By Jim Rueda email@example.com
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — Ryan Van Blarcom is in his final season with the Mankato Loyola boys basketball team and he has a pretty good handle on what his role will be this season.
He understands that teammate Carson Seifert will likely lead the team in scoring and rebounding but he also realizes that Seifert can’t do it alone. That’s where Van Blarcom comes in.
“I just want to play well and do whatever I can to help the team,” said the senior guard, who averaged 2.8 points and pulled down 46 rebounds last season. “We have a lot of seniors on this team who have been playing together for a long time and our dream has always been to make it to the state tournament.”
If that’s going to happen, the cast that surrounds Seifert will have a lot to do with it. With Connor Tanhoff and Evan Ellingworth graduated off last year’s team, the opportunities should be ample for Van Blarcom and his teammates to contribute.
“We’re not a big team so we’re going to try to run a lot,” he said. “That means we have to get the rebound on the defensive end so we can start the fast break. We’re also going to try to get a lot of steals.”
The other seniors on this year’s team — Lance Gaspar, Reilly Knutson, Mark Kortuem and Ben Torgerson — represent a collection of players who have been shooting hoops together for about as long as they can remember.
“We grew up together on the basketball court,” Van Blarcom said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and that helps us on the court.
“Carson’s a senior, too, but he’s from Lake Crystal and didn’t transfer to Loyola until he was a freshman. He’s been part of group for the last three years now, too.”
Loyola head coach Tim Anderson said he’s counting on Van Blarcom to play a bigger role this year.
“We lost some good players from last year’s team so he’s going to have to step up,” Anderson said. “He’s definitely capable.
“He has very good awareness on the court. We’re looking for him to have a good senior season.”
Anderson said his biggest concern heading into the 2013-14 campaign is his team’s post play. Almost all of the veteran returnees are guards or small forwards and he expects to have a lot of them on the court at the same time.
“We have some size in our junior class that we’re trying to develop but I’m not sure how long it will be before they make that transition to the varsity game,” he said. “We’ll try to work them in there as quickly as we can.”
Among the post/power forward candidates in the junior class are 6-foot-5, Dakota Anderson; 6-3, Shane Price; 6-5 Brodie Martinka and 6-3 Brett Taylor.
At 6-2, the senior Knutson is expected to log plenty of minutes inside as well. Junior Malik Baxter (5-10) has also been penciled in for playing time at the center spot.
“We’re going to have to see how it all comes together,” Anderson said. “It’s a good group of players who want to succeed so that’s always a good start.”