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Bison men will be looking for some inside help for next season

Tyson Ward of North Dakota State drives on Tevin King of South Dakota State at the 2018 Summit League Basketball tournament at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., on March 5, 2018. Dick Carlson / Inertia

FARGO — North Dakota State is going shopping this spring for a couple more men's basketball players. The season ended in the Summit League tournament semifinals this week, a year in which NDSU had its first losing record since 2010-11.

The ship is still sailing, but it sprung a couple leaks this season. And Bison head coach Dave Richman said he's looking for more help on the floor. The Bison have two scholarships available and Richman hinted he's is in the market for a couple of inside players.

"Some versatility at the 4, 5," Richman said.

NDSU lost three seniors in guard Paul Miller, guard-forward A.J. Jacobson and center Spencer Eliason. Miller and Jacobson were two four-year players whose production will have to be replaced. Miller finished his career as the fifth-leading scorer in Bison history with 1,733 points.

Two starters return in guards Cameron Hunter and Tyson Ward, with help for next year coming from a few reserves, a freshman who was redshirted and at least three incoming recruits.

NDSU signed two high school players in 6-foot-2 guard Jarius Cook from Brooklyn Park, Minn., and 6-5 guard Jaxon Knotek from River Falls, Wis., and 5-11 guard Vinnie Shahid from Western Nebraska Community College.

"I think first and foremost and for every kid that's listening to me, we need to find Bison guys," Richman said. "Guys that understand what it's about to be here. Guys that want to be here. Guys that have the right attitude to be here. That's the big key. ... We have some parts we feel good about. We need some depth."

Richman said he has high hopes for 6-5 guard Tyree Eady, who was redshirted this year after spraining his ankle before the season opener. By the time he was healthy, NDSU was already six games into the season, had a steady rotation so the decision was made for Eady to sit out the season.

"He was a guy we were going to play right before the opener," Richman said. "I'm excited about Tyree."

Richman believes freshman forward Rocky Kreuser will grow into a valuable role next season and he said sophomore forward Deng Geu did an upgrade in confidence this season. The 6-9 Kreuser averaged just 3.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in limited minutes.

"I think you're going to see a really talented and better version of Rocky Kreuser next year," he said.

Younger players like perhaps Kreuser will have to assume bigger roles. It will be the first time in a long time the Bison won't have an established senior starting returning. The only senior on the roster next year will be center Dylan Miller, whose minutes were reduced to nothing by the Summit tournament.

In some ways, the Bison never really recovered from starting point guard Khy Kabellis transferring after the 2016-17 season. He would have been in his fourth year as a starter next season. Kabellis sat out this season at the University of Pacific (Calif.).

The last real productive senior class in terms of quality and numbers was 2013-14, with the likes of Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright. That team that beat Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA tournament was in the making for four years.

"I think if you ask coach (Jason) Miller, our strength coach who is a big part of this program, not that guys didn't earn it, but they were given roles because of lack of seniors last couple of years," Richman said. "Sometimes when you have to fight, dig, scrap and claw for some of those things, that can help you be a better version of yourself and a better Bison guy."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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