By Josh VanKlompenburg
MARSHALL – He wasn’t supposed to be here.
However, early last season, Shaun Condon found out he would miss his senior year with a broken leg.
Condon applied for a medical redshirt in the offseason and it was granted, meaning the Clara City native will don the number 10 jersey once again for the 2015-16 season.
“It’s weird, I didn’t think I’d be here,” Condon said before the first official practice of the season on Thursday. “I’m really excited. These guys all work so hard. It makes coming here a lot easier and makes it a lot more fun.”
As the lone senior on the squad, he will be one of the team’s leaders on and off the floor.
“Mainly that’s what I’m looking forward to is being a leader to these young guys,” Condon said. “I’ve been here a long time, so I know the ins and outs, the little things.”
SMSU enters the year coming off a 12-17 campaign in 2014-15. The team’s eight wins in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play were the fewest for the program since the 2005-06 season, when Greg Stemen was in charge.
It was a season of transition, dealing with a multitude of youth.
Despite the youth on the team, there were signs of growth that the team hopes will transition to this season.
“Over the course of last year, we saw a lot of improvement with those true freshmen,” SMSU men’s basketball coach Brad Bigler said. “We still have a young roster, but it’s completely different from having seven true freshmen last year. Those guys now know the routine and they have the ability to pick up things a little bit faster.”
Southwest has also had somewhat of a local flavor on its squad, but this year that flavor is stronger than it’s been in a while.
Bigler added two players to his roster from within a 50-mile radius of Marshall, including 2013 Marshall graduate Derek Buysse. Buysse averaged 21.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Minnesota West last season. He will redshirt this season, and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
The other new guy staying close to home is true freshman Michael Lee, a 6-foot-6 forward who finished his prep career at Dawson-Boyd averaging 24.6 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior.
It isn’t by accident that Bigler and his staff recruit close to home.
“We want guys that have a passion for Mustang basketball,” Bigler said. “Any time you can get those local guys who’ve been to our camps and are very familiar with it, I think they have a little more pride when they step out on the floor.”
The Mustangs will play their first exhibition game of the 2015-16 season on Oct. 24 against a team comprised of SMSU alumni.
Two weeks later, SMSU will make its third-ever trip to face the University of Minnesota in an exhibition game at Williams Arena on Nov. 6.
SMSU will open the regular season on Nov. 14 at Fort Hays State (Kansas). The home opener will be a nonconference game against NSIC opponent Northern State five days later.