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Blue Hawks envision bright future with gritty young squad

Dickinson State University hoped for a stronger start to their 2022-23 basketball season, but recognize potential in a group of promising underclassmen.

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Christian Murphy on the layup.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — After losing five seniors to graduation last year, Dickinson State University knew they would rely heavily on younger players to compete in the North Star Athletic Association conference's long regular season. Still in the preseason, the Blue Hawks (1-5) have slowly fine tuned and addressed holes in their performances against some of their stiffest competition in years, including three nationally ranked teams.

With no seniors on the roster and key injuries constraining returning players, DSU have under the guidance of Head coach Derek Selvig, on his third season, focused on bringing their young athletes up to speed quickly.

“The sense of playing together is turning into a strength of ours and our team chemistry is through the roof,” Selvig said. “We returned a few guys from last year's team but now we got all the news guys and all the really young guys buying into moving the ball, sharing the ball and it's actually making us pretty hard to guard.”

Returning power forward Josiah Haaland will be limited in playtime as he is recovering from ankle and knee injuries, however, sophomores Gus Wright, 6’ 7, and Tyce Dahlberg, 6’4, will make for good replacements in Haaland's absence. Wright has tallied an average of 16 rebounds and eight blocks per game, while Dahlberg has 32 rebounds and a 72.7 free throw percentage early in pre-season.

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Gus Wright collecting the rebound.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

“Josiah has been banged up a little… he only plays a spurt of minutes here and there. I don't think he has played more than 15 this season,” Selvig said. “We are really looking forward to getting him 100% healthy and getting him going.”

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The bad habits are working themselves out, with the young players adapting quickly to collegiate level basketball. At the Montana Western Classic they played University of Montana-Western to a one-point game, and the following day played the NAIA 23rd ranked team Montana Technological University to an eight-point game.

A big confidence boost comes with the team’s camaraderie and variety of point scorers.

“We are seeing both ends of the floor improve and with a team like we have we are going to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year and that is what you want as a coach,” Selvig said. “Right now it's in those growing pains where we're up and down, but I am looking forward to when we put it all together.”

Returning guards that will help lead the team on offense will be John Evans, Trey Hladky and Jaiden Wright.

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John Evans on the right side, shooting a three-pointer.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Evans is averaging nearly 10 points per game, shooting 50% from the three-point line and 90% from the charity stripe. Hladky is contributing just over eight points per game and has drained nine buckets from behind the arc.

Wright hasn't started a game, but is proving to be a reliable sixth-man, averaging eight points in a game and having produced 13 assists so far.

“What I like is that it could be anybody anytime. John Evans had a 20 point game last weekend over in Montana and Trey was the leading scorer the next day,” Selvig said. “I like that. One, it's hard to prepare for that and two, everybody feels that their roles are important. That is the type of culture we are trying to create. We are going to move the ball on offense, everybody is going to touch it. It could be anybody's possession and anybody’s games.”

According to Selvig, a run for the conference title is not out of the question — based on the team’s resilience against their highly touted adversaries. The Dickinson community will have a chance to see how scrappy the Blue Hawks’ side can be during their hosted Sam Milanovic Classic. The two-day event takes place inside DSU’s Scott Gymnasium, beginning the day after Thanksgiving at 7 p.m.

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“I think it's realistic that we could compete for a championship this year in our conference. In our conference we don't have any nationally ranked teams and if you look at our preseason we played several ranked teams and threw in a couple of NCAA division II teams.“ Selvig said. “I think everybody is doing a great job, from the coaching staff all the way down to our players. They are a really fun group to be around and if people want to come out and see a team that plays really hard,I think this is the group to watch.”

DSU’s Sam Milanovic Classic schedule: (held inside DSU’s Scott Gymnasium)

11/25 - 7 p.m. — University of Montana -Western
11/26 - 7 p.m. — Rocky Mountain College

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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