Bemidji State men's basketball team seeking a quick start this season
Bemidji State head men's basketball coach Matt Bowen is excited about the players on his roster with the season fast approaching.
Whether the Beavers can turn last year's strong finish into a strong start this season is one of a few questions on Bowen's mind.
"We won five of our last six games last season and we had a great rhythm," Bowen said before Wednesday's practice. "Can we continue that or is it going to take us to Christmas to pick it up?"
The Beavers will be looking to establish an identity quickly this season without the graduated Seth Haake, who ranked second in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference scoring last season.
He was the Beavers top offensive threat the last three seasons and averaged 18.6 points per game last season as a senior.
Junior guard Bryce Tesdahl, junior guard Jake Lindstrom, sophomore forward Lance Rongstad and senior forward Patrick Cassidy are the core back from last year's team that finished 11th in the NSIC standings (12-15 overall, 8-12 NSIC).
BSU also returns experience in sophomore forward David Berthene and sophomore forward Burke Lendl.
Transfers in junior forward James Ellisor and junior center Ryan Kinnell give BSU additional options on the bench and that's what has Bowen excited.
"I think we're going to be much improved from last year: we're longer, taller and more athletic," Bowen said. "We also have the numbers (on our roster). Last year we didn't finish with numbers ... I'm excited about the group we have here. They've worked extremely hard and I think we have the pieces and positions in place to work with this year."
Cassidy is in a unique position as the lone senior on this year's team.
"It's a real different feeling," he said. "I was always the one looking up to other players and trying to follow in their footsteps and now it's the end of the road for me."
Cassidy said the team is coming together through the practice season and that bonding makes him optimistic for the upcoming season.
"We want to keep improving and we want to continue with how we finished last season," Cassidy said. "Hopefully we can have a winning season."
To think about a winning season, which has not happened yet in Bowen's four years at BSU, the Beavers must find a way to win without Haake.
While BSU has not had a winning season under Bowen, the Beavers have improved its win total in each season through the first four years.
"We're hoping that we can get everyone to help and chip in," Cassidy said. "James Ellisor - he can score. If Lance can get four more points a game, if I can get a few more points a game, Bryce and Lindstrom - I think everyone is going to be in a bit of different roles and hopefully we won't miss Seth at all."
BSU was picked to finish 10th (of 14) in the NSIC standings in the NSIC Preseason Coaches Poll released Wednesday. Winona State was picked to finish first with 10 first place votes. St. Cloud State was a close second with four first place votes.
The Beavers open the season Nov. 16 at Michigan Tech. The home opener is Nov. 23 against Wisconsin-Stout and the NSIC opener is Dec. 3 against Minnesota State University, Moorhead at BSU Gymnasium.
Note: Former BSU assistant coach Jeremy Tiers, who left the program over the summer to be closer to his family in Indiana and pursue a coaching career, has joined the coaching staff at Division II University of Indianapolis.
"I am excited for the opportunity," Tiers said.