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DSU men's basketball enters season with high expectations

Following the 2016-17 season, the Dickinson State men's basketball team were regular season North Star Athletic Association champions, alongside Bellevue University (Neb.) and the University of Jamestown.

The Dickinson State basketball team has ten seniors this season. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
The Dickinson State basketball team has ten seniors this season. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

Following the 2016-17 season, the Dickinson State men's basketball team were regular season North Star Athletic Association champions, alongside Bellevue University (Neb.) and the University of Jamestown.

This year, the team wants more and it wants payback.

The Blue Hawks lost in the NSAA championship game to Bellevue, a team they are already looking forward to meeting with this season.

"They sort of embarrassed us that last game of the year and we've all been waiting for that since that last game," senior Ryan Clark said. "We just got to work harder and put more effort in and make some shots this time."

But there is a lot of basketball before the championship, or even before they see the Bruins for the first time in January.

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The season kicks off Thursday, Oct. 19 at Yellowstone Christian College in Billings, Mont., and Saturday, Oct. 21 at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont.

The first month of the season, the Blue Hawks will face non-conference opponents, opening up NSAA play at home on Friday, Dec. 1 versus Valley City State.

"I think the conference part (will be the most difficult), especially second semester when we only play three games at home," Clark said. "It's going to make it tough having to travel a lot and stay focused on school work at the same time."

Just two weeks ago, right before starting practices, the Blue Hawks experienced a major change: a new head coach.

Josh Vaughan, stepped into the position when Justin Wetzel left for a new coaching job in the NBA G League.

Vaughan went in wanting to observe how the team plays and just a few days in, he learned their style.

"They like offense," he said. "Defense isn't their favorite thing in the world. They're getting better at it. It takes time. ... Just trying to understand what I expect on the court, compared to what they learned before, it's not going to be an overnight thing."

While the past few weeks have been a whirlwind for both the players and the coaching staff, the team is confident going into the beginning of the season.

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"It was kind of tough at first, but he came in and we didn't know what to expect," senior Marcus White said. "He came in and he's a good coach. He knows what he's talking about. I think it won't change anything this season."

Aside from a new coach, experience will be the biggest difference from last year's team.

"We returned a lot of guys," Clark said. "A lot of guys know what the conference is like and the league is like so we can bring back a lot more experience. We've had more time to gel as a team only bringing in four new guys."

The team, comprised of 13 players, has ten seniors, a ratio that Vaughan has never seen before.

"It's everybody's last chance," Vaughan said. "There's no reason to not go hard. There's no reason to have any regrets."

With a greater focus on defense, the already strong team full of returners will have another weapon in their holster when aiming for a NSAA championship.

"That wasn't our strong suit but he's been forcing it on us and we practice it every day to get better and better at it," White said. "We got the offense. If we just play defense, the sky's the limit for us."

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