Men’s basketball team faces ste​ep learning curve

The team is young.

But Tom Billeter, head coach of the Augustana men’s basketball team, said his players’ ages shouldn’t matter.

“They’re just young, but I’m not using it as an excuse,” Billeter said.

The team will begin the 2018-19 season without a single senior on its roster. The team returned only six players—four sophomores and two juniors—from last year and picked up 10 players who have never played varsity-level basketball at Augustana.

Billeter said the players have a sharp learning curve ahead of them.

“I promise, every game you’ll see improvement,” he said.

The team picked up two transfers over the summer. Sophomore forward Tyler Riemersma transferred from the United States Naval Academy where he garnered 59 points, 77 rebounds, 22 assists, 11 steals and six blocks in one season.

Junior guard Beau Keeve transferred from Santa Rosa Junior College in California. There he averaged 11.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Before Santa Rosa, Keeve played at Chapman University in California for two seasons.

The team also recruited five new freshmen: Dylan Lebrun from Flandreau, South Dakota, Eric Tiedman from Jordan, Minnesota, A.J. Plitzuweit from Vermillion, South Dakota, Michael Schaefer from St. Cloud, Minnesota and Trevor Hanson from Volga, South Dakota.

Also over the summer, the basketball program dissolved its junior varsity team and moved three players to varsity: junior forward Carter Rynda, junior guard/forward Tommy Jansen and sophomore forward Zach Scholten.

Billeter said he didn’t want to let Rynda, Jansen and Scholten go after ending the junior varsity team.

“I brought them up because they gave us a lot and they deserved it,” Billeter said.

In moving the three up to varsity and picking up the five new freshmen and two transfers, Billeter has collected a total of 16 players, which is fairly large compared to last year’s lean roster of 10 players.

He said a deep roster is beneficial for weekend leagues. It helps with cycling out fatigued, injured or sick players or substituting players who are fouling.

Official practices began Oct. 15, and Billeter said the team is already experiencing trouble with injury and illness.

Junior forward Adam Dykman, last year’s lead scorer, hurt his shoulder on Oct. 26. Billeter said the coaching staff is unsure when Dykman will return.

Freshman A.J. Plitzuweit missed practices because of mononucleosis. Sophomore guard Matt Cartwright missed practices because of a concussion and only recently returned. Riemersma missed practices because of a back injury but recently recovered.

Billeter said the injuries and illnesses have set the team back but it is coping with them the best it can.

The 2018-19 NSIC preseason basketball coaches poll ranked Augustana to finish seventh overall in the conference, a peg below Southwest Minnesota State and one above Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Last year the team finished fifth in the NSIC South with a 16-14 (10-12 NSIC) record. It also graduated three players: guard Jordan Spencer, forward Marcus Asmus and guard Steven Schaefer.

Spencer was the starting point guard for the last four seasons and racked up 1,686 points, 162 steals and 131 games played and holds the program record of number of assists with 918.

Returning sophomore guard Jameson Bryan said the offense now has to retool its strategy with Spencer gone.

“The offense looks really different without him,” Bryan said. “He really ran the show, and we’ll all have to step and take that role as point guard. It’s going to be interesting.”

The NSIC preseason poll also named Dykman as Augustana’s player to watch. Dykman finished last season with a total of 326 points, 16 assists and 13 blocks.

Dykman said it’s good to be recognized, but he doesn’t want to focus on it.

“I really don’t look into it a lot,” Dykman said. “I really just try to play my own game.”

Augustana lost its exhibition game on Nov. 1 against Loras College—a Division III institution—81-76, and Billeter started three freshman and two sophomores, playing a total of 11 players.

Cartwright and freshman forward Michael Schaefer led the team in scoring with 16 points each, and Riemersma finished with 15 points.

Overall, the team shot 40.3 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arch.

Dykman said the team’s young age is both an advantage and disadvantage. He said it allows players to learn quickly and avoid ruts but the lack of experience could have them on their heels.

Bryan said he’s cautiously hopeful for the season.

“Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs,” Bryan said. “It’s going to be a rollercoaster year, but as we gain experience and gel together we could be really good.”

Today, the Vikings tip off the official season against the Southern Arkansas University Muleriders in Lancaster, Texas as a part of the NSIC/GAC Crossover Challenge.

In Lancaster, Augustana will also face off against Henderson State University on Nov. 10.


Mens BBall 1.jpg
Freshman Trevor Hanson reaches for a rebound in an exhibition game against Loras College on Thursday, Nov. 1. Photo by Marcus Asmus.


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