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Titans focus on gaining experience, excited for unknown

Coming into the past five seasons, the Dickinson Trinity boys basketball team had a true identity.

The Titans had experience and proven varsity players.

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That’s not the case this season after graduating nine seniors who helped the team finish fifth at the North Dakota Class B state basketball tournament. Yet, lone varsity returner Austin Deichert said it’s exciting to enter a season with unlimited possibilities.

“Some people say that we are young,” he said. “I’d like to think we are inexperienced. Right now, it’s all about potential. The region is up for grabs and it could be any team. We’ve just have to come out and be focused. I’m excited for the season.”

Deichert, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, came off the bench for the Titans as a defensive specialist last season and chipped in about 5 points per game.

However, Deichert’s role on the team has drastically changed. He knows the early part of the season is about getting the rest of the team acclimated to the varsity level.

“I just came here to lead,” he said. “I didn’t come here to be a jerk about it and say that I’m the only one that was on the team last year. I’m here to help them through it and calm them down when needed.”

Not only is Deichert excited for what the season holds for Trinity, so is 20-year head coach Gregg Grinsteinner, who is 10 wins away from 400 for his career.

“We lost nine seniors and that was 99 percent of all our statistically categories,” Grinsteinner said. “Austin was fortunate enough to play with that group and he was a defensive specialist. Now it’s up to him to lead this group. We’ve had some success with our JV and freshmen programs. It’s not like these kids don’t how to play the game. It’s just at a different level. We have a nice mix of perimeter guys and a nice mix of some younger post guys that are going to come around. It’s just a matter of finding that team chemistry and trust what we are trying to get accomplished.”

With a young team, Grinsteinner wants to use practice after games to focus on a couple of areas. He doesn’t want to bombard the players with too much information at one time.

“I’ve learned throughout the years to keep it simple,” he said. “If you keep it simple with these kids, especially when you are learning, you have a better chance of seeing success. There’s a lot of question and answering. One thing we need more out of this group is the talking part of it. They are starting to gain that basketball IQ and what we are demanding. A lot of kids think when you step on the court, you aren’t a student anymore. I totally disagree. You are a student-athlete. You have to learn that part of the game.”

Filling out the Titans’ roster are two seniors, seven juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.

Alongside Deichert in the senior leadership position is Nick Klug, a 6-1 forward.

The juniors are Cole Wilhelmi (5-6, guard), Connor Friske (5-9, guard), Easton Brost (5-8, guard), Sam Sherer (6-0, forward), Joe Mayer (6-2, guard), Brett Mortenson (6-3, forward) and Jon Volk (6-2, forward) — the younger brother of Jacob Volk, Trinity’s second all-time leading scorer and a Mr. Basketball finalist and freshman at Dickinson State.

The sophomore class includes Willy Jahner (5-9, guard), Zach Kubas (6-4, forward) and Brock Messer (6-4, forward). The lone freshman is Shawn Stoltz (6-3, forward).

Grinsteinner said he is going to give every player a chance to contribute on the court.

“We’ve got a group of kids here that are very coachable,” he said. “That makes the process that much easier. We have a lot of interchangeable parts. We have nine, 10, 11 guys that can play and that’s going to help us down the stretch.”

Trinity capped last season with 23-3 overall record and a Region 7 championship, and averaged 67.7 points per game and allowed 41.3 points, the best in the region.

Through three games this season, the Titans are 2-1 with wins over Glen Ullin-Hebron and Mott-Regent at the Roughrider Tournament. The lone loss came against Shiloh Christian. The Titans meet New England/Killdeer in the Roughrider Tournament championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The motto for the Titans this season is simplicity. Get better every day and be ready for the Region 7 Tournament. With the subtraction of District 13 and 14 Tournaments, Region 7 has turned into a super-regional where every team qualifies for the postseason. However, the top four teams get an automatic first-round bye.

“I’m definitely pleased with where we are at,” Grinsteinner said. “I love the effort that we have with these guys. There is a lot of teaching going on. It’s a process. Learning how to win is a process and that’s what we’ve been telling these guys. It doesn’t just happen. You are going to get anybody’s best shot on any given night. You have to show up and be fundamentally sound. That’s one thing these guys have really taken to heart.”