There is something that permeates the Nitro lineup this season that has been missing for some time.
"Everyone's confidence is building and keeps building,'' said junior point guard Savannah Shamblin. "Everybody's contributing and doing what they're supposed to do. People are seeing results. Now people are starting to believe it.''
The Wildcats have indeed made believers out of every opponent so far this season, racing to a 10-0 start and rising to sixth in Monday's Associated Press Class AAA poll.
That's new territory for these Wildcats, who posted double-digit wins (10-12) last year for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Nitro had back-to-back three-win seasons during that span.
"Confidence,'' said second-year coach Will Samuel of the difference in attitude this year. "In preseason I said, 'Girls, we have a shot of rolling off some games.' I could tell early on we've looked pretty good. I knew we had the potential to do it. Here we are.''
"He told us our chances were looking pretty good and that made people excited,'' Shamblin said of Samuel's optimism. "We worked harder in practice and when we started playing games [our team] realized, 'Wow, it's real.'"
Another boost to the Nitro program has been the consistency at the head coaching position and in the lineup. After 2008-09, the Wildcats went through four coaches with Samuel the first to return for the following season. And Nitro welcomed back four starters from last season.
"We basically have everyone back in the same system,'' Samuel said. "This is the first year we haven't had to put in all new plays. The first couple of days we started pounding in how we wanted to play. We didn't have to teach the X's and O's all over again.''
The 5-foot-5 Shamblin has been the one constant, though, averaging 21.6 points per game, third in the rugged Mountain State Athletic Conference. And now the other aspects of Shamblin's floor game are starting to blossom.
"We run everything through her, but also she believes in her teammates," Samuel said. "Now that her teammates are seeing that they're more active. Their confidence is going through the roof and they're starting to score and take the ball to the basket.''
Junior forward Tiffany Reavis, a transfer from Capital, has bolstered the interior with 9.7 points and nearly double-digit rebounds per game. Samuel and Shamblin agree that Reavis' emergence on the blocks has changed the way the Wildcats play.