Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
Looking and living in the past can have a negative and positive impact on a person or a group of people. On the one hand, looking back on the past can drum up bad memories or open old wounds. Yet, the most positive thing that can occur from looking to the past is the ability to learn. We can look back on a moment or series of moments in our lives and learn what we can do differently. In that sense, we are all offered the ability to positively impact our own future because of our past.
The past decade for North Dakota State women’s basketball can be summed up by plenty of adjectives. Some may be crasser depending on whom you are speaking with, but “tumultuous” may be the best way to term it all. Coming into this season, they had not won over 10 games in a season since 2014-15. The Bison women had not had an over .500 record since 2010. Perhaps most importantly, they have not won a Summit League Tournament game since March 8, 2009, a 46-43 win over Western Illinois.
Ryan Cobbins was in grade school the last time North Dakota State won a conference tournament game. Now, as a true freshman for the Bison, she is looking to snap that decade long streak. Along with a new head coach Jory Collins and a revived interest in the program, the Bison women are on the fast track to Summit League success.
Cobbins came to Fargo late in the recruiting process. In fact, she did not plan on attending North Dakota State before Jory Collins was hired as head coach. Once Collins became the head man in Fargo, he immediately contacted Cobbins. With a staff full of familiar names, Cobbins decided to finally make a visit to campus.
“I wasn’t even planning on coming to any of the Dakota schools. I wasn’t even interested in taking a visit. Jory had recruited a girl from my high school my freshman year and we kind of already had a connection,” Cobbins said. “Brooke [Costley] worked with my AAU team so everything was in line for me to have a good fit here. Once I got to campus, I got a really good feel and was confident that this was going to be my home.”
The Kansas City native says knowing the staff from previous experiences has helped her transition to Division I college athletics. “Having those two and even Dylan [Geissert] being from Kansas City as well it’s basically a home away from home. I have Kansas natives here with me so it made the transition a lot easier,” she said.
On the floor, that transition has gone rather smoothly for Cobbins, who immediately asserted herself as one of NDSU’s best players.
Her natural scoring ability and athleticism translated perfectly to the college game. Not to mention, Cobbins does not carry herself like a freshman. She has the confidence and swagger of an upperclassman while on the floor.
“Being so young, I didn’t feel any pressure because I really had nothing to lose. I just wanted to contribute the best that I can,” Cobbins said of her mindset coming into year one in Fargo. “Doing what Jory [Collins] asks of me night in and night out is really the most important thing.”
The entire roster has bought into what Jory Collins wants to implement. That is a hard-nosed brand of basketball with hard work and grit as the backbone of the program. It is those qualities that have pushed the Bison women forward in just one season under Collins. Casual spectators and die-hard fans of the program could see something special was brewing from game one of this season.
Cobbins has seen direct results from the Collins way too. She is averaging just a shade under 10 points per game and scored in double figures in her first five collegiate games. Cobbins was the first player in the Division I era to do that. In total, she has scored in double figures 15 times this season including a career-high 22 points against North Dakota on January 19.
But upon talking to Cobbins you’ll learn she is not concerned with individual glory. She wants to help build this program into the future. Cobbins and the Bison are already well on their way to doing that. This season, NDSU eclipsed its conference win mark from the previous season in early February. Cobbins believes the team’s competitive spirit has led to steady improvement in 2020.
“Our competitive nature has increased a whole bunch. Based on previous years, I think being competitive and knowing we are capable of winning and finishing games is something I’ve seen amongst our team,” she said. “Even from previous years, we’re working harder than ever and we have someone who sees the vision. To be instilled with that kind of confidence is really a booster to where we want to be.”
While the women continue to improve on the floor, the fan engagement with the program has steadily increased as well. Bison fans are beginning to rally around this renewed program and the SHAC’s attendance numbers showcase that.
“The energy at home games has been absolutely amazing. Being able to feed off the crowd and having a good crowd around any sport is always a huge motivation. They help us out a lot,” Cobbins said.
However, for Cobbins and the rest of the roster, there is still one more beast they want off their back. That is ending the drought of Summit League Tournament victories which stretches over a decade. The Bison know they can compete with anyone in the conference come March, but Cobbins says the program’s postseason dry spell is a motivating factor.
“Previous seasons have been a huge motivation for us. Knowing that we haven’t won a conference tournament game since 2009. To learn that statistic really helped to open our eyes and showed us that we are more than capable of winning,” she said. “Keeping that in the back of our mind is going to take us a long way.”
How do the Bison women do that though? Cobbins says that the end goal must always be in the back of the team’s mind. “We have to keep the end in mind. We still have a long way to go and we know that,” she said. “Staying motivated, staying locked in during practice, getting after loose balls and doing the little things will get us to the big things.”
The past decade for NDSU women’s basketball may not have yielded the proper results. Yet, those results cannot be erased from the record, but it can provide a learning opportunity for the 2019-20 Bison women. They are looking to prove their doubters wrong by building a strong foundation for this program to stand upon.
Given what we have seen already, they are well on their way to returning to what they once were. Much of that is thanks to the incredible job Jory Collins has done in just one year at the helm. It does require buy-in from the players though too and it seems that has occurred as well.
Only a freshman, Ryan Cobbins will be one of the many pillars in the future of this program. What we have seen from her so far may only be a sampling of successes to come for her and Bison women’s basketball.
The future is now.
NDSU Women’s Basketball In March
– 10 Conference Championships (All in North Central Conference)
– 5 National Championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996)