ST. PETER — Coach Mark Hanson was watching some film of the Gustavus Adolphus men’s basketball team from 2003, the year that the Gusties went to the national championship game, as he prepared for the 10th anniversary of that team, which will be celebrated Saturday.
The thing he noticed was how well that team played together, with a balanced attack that was greater than its individual parts. While he’s not ready to compare this season’s unproven team to the best squad in program history, he did see some similarities.
“I saw the unselfishness,” Hanson said. “We’re a long way from being in that same sentence, but I did see some of things that were similar.”
The Gusties open the season at 7 p.m. today against Simpson College at Gus Young Court. On Saturday, Gustavus hosts Buena Vista at 7 p.m. Gustavus, which was selected fourth in the MIAC preseason coaches poll, is coming off a 13-10 season, with a 10-9 MIAC record that wasn’t good enough to qualify for the conference tournament.
“Not making the tournament was a pretty big disappointment for Gustavus basketball,” said guard Jordan Dick, the team’s only senior. “You kind of expect to make it.”
The Gusties lost four seniors who accounted for 65.1 percent of the points and 46.4 percent of the rebounds, and either Jim Hill, Blake Shay or Ben Biewen were the leading scorer in all but one game. However, Dick feels as if the younger players will seize the opportunity to make a bigger impact.
“No doubt, we lost a lot of scoring, but I think we’ll be more balanced,” he said. “Last year, we kind of relied on three guys, but I think we’ll have a more unselfish team.”
The top returning scorer is junior point guard Isaac Tapp, who scored 7.7 points per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field, including 41.9 percent on 3-pointers. He also led the team with 51 assists.
Dick, a guard, averaged 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds, and he’ll be joined in the starting lineup by junior Brian Jacobs and sophomore Brody Ziegler as posts and junior Martin Fedderson on the perimeter.
Guards Chris Narum and Chad Poppen will be first off the bench, as will posts Peter Kruize and Sergio Najera. The rest of the rotation might take some time to determine.
“We have a lot of people who have an opportunity to contribute that didn’t get much of an opportunity last year,” Hanson said. “I see potential to get some scoring from other places, and I don’t think we’ll have an 18-20 point guy.”
Hanson’s main concern is rebounding. Last season, the Gusties were outrebounded by more than one per game.
“In practice, Coach has been pounding us pretty good on rebounding,” Dick said. “We can’t give up extra shots.”
With a few more rebounds, maybe Gustavus would have gained the one more victory needed to get into the MIAC tournament, and once you get into the tournament, anything can happen.
“I think this team has come together pretty well,” Hanson said. “The guys seem to like playing together. Hopefully, things will fall our way.”