Dickinson State Blue Hawks basketball teams begin NSAA schedules

During a lunch break earlier this week, Dickinson State women's basketball coach Mark Graupe and men's coach Justin Wetzel talked about how badly they want to win their upcoming games.The first of those games sets the tempo for the rest of the se...

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Dickinson State forward Payton Schieffer, right, drives to the basket during the Blue Hawks’ 86-45 win over Trinity Bible College Dec. 5 at Scott Gymnasium. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

During a lunch break earlier this week, Dickinson State women’s basketball coach Mark Graupe and men’s coach Justin Wetzel talked about how badly they want to win their upcoming games.
The first of those games sets the tempo for the rest of the season.
The DSU women’s and men’s basketball teams begin the North Star Athletic Association portion of their schedules against Waldorf (Iowa) College at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively, today at Scott Gymnasium.
“We’re the only school that’s not played a conference game yet,” Graupe said. “Finally we get to play a conference schedule.”
The DSU women (8-2), ranked No. 19 in the country, play the Warriors (1-9, 0-5 NSAA), which have shown promise despite their losing record, Graupe said. The Warriors led both Mayville State and No. 10 University of Jamestown in the first half but let up in both games.

“What I think Waldorf’s problem is they’re really competitive,” Graupe said, “but it seems like their problem is they go into the second half and give up a run. … I think that’s something they’re trying to figure out is how to not give up runs.”
But if any team has gone on runs, it’s been the Blue Hawks. Out of its 10 games, DSU scored 21.6 of its 78.7 points per game in the third quarter.
“We hope we’re a team that goes on runs,” Graupe said. “One of our thoughts of the day is you must always respect an opponent, but we must not be intimidated by them. You don’t ever want to overlook somebody.”
The Waldorf men have a little better record going into their game against DSU, as they are 6-3 and 1-2 in the NSAA and also received votes in latest NAIA Division II poll.
“They’re a really balanced team,” Wetzel said. “They were 15th in the country, and then they lost to (No. 19) Valley City State and dropped out. They’re very balanced. They have two guys that I feel could almost play at any level.”
Those two players, Erik Brewer and June Prowell, combine to average 26.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Both shoot a hair better than 40 percent from the floor.
“They want to push it offensively,” Wetzel said. “They’re going to be a challenge.”
Perhaps a bigger challenge for both the DSU men and women will be after the Waldorf double-header. Both teams will travel to Florida later this week for a couple of non-conference games, but then both are off until late December.
It’s not uncommon to have a game this soon before the holiday break, Wetzel said, as most teams do around this the time of year. It is unusual though, as Waldorf is new to the NSAA this season.
“I always get concerned over a break that we don’t lose conditioning,” Graupe said, “but I wanted our ladies to go into break feeling really good about Dickinson State basketball, and what we’re doing and be on a positive note.”
Graupe doesn’t even care if his team picks up a basketball over break - just as long as they keep in shape. Hopefully with that break from basketball, the team returns refreshed.
“The girls are still working really hard, and we haven’t seen one little bit of drop off,” Graupe said. “With this group, I’m not worried about losing intensity. From day one, they’ve bought into that.”
As for the DSU men (6-3), the team is starting to pick up its intensity going into NSAA games. With the previous week off from any games, the Blue Hawks didn’t even start talking about the upcoming opponent until Saturday.
Instead, they worked on their own game in practice to clean up their mistakes.
“I would be a liar to say that I didn’t have a sense of urgency,” Wetzel said. “We have a group of 12 new guys and guys who have played at other colleges. They understand the importance. That’s what’s nice is they understand. We have 12 new guys, but they’re not new to college basketball.”
What does help is the returning players who have gone through the grind of NSAA games.
“The league has drastically improved since last year,” Wetzel said. “It’s nice to have the returners. That is nice to have their leadership around.”
The men will be off from Dec. 22-26, as both the men and the women begin a tournament at Rocky Mountain (Mont.) College on Dec. 29.
Basketball schedules don’t always reflect college schedules, Wetzel said, but teams can become lethargic returning from even that small of a break.
However, just as long as the players don’t sleep all week, Wetzel figures his team will be ready to come back.
“Anytime you play you want to get better,” he said. “We want to play to our potential and have tremendous effort. But you’re still hoping to have improvement every day and hope that leads to a win.”
Graupe said his team’s primary goal is to win the NSAA and then ultimately the NAIA Division II national title. But for right now, his team is strictly focused on the games ahead.
“It would be fantastic start,” Graupe said. “I hope that we improve. I don’t care where we’re ranked. We’ve got to improve.”


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