Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
Head Coach Dave Richman garnered national attention a season ago for wearing a “Landon’s Light” T-Shirt under the coat of his gameday suits. Richman, who is known for being a sharp dresser, was sending a message and support to one of his neighbors.
Landon Solberg, a West Fargo 12-year-old finally rested his battle with cancer in September. Landon’s parents, Andrea and Travis, raised their children in the same neighborhood as the Richman’s and the support for Landon’s fight became a rallying cry for the community, and for Bison Basketball.
North Dakota State tipped off their season by gathering for the starting lineups with wands that lit up blue at the end, and the crowd turned on their smartphone flashlights. Everyone “lit it up for Landon”. Solberg was later named the player of the game for the exhibition win over Dickinson State.
Landon Solberg was a special young man who continues to inspire a rising Bison Basketball team.
“There’s more to the game. Sometimes people play for themselves, and sometimes people play for reasons that inspire them to be better, and you want to be an inspiration to somebody. Landon was a little bit of my inspiration, how hard he fought. He never gave up, so that empowered me every game to wear the Landon’s Light shirt to let HIM know that we were going to fight every day,” said NDSU senior Tyson Ward.
North Dakota State brings back most of the key producers from their Summit League Championship team a season ago. The Bison will be led by seniors Tyson Ward and Vinnie Shahid. Both players are preseason all-league selections.
This comes in concert with significant turnover in the Summit League. Long-time Bison antagonists Mike Daum (SDSU), Jon Konchar (FW), Trey Burch-Manning (USD), and Mitch Hahn (Omaha) all graduated. David Jenkins, Jr. transferred to UNLV. He transferred to UNLV because former SDSU Coach TJ Otzelberger has taken control of the Runnin’ Rebels. This, of course, comes the season after South Dakota Coach Craig Smith took the head job at Utah State.
The conference itself is in a place of transition. Jon Coffman and his Fort Wayne ‘Dons are headed out of town. St. Thomas is likely on their way in from the Twin Cities. Paul Sather is now the head man at the University of North Dakota. North Dakota State is now in a position of strength and a position of stability. Richman, despite being hired in 2014 is now one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league. North Dakota State also has tremendous returning talent. They also have a purpose bigger than basketball. Sure, the Bison have top-end talent. They have tremendous depth. They have everything you would ever want in a mid-major contender.
Aside from the senior leadership of Ward and Shahid, Jared Samuelson brings the grit of a four-year walk-on senior. Chris Quayle is also in his final year, and his third year in the program. Juniors Cameron Hunter and Rocky Krueser bring plenty of experience and proven production to the table as well.
North Dakota State has four sophomores with superstar potential. Young guns Sam Griesel, Jarius Cook, Tyree Eady and Jaxon Knotek create tremendous matchup problems for opposing defenses.
The Bison possess everything on the court that a team needs to make a run in March. They are talented, they are well-coached and they are experienced. The kicker, though, what might really make them special, is that purpose.
The 2019-20 Herd has a purpose beyond basketball.
“To live like Landon lived. What is specific to live like Landon lived? Live with your Faith, your family, and your friends as your priorities. This world will bring you problems. There’s a lot going on, and there are a lot of tough situations and circumstances. If you live with those priorities, your faith, family and friends like Landon did, and you can find joy in some tough situations, things are going to be pretty good, and you can be thankful for what we have. His life was too short, but Landon set an unbelievable example for us, to live like he lived,” Richman said.
Landon Solberg’s fight against cancer ultimately created Landon’s Light foundation, raised awareness for the fight against childhood cancers and brought a community closer together. His message, and most importantly his Light, have the stamp all over Bison Basketball.