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Bemidji State head coach Mike Boschee, center, and assistant Ryan Montgomary, background, run through conditioning drills Wednesday. The Beavers open their 2013-14 season with an exhibition game Friday at Northern Iowa. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

MEN'S BASKETBALL: Boschee hopes new a ‘Big Three’ can step up to lead Bemidji State this season

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BEMIDJI — Bemidji State seniors Zach Noreen, Maxie Rosenbloom and Jake Schalow have all served different roles in their first three seasons on the men’s basketball team. If the Beavers hope to improve on last season’s 18-12 record, each of the three seniors will need to step into a bigger role in the 2013-14 season.

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Second-year head coach Mike Boschee was the first to admit that the loss of Jason Edwards, Dermaine Crockrell, Lance Rongstad and Mason Walters — all of whom were starters — would not be easy to overcome.

“Let’s be honest. Lance, Dermaine and Mason were our ‘big three,’ and we are going to need another trio to step up if we want to repeat our success from last season,” Boschee said. “Who those three guys will be, I do not know, but we will certainly need our returning players to step it up this season.”

Although it is not set in stone who will assume the leadership roles for BSU this season, one could assume that the group of fourth-year players will be looked at to provide leadership for the new-look team. The Beavers tip off for the first time this season Friday. They'll travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for an exhibition game against Northern Iowa.

“When you are trying to build a program that maintains success, you need to have players that were in the program before to change their roles and step up,” Boschee said of his seniors. “We are certainly hoping Zach can be a go-to guy on both ends of the floor and we hope Max can score the ball a little more for us this year.”

Noreen, as the only returning starter, is expected to step into a leadership role for the Beavers, both on and off the court.

“I feel like I can provide insight about my experience last year,” Noreen said. “This offense is very complicated and it does take a few games to find your groove in it.”

The 6-foot-6 forward started in 29 games last year for BSU and averaged 9.7 points while making a team-high 47 three-pointers.

The next highest scorer returning from last year’s team is Rosenbloom, who was used primarily for his defensive play. He averaged 5.1 points and played in all 30 games.

“Obviously, I still plan to bring it on the defensive end,” Rosenbloom said. “But I have worked really hard this summer on my shooting. Whenever you lose a player like Mason Walters, someone has to step up and fill the void.”

While Rosenbloom was used for his defensive play, Schalow was brought off the bench for his shooting ability during his junior season. He led the team by shooting over 46 percent from behind the arc.

“We hope Jake can continue to grow,” Boschee said. “Last year, he provided a scoring threat off the bench and he was great. Now we may possibly look to him to start and he will have to continue to make those scoring contributions against some of the better defenders in the league.”

Despite playing in just 10.4 minutes per game, Schalow saw a steady increase in playing time as he logged at least 13 minutes in nine of the last 13 contests last season.

“I have been working towards an increased role and to see more minutes right away,” Schalow said. “I needed the extra year of learning coach Boschee’s offense and improving my defense for the style that we want to play.”

Other than an increased role from the three fourth-year players and fellow seniors Michael Farrington and Brock Tesdahl, Boschee will look to a group of freshman and transfer students to step up this season.

“Hopefully they will bring in some quality play,” Boschee said of the newcomers. “We are always looking for good guys on and off the court that are willing to come in and give maximum effort.”

“If I had to break it down, I can say that we have some transfer students that have experience,” Boschee added. “Hopefully the freshman can elevate their play and contribute as well. More than anything, I hope they can just improve each day.”

Both Noreen and Schalow expect that the new players can catch the NSIC opponents by surprise.

“There is a whole new look to the team,” Noreen said. “Opponents were familiar with our roster and knew what they were up against with a lot of our players this year. I think we will be able to surprise them.”

The Beavers, who were tabbed 12th in the NSIC preseason poll, hope to catch the league by surprise, and for a third straight season significantly out-perform their pre-season ranking.

“Any time you start a season, there is probably a bit of chip on your shoulder in one way or another,” Rosenbloom said. “Those preseason rankings mean absolutely nothing, as we proved in each of the last two years.”

“We are kind of used to it,” Noreen added. “Personally, I like it. It just adds fuel to our fire.”

Boschee acknowledges that with the significant losses from last season’s team, the ranking is not all that unreasonable but hopes it will add motivation to his team.

“If you looked at the returning players and just went by that, then it is probably pretty accurate,” Boschee said of the No.12 preseason rank. “I know that I want to prove people wrong and I have my suspicions that we have a chance to be pretty good.”

While neither Boschee nor his players would give a concrete goal for the season, they all echoed hopes to see improvement in the season.

“At the beginning of the year, we just want to find out our rotations and continue to get better each day,” Boschee said. “By the end of the year, we want our guys to be playing in big games. Until then, we will do everything we can to get ourselves into those situations.”

Despite losing its top three leading scorers, it is still hard to count out a BSU team that will feature three seniors who have seen what it takes to be successful and a head coach who is in his second season.

“I just want to finish out strong,” Noreen said. “I really like what we were able to do in each of the last two seasons and I think we have the right group of guys and coaching staff to make another run into the playoffs and hopefully to the national tournament.”

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