PRATT, Kans.- There aren't many coaches in America with a career geography similar to Pratt head women's basketball coach John Ishee's.
A Mississippi man whose southern drawl is as much a part of his DNA as basketball, Ishee, entering his third season as the head coach of the Beavers, has been vital to rebranding the school's reputation on the court.
A season ago, Ishee oversaw the Beavers first 20-win season in six years, including a team record 12 conference wins. The same 2018-19 squad also recorded Pratt's first home playoff win in 17 years, and its first Region VI quarterfinal appearance in that same span. The Beaver Dome has been the home of a welcomed turnaround, and a new season brings new hope. But new challenges as well.
"I'm excited, but I'm cautiously excited," Ishee said. "We have nine returning sophomores, we won 20 games (last season) for third time since I believe, 2000. Having said that, I'm not really pleased with some of the leadership I'm getting right now.
"I don't like our mindset, hopefully that will change. There are parts that are really good but there are parts that need to get better."
Speaking on those parts that are "really good", Ishee elaborated on a few aspects his team that should lead to yet another successful run for the Beavers.
"We have depth, we have more size than we did a year ago, I think we've added some athleticism, and I think we've added some more perimeter shooting," Ishee said. "I think our staples are obviously Janell Douvier, who is being recruited by a lot of Division I schools. Rylee Alexander is a glue player. Jazmin George has been great this preseason with her effort and her ability to guard the ball. All of our freshmen I've been very happy with."
Coach Ishee started his coaching career, naturally, at the University of Southern Mississippi, while eventually traveling every which way imaginable. He's seen plenty, and has clocked in at a variety of institutions. But when you love what you do, are you ever really working?
"Any time you have a passion for something…I grew up playing (basketball), loving it. High school coaches let me be a part of something bigger than myself, and just over time, I feel like that's what my purpose in life is. To pay stuff forward and help young people figure things out and where they want to go in life.
Noting that his team has had added more parts and pieces in order to sure up the collective group, the former Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year understands that every inch of his roster is crucial.
"It's not a cliché. It takes everybody to win," Ishee said. "Teams are going to load up on Janell and Rylee. They are going to make it very hard for them to get open looks. We're not going to sneak up on anybody. When we play really good teams, they're going to try to take those two kids away from us from an offensive standpoint.
"But it takes everybody to win."
Since taking over the women's basketball program at Pratt, Ishee and assistant coach Brian Koller have rapidly reversed the negatives associated with the program's recent history. Picked to finish fourth in the western half of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference by coaches and media, Ishee isn't so concerned with preseason chatter.
"Based on tradition and history it's probably fair," said Ishee. "It doesn't mean a lot unless you allow it to mean a lot. I think we can compete for first.
"If our mindset is right we can compete with anybody."
The Beavers 2019-20 season starts tonight at home against the McPherson (JV) Bulldogs at 6 PM.