The Laramie High School girls’ basketball team starts a new era on Thursday with a new coach and a new direction.

Nick Darling was hired last April to replace Rod Tyson, who left after two seasons in his second stint as the girls’ head coach at LHS. Darling inherits a team that struggled last season. Laramie was just 4-18 overall and went winless, 0-6 in the 4A Southeast Quadrant. The Lady Plainsmen were 0-2 at the regional tournament and did not qualify for state. That’s something they’ve only accomplished once in the last seven seasons, reach the state tournament.

Laramie returns three starters and seven letter winners from last season’s varsity team.

Darling, a first-time head coach, admits that when you look at the record last season, everyone’s expectations are fairly low, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

“The leadership has been really good. The team mentality has been really good. (We’ve) got a ton of young kids working really hard, pushing the older kids, so I can’t be any happier right now.”

With a new season approaching, Darling said you’re just trying to prepare them as best you can.

“Working on fundamentals a bunch, and then trying to implement the offenses and defenses, and just kind of our team strategies. At this point, again, I’m more impressed than I thought I was going to be at this point. Really, it comes down to that senior leadership. They’re doing a great job. I couldn’t ask for more from them.”

Those seniors are Kylee Cox, a returning all-conference player, Kayla Vasquez, and DJ Giron. Cox and Vasquez are in their fourth season on varsity, while Giron is back for her senior season after not playing as a junior last year. This will be their third different head coach in four seasons.

KOWB’s David Settle talked with Cox and Vasquez about how preparation for the new season is going.

There are 29 kids out for girls’ basketball this winter season.

As for his coaching philosophy, when his squad takes the floor, Darling has certain things he wants to see.

“Hard-nosed defense and just team play on offense. I like to push the ball and just make the best basketball play you can every single time you’ve got the ball and create for your teammates as much as you can. I really harp on never taking a contested shot. That’s what we’re going to work on, and you know, our percentages will go up, and hopefully, the wins will, too.”

Laramie opens at No. 5 Natrona County on Thursday at 6 p.m., and then they will be home versus Green River on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Darling knows both teams will be tough. “It’s good. They’ll test us, big-time, right away; see what we’ve got to work on more, and how these seniors respond, and really how the young kids respond, too. If I’m going to be playing some younger girls, I’ve got to see how they deal with that pressure. I’m excited about seeing it, though.”

Thanks to current health orders, only 100 fans, mainly the family members of players for both home and away teams, will be able to attend games.

KOWB will have live coverage of both the Thursday night game in Casper and Friday at home on the radio (AM 1290), online, and through the free KOWB app.

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