There were a lot of question marks for Bison men’s hoops team at the beginning of the year and even the coaching staff wasn’t sure how quickly everything would come together. When you lose your head coach and six seniors who combined to play in over 660 career games, log over 13,300 minutes and score more than 5,500 points, the word “rebuild” comes to mind. But this season has seen new players step in and step up in various roles.
Here are five keys to the success:
5. True Freshman Development
Paul Miller has been the only true freshman to play a significant role on the court, but a walk-on named Brian Ishola has played some big minutes, while Evan Wesenberg has had to come on at times to face some tough big men in the post. Those who rarely take off their warm-ups still have an important role in practices. Don’t undervalue the importance of what they all bring.
4. Defending Without Fouling
NDSU is one of the top teams in the country in fouls committed, but they are still an above average team on defense. When opponents can’t get to the line and are forced into tough shots, beating the Bison is extremely difficult, especially at Scheels Arena. NDSU does not have a lot of length, which makes this feat even more impressive.
3. North Dakota Kids Stepping Up
Before this season, neither Dexter Werner of Bismarck, nor A.J. Jacobson of Fargo played any meaningful minutes for NDSU. The development and contributions from both have been invaluable. There have been times this season where each has hit clutch shots, made a big defensive play, or grabbed an important rebound. They have also had to play heavy minutes for long periods. The work in the off-season is showing.
2. Coaching Guys Up
It just doesn’t feel like this is the first year Dave Richman has been the head coach and it doesn’t feel like it’s the first year on the bench for Jayden Olson and Eric Henderson. This coaching staff scouts well, prepares well and understands what their team does well. Rarely will you see the Bison out of position defensively, throw careless passes or take bad shots. NDSU plays good, hard, fundamental basketball and limits its mistakes. This coaching staff is getting everything out of the talent they have on the floor.
1. Lawrence Alexander AKA ‘LA’, ‘Alexander the Great’, ‘The Answer’
His development over his career has been tremendous, but what he has done in his senior season has been incredible. He plays over 38 minutes a game and there have been times he’s played all 40 with the opponent’s best defender right in his mug all night. In crunch time, you need big players to take over and will teams to victory. Alexander has done that time after time and will go down as one of the best players in history we have not talked about nearly enough.
Brian Shawn is the play-by-play man for the NDSU men’s basketball team.