The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 25, 2014

MSU men's basketball rebuilding seems to be on pace


The Mankato Free Press

---- — The Minnesota State men’s basketball team won a program-record 30 games last season, but three starters and a top reserve will have graduated by the time practice starts again in October.

For most programs, that significant rebuilding project would bring concern to the coaching staff and fan base, but coach Matt Margenthaler and his assistants rarely seem to be without an answer.

Last fall, the Mavericks added a pair of high-schoolers, Alex Herink and Thomas Kopelman, who are the all-time leading scorers at their respective programs. This week, the roster was supplemented with two Division I transfers that Margenthaler nearly landed out of high school that should fit right in and give the Mavericks the potential for another 30-win season.

Joe Aase, a 6-foot-8 forward, was a two-time all-state player at Austin who couldn’t resist that lure of Division I Davidson for one season. But wanting to return to Minnesota to play closer to his family, he is joining the Mavericks, potentially filling the role of Connor O’Brien.

Aase is probably a more consistent shooter than O’Brien, but we’ll see if he plays with O’Brien’s aggressiveness, especially in rebounding and shot-blocking. O’Brien rarely had great numbers, but he almost always had good stats, and his attitude and energy was often the key to victories. He won’t be easy to replace.

But Aase is a good fit, and he has three seasons here.

Connor Miller, who played high-school ball at Eau Claire, Wis., before spending three seasons at Division I Samford, is the 6-4 shooter who could replace Tanner Adler. Miller has made about one-third of his 3-pointers in college, which is below the 42.9 percent that Adler shot from long range last season, but Adler was streaky.

Perhaps Miller will be more consistent, even if for just one season.

Not sure who can replace the savvy and toughness of Gage Wooten and Alex Hanks, but there’s plenty of candidates.

With All-America point guard Zach Monaghan returning, and Assem Marei, who would be an All-American if he made more free throws, back at center, there are good building blocks for next season. Zach Romashko, a perimeter shooter, and T.J. Okafor, a battler and rebounder, are valuable assets, and a few of the redshirts will need to step into major roles.

Fans have gotten a little spoiled with this program, disappointed when a team loses in the regional. It won’t be long before the Mavericks return to the Elite Eight, and the pieces brought into the program this offseason seem like a good start.

Margenthaler and his staff have a pretty good record of bringing in quality players, and the four new faces, along with the returning players, makes another strong season more of a probability.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.