Phillips, NDSU is eager to start season
FARGO — North Dakota State men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips likens the wait for the first game to taking his large dog for a walk. When it starts to run after a squirrel, there is no stopping both owner and pet.
Tonight, the Bison players finally get to stop chasing each other and get the chance to try it on somebody else. In this case, it’s Concordia College in a 6 p.m. exhibition game at the Bison Sports Arena.
The Bison women get the same opportunity with a 4 p.m. exhibition tip against Minnesota-Crookston.
The makeup of the NDSU teams is about as opposite as can be. The men have more veteran players than some NBA rosters with six seniors and a three-year starting junior point guard. All five starters return from a 24-10 season of a year ago with something to prove: The Bison came within a game of reaching the NCAA tournament.
“We have a hungry group,” Phillips said. “As far as pressures and expectations that go with that, I don’t think anything on the outside can match anything on the inside in terms of what we want to do. It’s a good place to be.”
It’s a good place with returning starters Lawrence Alexander and Kory Brown at guards, Taylor Braun and TrayVonn Wright at forwards and center Marshall Bjorklund.
Senior backup guard Mike Felt will finish his career as one of the program’s top all-time 3-point shooters. Sophomore forward Chris Kading showed flashes of excellence as a freshman, and senior forward Jordan Aaberg is having one of his better preseason practices.
Phillips said junior guard Joel Lindberg’s knee hasn’t come around, and he’s likely done for his career. Freshman guard Carlin Dupree, expected to play a backup role, is out a couple more weeks with an elbow injury.
It won’t take the Bison long to see where they stack up nationally. They have road games at Saint Mary’s (Calif.), Western Michigan, North Dakota, Santa Clara, Notre Dame and Ohio State and home games against Southern Mississippi, Delaware and Towson before Summit League play starts.
The Bison women, meanwhile, have five new players expected to play led by point guard Brooke LeMar, who sat out last season after transferring from Southern Illinois. Freshman Bree Whatman from Australia will start at the other guard spot.
NDSU lost five seniors and most of the scoring from last season. Emily Spier, a 6-foot-1 freshman forward from Buffalo, Minn., and Hannah Breske, a 6-foot forward from Central Cass, are expected to play as true freshmen.
“We’re learning a lot of patience. It’s probably what not a lot of people want to hear,” said head coach Carolyn DeHoff. “This is a young group.”
LeMar, who started 40 of the 60 games in her first two years at SIU, is the leader — both offensively and defensively.
“When she’s off the floor, we’re somewhat up and down,” DeHoff said. “When she’s on the floor, all of our play rises.”