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MEN’S BASKETBALL: High-flying dunks generate momentum for Ewefada, Beavers

Gare Ewefada didn’t want to toot his own horn. But he also didn’t want to lie. So when asked to name the best dunker on the Bemidji State men’s basketball team, he told the truth.

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Bemidji State senior Gare Ewefada (1) dunks in the first half against Concordia-St. Paul on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Gare Ewefada didn’t want to toot his own horn. But he also didn’t want to lie.

So when asked to name the best dunker on the Bemidji State men’s basketball team, he told the truth.

“Um, I mean, I would say that I am,” Ewefada said, his mask not concealing a humble smile.

It’s certainly a close competition. But Ewefada’s bounce speaks for itself.

“It’s hard to say because I play with so many other guys on the team who can get up,” Ewefada said, “but I feel like I’m more of a two-foot jumper and it helps me get up. There are definitely some other guys on the team who get up for sure.”

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The Beavers celebrate around sophomore John Sutherland, who dunks a ball at the end of pregame warmups against Minnesota Duluth on Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

A more neutral set of eyes provided a thorough analysis of the question.

“It’d be a really close contest if we had a straight dunk contest for both Gare and Dalton (Albrecht),” assistant coach Mike Iseman said. “Both are very impressive dunkers, but I do have to say that we have a lot of impressive dunkers on our team.”

The showcase is on full display during layup lines. The show begins well before opening tipoff, because the Beavers spend part of warmups soaring up toward the rim with the kind of stuff you see during dunk contests.

And it’s not just a handful of players. Along with Ewefada and Albrecht, high-flyers like John Sutherland, Mohamed Kone and Travis Bianco have a case to be the main headliner.

“It’s definitely fun when we go out there for warmups,” Ewefada said. “We’re about to play basketball, so it’s fun to go out there and have fun before the game starts, (bond) with the guys. It’s a good time.”

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Bemidji State senior Gare Ewefada rises up for a dunk during pregame warmups against Minnesota Duluth on Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

“This is for sure the most athletic team I’ve ever coached in my career,” Iseman added. “It makes for a lot of fun when they’re messing around after practice (and) obviously for the fans in layup lines.”

Ewefada boasts a 48-inch vertical, which is an explosive weapon for the 6-foot-2 guard out of Brooklyn Park.

“It’s a genetic thing, I’d say, but I’ve definitely worked out and added to it,” Ewefada said. “I feel like I’ve always been able to jump high, so I’d say it’s a bit of both.”

The Beavers already have a number of impressive in-game dunks, too. Most notably, Kone posterized a Minnesota Duluth defender on a fast-break slam and brought the home crowd to life.

“(Dunks) are big momentum plays where they can kind of electrify a crowd, electrify the team,” Iseman said. “… Not only does it look good, but it also can be very beneficial on the court and add to that momentum, get us going in the right direction.”

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Bemidji State will need that kind of juice this weekend, when it hosts Minnesota State Moorhead and Northern State at the BSU Gymnasium. Tipoff with the Dragons is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, while the game against the Wolves begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11.

“You’ve seen our guys play this year. We’re definitely more athletic,” Iseman said. “We can guard better on the perimeter because of our athleticism. We have that explosive ability to finish at the rim better than we have in the past. There are a lot of good things that come from athleticism.”

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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