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BSU men's hoops: Late signings add rebounding skill, depth

During his first three years as Bemidji State head men's basketball coach, Matt Bowen's focus has been on rebuilding the program through homegrown recruiting.

For his fourth recruiting class, Bowen has used the same strategy to add roster depth.

Added to the Beavers' supporting cast during the late signing period this spring are John Krebs, Burke Lendl, Noah Shepherd and Mason Walters.

Krebs, Lendl and Shepherd are all Minnesota players. Walters hails from Milton, Wis., a small town 10 miles northeast of Janesville.

"As a group, these guys are really going to help us rebound the ball a little better and that's an area where we struggled last season," Bowen said. "They fit that need and they are going to provide some depth. Similar to all of the previous kids we've brought in here, they are versatile and can play in multiple positions. Lendl and Walters can play either guard or forward."

The four late signees join Lakeville North's David Berthene, who committed to Bemidji State during the early signing period.

Krebs (6-foot-5, 190 pounds, forward) was a two-year starter for Mahtomedi. Last season, he reached double-figure scoring in 26-of-29 games and finished with an average of 14.1 points per game and 7 rebounds per game. He shot 53 percent from the field.

Lendl (6-foor-7, 185 pounds, forward) led Rogers to the state tournament last season. He averaged 11 points per game, seven rebounds per game and had 26 blocked shots. He finished his high school career with nearly 400 rebounds.

Shepherd (6-foot-2, 165-pounds, guard) averaged 8 points per game last season for Minneapolis Washburn. The Millers were one of the great stories of high school basketball last season and won the state Class 3A title.

Walters (6-foot-6, 175 pounds) averaged 21.5 points per game last season, which placed him on the top 25 scoring list in Wisconsin. He scored 20 points or more in 17 games last season. He also scored 20 points or more in seven straight games.

Bowen's goal as a head coach has been to turn the Beavers into a successful program with Minnesota athletes.

With the late signings, 12 of the 14 players on Bemidji State's projected roster next season are from Minnesota.

Of those 12, eight have state tournament experience.

"We hope that winning here will come from winning at the high school level," Bowen said.

Bemidji State's roster is now stocked with Bowen's recruits.

Juniors Seth Haake and Brady Fairbanks - Bowen's first recruits -- have emerged as all-conference players.

Jake Lindstrom turned in a surprising freshman season and those three guards will provide the bulk of Bemidji State's scoring next season.

"I think we've recruited very well," Bowen said. "(Assistant coach) Jeremy Tiers has done a really good job of evaluating talent that fits in with our system."

Forward Taylor Hall also had a breakout freshman season last winter, but will not be returning to Bemidji State due to personal reasons. He saw increased playing time due to Sergej Baskow's season-ending knee injury. While Hall was raw defensively, he averaged 10 points per game.

"We ultimately were just not what he was looking for," Bowen said. "We were just too far north and too rural for him."

Hall started in 24 of 27 games last season, so his departure will open an opportunity for another player.

Likely to step into Hall's spot is junior Tyler Wruck. He averaged 3.1 points off the bench last season and was 10-for-41 from 3-point range (41 percent).

Baskow will be back for his senior season after a torn anterior cruciate ligament and subsequent surgery cut short his junior season. Bowen said Baskow's rehab has progressed well and he will test the full range of motion on his knee later this summer.

Baskow, Wruck, Jimmy Johnson and Patrick Cassidy will team up to form Bemidji State's forward combinations and Berthene will likely see playing time as well.

Also added to the mix is sophomore Lance Rongstad (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), who will begin the Bemidji State football season as backup to quarterback Derek Edholm.

"He has a chance to be very good," Bowen communicated via Twitter. "Great athlete. Going to surprise some people if he can shake the rust off."

Rongstad was named the Eau Claire (Wis,) Star-Telegram prep basketball player of the year in 2008 and his former coach claimed then that Rongstad has Division I potential.

Next season will be interesting for Bemidji State. The Beavers have improved every season since Bowen has taken over.

Bemidji State looks like an up-and-coming team and could make some noise in the Northern Sun next season.

The Beavers are 19-63 under Bowen. Bemidji State won 11 total games in Bowen's first two seasons. The Beavers won eight games last season with a cast of mostly underclassmen.

The commonplace 20-point losses during the first two seasons were rare last season as the Beavers turned in more competitive and closer games.

Bemidji State had a stretch in December-January where it won seven of 11 games, which included a four-game winning streak and wins over then ranked No. 24 St. Cloud State and No. 11 Northern State.