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
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
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.”