Originally Published: October 23, 2008
It is that time of year again. Leaves are turning colors, temperatures are dropping, people are putting their golf clubs into storage for the winter and basketballs are beginning to bounce on campuses all across the nation. The same is true here on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University, where the men’s basketball team has begun practice in preparation for their upcoming 2008-2009 basketball season.
Mustang practice actually began early this year, as they were granted ten extra days of practice in preparation for an exhibition game they played earlier this month. According to men’s associate head coach, Brad Bigler, the extra practice was beneficial because “it gave the team more team time on the court.”
This year’s edition of Mustang basketball will have a different feel, as the team graduated two players who both finished their respective careers ranked as one of the top ten scorers in program history, as well as finishing first and third all-time in three-point field goal percentage.
Matt Fletcher finished his career sixth on the all-time scoring list with 1,375 points, connected on a program best 44.8 percent of three-pointers. Travis Krenske scored 1,115 points in his three-year career at Southwest, good for tenth in school history. He also converted on 41.3 percent of his three-point field goal attempts, only trailing former Mustangs Brian Wiersma and Fletcher.
“It’s obviously tough to replace arguably the best two shooters in school history,” Bigler said. “Our emphasis this year will different from previous years when we took a high percentage of three-point shots.”
Key returners for the Mustangs include seniors Ryan Krome and Ross DeMasi, and juniors Kevin Andrews and Andrew Peschong. DeMasi comes in as the top returning scorer and rebounder on the team, scoring 9.6 points per game and averaging 6.8 rebounds in each contest a year ago for a Mustang team that finished with an overall record of 17-12, narrowly missing an NCAA Division II playoff berth.
The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference underwent a makeover during the summer months when four members of the now-defunct North Central Conference were granted membership. Even though he says SMSU’s schedule will not change much with the additions, Bigler feels the two teams will make the NSIC “as good as any conference in the nation.”
The team will be playing with heavy hearts after the death of former Mustang Andy Wiersma, who died in a car accident over the summer. The team is wearing a patch with his initials “AW” on the back of each jersey.
“We all miss him very much,” said Bigler. “We know he is in a better place.”
The Mustangs will host their first game of the season Oct. 31 in an exhibition matchup against St. Olaf College. Opening tip is set for 7 p.m. in the R/A Facility.