Comets. She attended Northern Iowa last year.
"We found each other by chance," Garber said of Montgomery. "We ran into each other in the hall here. She asked about the team, and I encouraged her to come out because we aren't that deep. She is one of the hardest working kids on the team."
Garber joins the Tigers after a successful eight-year tenure at Illinois Central Community College where he compiled a 230-69 record, including a 2006 national championship. He replaces former Iowa State star Alison Lacey, who went 11-20 in her only full season as Tiger head coach.
The long-time coach will try to mesh his style with the personnel of his roster. But he will look to find players who are aggressive at both ends of the floor in the future.
"I like to win, so I will definitely be looking for winners who like to play at both ends," Garber said. "I want to attack the basket on offense and be aggressive on defense. This season will be a long season of learning."
The Tigers will once again play in a very competitive Iowa Community College Athletic Conference. Two schools begin the season in the top 20 of the NJCAA Div. II rankings. Iowa Central, which ended the Tigers' season a year ago, will start the season at No. 7, while DMACC is the preseason No. 11.
"I am very familiar with Region XI," said Garber. "The top dogs are still the same and they will continue to be that way until you do something to change that. It is one of the toughest leagues in the nation. I am looking forward to the challenge of competing in the league. That's what it's all about."
The Tigers open the 2013-14 campaign Saturday against MCC-Penn Valley. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. at the Student Activity Center.