Nov. 8, 2012
Storm Lake, Iowa
Despite graduating five of its top eight scorers from last year’s team that captured the program’s seventh Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) Tournament Championship since 2000, the Buena Vista men’s basketball team still has an experienced group of players returning to the court in 2012-13 that head coach Brian Van Haaften is very excited about.
“We’re going to have good depth across the board, particularly with our guards,” he says. “We’ve had some good development down in the post which is key for us, and we just have a group of guys that go out each day and get after it.”
The Beavers will be led by two-time First Team All-IIAC selection Wes Nordquist (Adel, Iowa/ADM), who is coming off a career year in which he shot 54 percent from the field and led the team in both scoring (15.4ppg) and rebounding (8.4rpg), while ranking fourth and second, respectively, among the IIAC leaders.
He’s excited for the year and feels this team can go a long way.
“Expectations are going to stay high,” he states. “We want to get back to the national tournament and go even further. That’s been our goal all along.”
Late last season, Nordquist became just the ninth player in school history to record 1,000 career points and grab 500 career rebounds. He’s on pace to finish his career ranked in the top-five in school history for both categories.
“He’s certainly an All-American caliber player,” says Van Haaften. “He’s a great leader and makes those around him better.”
Although Nordquist is back, the team does have to fill the void left behind by three-time all-conference selection Doug Bissen, who was third on the team in scoring (11.6ppg) and second behind Nordquist in rebounding (7.1rpg).
“Guys like Brett Heitkamp and Greg Sibenaller have made big strides in just one year,” says Van Haaften. “They could each make an impact as sophomores this year.”
Heitkamp (Johnston, Iowa/Johnston) and Sibenaller (Hornick, Iowa/Westwood) both stand at 6-foot-7 and are coming off strong seasons with the junior varsity team.
Also gone is Second Team All-IIAC selection Jeff Janssen, who had a break-out year to end his career, finishing second on the team in scoring (11.8ppg), while draining a team-high 59 three-point buckets and sinking better than 84 percent of his free-throw attempts.
A familiar face, however, will look to step in and fill that void for the Beavers. Senior Troy Ticknor (Adel, Iowa/ADM) is back in the line-up this season after being forced to sit out all of last year due to a season-ending ACL injury just days into practice. That followed a 2010-11 campaign in which he earned Second Team All-IIAC accolades.
“No one’s going to be rooting for Troy anymore this year than I am,” says Van Haaften. “He’s started practice a little slow, but it’s just going to take him some time to trust his knee and get back into game shape. He’s a great leader and we’re excited to have him back.”
During his second season in a Beaver uniform, he averaged 12.0 points and made 58 three-point buckets. He’ll enter this year ranked 13th on the program’s all-time career list with 131 career three-point makes. As a guard, he’s also been to the free-throw line more than 80 times in each of those two years and has converted nearly 84 percent of those attempts.
“It’s been a long rehab, but I’m more than excited to be back out there with the guys,” he says. “Having the year I did before the injury was a good experience and I’m looking to build off that this year and go out there and be productive and help the team win.”
Junior Michael Kaufmann (Harlan, Iowa/Harlan), who has been the team’s starting point guard in each of his first two years, will continue to be one of the leaders of the offense again this season. He’s excited for the depth the team has and what it can bring to the table.
“There are a lot of weapons on the team this year,” he says. “We have guys who can really shoot the ball, and I’m excited to get it to them and let them score.”
Kaufmann had a career year as a sophomore a season ago and established himself as one of the top point guards in the league. He averaged better than seven points per game and also dished out a career-high 87 assists. More importantly, he led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.93).
Added to the depth of the back-court will be sophomores Cole Darrow (Glenwood, Iowa/Glenwood) and Alex Savage (Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling Catholic), who each averaged over 12 minutes per game off the bench a year ago. Darrow averaged nearly five points and 14 minutes per game, while Savage made 13-of-20 three-point shots and also shot 80 percent from the foul line.
“Those two guys have been playing well for us so far this season, as has Tyler Pleiss (Omaha, Neb./Ralston),” adds Van Haaften. “We’re looking for big things from them as we move forward.”
As a team last season, the Beavers ranked second in the conference in scoring, averaging just shy of 72 points per game, while leading the league in field goal shooting at 46 percent.
Van Haaften feels the run his team went on to close out the regular season last year could play a big factor as this year’s squad tips-off its season.
“I think that run was important, as it shows our guys they just need to stay after it for 25-plus games,” he says. “We played better defensively down the stretch and then got on a run and kept it going.”
The 2012-13 campaign will get underway for the team on Friday, November 16 against Carthage College during the Carroll University Tournament in Waukesha, Wis. The team will then play either Carroll University or Concordia (Wis.) on November 17 to round out the event.
After a non-conference road game at Bethel the following Tuesday, the team will open its home schedule by hosting #15 UW-Stevens Point and then entertaining Morningside College four days later.
Iowa Conference play doesn’t begin until after Christmas break, and the Beavers will open that schedule at home on Saturday, January 5 against Simpson College, a team it defeated in last year’s IIAC Tournament semifinals.
“I think there will be a lot of teams who will be better this year and could find themselves in the mix for the title,” adds Van Haaften, referring to the IIAC race. “It’ll be up for grabs and will be exciting to see how everything plays out.”