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FRIEZ COLUMN: Basketball is back, and with it an air of familiar excitement

There’s something special about the melody of basketballs dribbling throughout a gym as one grand symphony.

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The Beavers celebrate after defeating Minnesota State in a January 2021 game at the BSU Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

There’s something special about the melody of basketballs dribbling throughout a gym as one grand symphony.

The revival of that song is music to my ears.

College basketball returns to Bemidji State this weekend, which is always one of the most exciting times of year for me. I love the football and soccer coverage (among others, of course), but I’m a basketball guy at heart. So there’s something extra fun about November.

Every year, the start of the season comes at a snail’s pace as it fights against the current of my anticipation. Yet this year it snuck up on me; I’ve kept busy following so much success with the BSU football and women’s soccer programs. But the basketball programs now have a shot to make some noise of their own.

The conversation has to start with the women. The Beavers are coming off their most successful season in 33 years, a season in which history overflowed on a weekly basis. That was my sixth campaign covering the team, and nothing even comes close to how special it was to document that history in 2021.

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Bemidji State had a winning season, reeled off a seven-game winning streak and reached the conference semifinals. Chelsea DeVille was named the NSIC North Coach of the Year, and the program finally took a giant leap after baby steps in years prior.

Beaver fans will see a lot of familiar faces in uniform this year. Brooklyn Bachmann and Sydney Zerr have returned for a fifth year, while Trinity Yoder (formerly Trinity Myer), Rachael Heittola and Taylor Vold are more forces to be reckoned with.

The team opens the new season at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, against Mayville State. All fans will be allowed back in the BSU Gymnasium for the first time since 2019-20, and they’ll be treated to history if Bachmann can score 15 points to reach 1,000 in her career.

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The Beavers huddle prior to tipoff of a Jan. 8, 2021, game against Northern State at the BSU Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The men’s team, I’ll admit, is a little more of an unknown for me.

No doubt, it all begins with Derek Thompson. The forceful forward has also returned for a fifth season, and the team will only go as far as he takes it.

Thompson is primed to climb even higher in the record books, as well. He’s already seventh in points (1,291) and eighth in rebounds (556), and he should become the all-time rebounding leader by averaging at least 5.2 per game this year.

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It’s fun for me to track his statistical feats, but I’ll also say this: Derek’s as kind of a person as you’ll find. While the Bemidji State faithful should rightfully be excited for his return to the court, I’m just as thrilled to work with him for an extra season.

There are a few other returners who should lead the team -- namely Mohamed Kone and Cody Landwehr -- but the 14-player roster has seven newcomers. So we may just have to wait and see what they can do.

There are still a few names to keep an eye on, though. The Beavers were ecstatic to land sophomore transfer John Sutherland, a Grand Rapids product who spent his freshman year at Minnesota Duluth. And senior transfer Travis Bianco -- a mismatch waiting to happen as a 6-foot-6, 200-pound guard -- has created some shockwaves with an impressive camp.

Fans will get their first look at the men’s team at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, when they host Concordia-St. Paul in a nonconference meeting.

As both teams converge on the hardwood once again this winter, there’s certainly reason to be excited. For both fans and reporters alike.

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The Beavers huddle prior to tipoff of a Jan. 8, 2021, game against Northern State at the BSU Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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