Weather Forecast


Dickinson State names Wetzel new men’s basketball coach

There have been quite a bit of changes for the Dickinson State basketball programs.

Before the beginning of the women’s season, Mark Graupe took over as the Blue Hawks’ head coach and at the end of the men’s Ty Orton resigned and left yet another head coaching opening.

0 Talk about it

But the vacancy has been filled.

DSU announced former Montana State University assistant head coach Justin Wetzel as its newest head coach on Thursday.

Though basketball doesn’t get underway for a few months, Wetzel already has his hands full.

“It’s a foot in both ends, you’re excited and all that and you want to get going, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Wetzel said. “To say there’s little time to sit and reflect, there’s no time to sit and reflect. Lots to do from scheduling to recruiting, summer camps, on the personal end. It’s a real exciting time for me.”

The Montana native is quite familiar with DSU’s program and its opponents, since he coached at MSU and Montana State-Billings, which the Blue Hawks have played recently.

Since 2002, Wetzel has coached at every level from high school to college to the professional level in the Continental Basketball Association. At 33 years old, he is the youngest person to ever serve as a head coach at all levels.

With his vast experiences, Wetzel hasn’t found much difference in the coaching styles at each level and finds his coaching philosophy is universal.

“It’s no difference from the high school level, to a guy who is 35 making money playing basketball,” he said. “My philosophy is we’re going to be a tough, hard-nosed team, we’re going to be fundamentally sound, it’s a bit of a cliché but we’re gonna play the right way.

“We’re going to do things the correct way, we’re going to sprint to set screens, we’re going to be patient on offense for an effective shot.”

In a press release, DSU athletic director Tim Daniel acknowledged Wetzel’s talents go beyond coaching and is a proven recruiter, fundraiser and brings great enthusiasm to the university.

“Justin is not only an excellent coach, recruiter and resource, he is a fantastic person,” Daniel said. “Justin will be a great fit within the athletic department, Dickinson State, and the Dickinson State community.”

Wetzel knew at a young age he wanted to be a basketball coach and positively influence his players. Though he has found pros to coaching at the professional and high school levels, Wetzel enjoys college because of the deep impact he could have on his players as well as involvement with the game itself.

The new coach still has a lot of planning to do but one of his biggest priorities was to briefly meet his future team. Though it’s too early to tell what’s in store, Wetzel said he could detect their desire to improve and win.

“They seem like a hungry team,” he said. “They want to experience some success and build on what they came here to do.”

The Wetzel era has officially started at DSU and the coach is off to a running start to make his mark on Blue Hawk basketball.

“Short term, just to start that foundation of the culture,” Wetzel said of what he wants to accomplish. “Whether that will equate to wins, I like to think it, will but it’s the only way I know.

“Year one is going to be just with the timing, you’re playing catch up a little bit, but we got a hungry group here and we’ll build on that.”

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.