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After opening the season with a convincing ‘W’, the South Dakota School of Mines men’s basketball team will test its mettle on the road this weekend, taking on Great Plains Conference opponents Mount Marty College Friday in Yankton and Dakota Wesleyan University Saturday in Mitchell
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- After opening the season with a convincing ‘W’, the South Dakota School of Mines men’s basketball team will test its mettle on the road this weekend, taking on Great Plains Conference opponents Mount Marty College Friday in Yankton and Dakota Wesleyan University Saturday in Mitchell.
The Hardrockers opened the season a week ago, netting a 79-74 victory over Rocky Mountain College from Billings, Mont. This weekend���s game will be just as tough if not tougher for the senior laden Mines team, but the group is ready and welcomes the challenge.
“We think we will be competitive every game this year and that is something you sometimes don’t have every year. We were pretty excited about some of the things we did (last Friday) and disappointed in other,” said Hardrocker head coach Jason Henry. “If we play with the defensive intensity that we had against Rocky Mountain then we will be fine in every game this year. The ball doesn’t go in the hole all the time and that makes things a little more challenging. But if we can keep that defensive intensity up, we got a chance no matter who we play.”
First on the docket is Mount Marty. After posting a 16-14 overall record (7-9 in GPAC) and placing eighth in their conference last year, the Lancers have 10 retuning players, two of which were starters a year ago. They lost five seniors to graduation including four-time All-American and All GPAC player Justin Bonnichsen.
��I don’t know exactly what they will do this year without Bonnichsen. A lot of the stuff that they did was run through him,” Henry said. “When you have a post that can step out and do some things it causes some things, it causes matchup problems. They were finding ways to get him the ball.”
The Lancers are coached by Jim Thorson, who brought in a number of new faces to the team this season. The top returnee looks to be senior J.J. Heyden, a 6-foot-5-inch forward from Sioux Falls. MMC has two other seniors returning in Doug Bates (Rapid City) and Ryan Hajek from Huron.
“We are not exactly sure what they are going to do. We have kind of an idea --- they have been doing the same things year after year, but (Thorson) is a great coach and will figure out a way to have their guys ready,” Henry said. ���They have obviously done a great job of recruiting I am sure and have brought in some guys that I am not aware of right now. This will be their first game (of the season).”
The junior class for the Lancers has eight players who will be looking to step into a major role this season as will the handful of sophomore and freshman talent.
“Mount Marty is a relatively new team from the last couple of years,” Henry added.
The Lancers outlook appears to have them being an inexperienced and young team. But a good attitude and work ethic has the coaching staff optimistic for a good season and strong finish in the GPAC.
It’s quite the contrast from the Hardrocker team, a group that rosters a ton of leadership and experience with five seniors. In Friday’s matchup, after Rocky Mountain knotted the game at 62-62 midway through the second half, seniors Brandon Lord and Casey Schmidt put the game on their backs and scored the last 17 points for the ‘Rockers. That’s when it’s nice to have senior leadership. We had about an 8- to 10-point lead, they came back and tie (the game) and then we go on a 5-0 run,” Henry said. “Things like that --- if we had a younger team --- they start second guessing themselves. We have that senior experience and now hopefully get over that adversity.”
South Dakota Mines also will get senior Matt Lyndoe back for the weekend road trip. The 6-6 forward from Custer had a foot injury and was unavailable for the first game.
Saturday’s matchup pits the Hardrockers against the DWU Tigers, a team that opened their season Monday in North Dakota where they took down the Mayville Comets, 93-88. The Comets were picked as the No. 1 team in the Dakota Athletic Conference this year. The Hardrockers will have to go to the unfriendly confines of the Corn Palace to play the game – a place that historically has not been kind to the Hardrockers.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Henry said. “Talking to coach (Hugh) Welsh (former Hardrocker head coach), he won like two games in his 20-some years coaching Mines when they went to the Corn Palace. It’s a tough place to play and a tough place to win.”
The Tigers enter the 2006-07 season after ending with a 14-17 overall mark and 7-11 record in GPAC play.
DWU is led by University of South Dakota transfer Brock Seim --- an All-American. The 6-6 Le Grande, Iowa, native earned the NAIA second-team honor after averaging 22 points and 10.8 rebounds a game in 2005-06. He had 20 double-doubles and connected on 77 three-pointers last season. Add in last season’s second leading scorer for the Tigers in Kevin Talley, a 6-1 guard from Bowie Maryland, and three senior post players in Keaton Cummings (6-5 from Rapid City), Elliot Neuheiser (6-5 from Plankinton) and Jesse Block (6-6 from Midland) and the Tigers look to have formidable lineup.
“It’s going to be a battle and we will be ready for it,” Henry said. “We should matchup up with everybody pretty well throughout the whole year with the depth that we have and the different guys that we can start.”
The Hardrockers will be a force to reckoned with. Not only do they have five seniors in Lyndoe, Schmidt, Lord, Brandon Fredrickson and Blake Tideman, they also have a host of other talent down the line. Andrew Brown, a 6-8 Div. I transfer from NDSU provides a new dimension in the paint and freshman Jace Sullivan is a crafty ball handler that can deliver the rock where it needs to go – to name a few.
Henry said the team is buying into his system --- and the depth the Hardrockers have means just about anybody could be on the court at any given time.
“It’s a huge part of the team concept and building that chemistry,” Henry said. “Some night we might have to get some defensive guys out there to start the game and make sure we get off to a good start.”
In any case, the Hardrockers look poised to have a good weekend. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. both days.
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