The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 31, 2012

Senior has high hopes for Gustavus men's basketball

By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer

ST PETER — ST. PETER — Jim Hill doesn’t like to concede that there are other

players out there that are better than him, even on his own team, so

he wasn’t sold on being the first player off the bench for the

Gustavus Adolphus men’s basketball team last season.

But as he excelled in the role, and the team started to win, he became

more comfortable and accepting of his situation.

By the end of the season, which ended with a share of the MIAC

championship and a berth in the national tournament, Hill was deemed

the best sixth man in the conference.

“(Coming off the bench) was an acquired taste,” Hill said. “As a

competitor, you never want to think you’re not as good as other

players, but I grew into that role and realized that I could help the

team. Once I embraced it, the team was more successful and I was more

successful. When I got the award, it was an honor.”

Hill, now a senior, likely will be in the starting lineup Friday when

the Gusties host Minnesota Crookston in an exhibition game at Gus

Young Court. The regular season begins Nov. 17 at home against Bethany

Lutheran College.

For most of last season, the Gusties’ starting lineup included four

seniors who have graduated, with guard Ben Biewen starting 26 games,

Hill starting eight games and Blake Shay starting six.

“I think people will underestimate us because we all had complementary

roles last season,” Hill said. “But we have a bunch of guys who can

put up big numbers.”

Hill, who also started 20 games as a sophomore, averaged 8.2 points

and 3.9 rebounds last season. He had six double-digit scoring

performances in the final 12 games, including a season-high 19 points

against St. John’s and 13 points and 10 rebounds in the

national-tournament loss to Wheaton.

“Coming off the bench, you’re looking for a player who is confident

and can make things happen,” coach Mark Hanson said. “You need a

scorer’s mentality, which Jim has.”

Because graduation hit hard in the Gusties’ backcourt, Hill spent the

summer working on ball-handling and shooting, making sure he’s

prepared if he’s called on to fill those roles.

“I think it was my best offseason,” he said.

Hill is one of four seniors on the roster, joining Biewen, Shay and

Reed Sallstrom. Hanson wasn’t ready to commit to those four as

starters, but he did say they would play significant minutes. Biewen,

an honorable-mention all-MIAC selection, averaged 8.8 points and 2.5

assists, Shay averaged 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds, and Sallstrom

averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds.

Junior Jordan Dick and sophomores Isaac Tapp, Martin Fedderson and

Brian Jacobs could find playing time, and Hanson didn’t rule out

freshmen Brody Ziegler (Mankato East) Chad Poppen (St. Peter) from

getting some minutes.

“When you lose six of the top nine or 10 players, it’s hard to know

what to expect,” Hanson said. “Even what you think you know about the

returning players changes because there will be a few different

players out there.”

Last year, Seth Anderson carried the majority of the scoring load,

averaging about 13 points more than any teammate.

Hill said the scoring should be more balanced this season, and defense

might be the team’s strength.

“When you play in this league, you realize how good these teams are

and how talented the players are,” Hill said. “If you want to win, you

need to outwork them and get stops with your defense.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Gusties’ Final Four appearance,

and Hanson said he knows the current team has an understanding of the

tradition.

Hill hopes the team wins every game, which he knows is unrealistic,

but if you’re going to set goals, set them high.

“The big thing is confidence,” Hill said. “I think last year, some of

the underclassmen thought of us as underdogs, and not in a good way.

You always want to respect an opponent, but you should always think

you’re good enough to win.

“I think we can expect to make some noise at the national level. I

don’t expect any letdown for the program.”