by Martin Schlegel
With last year’s historic season behind it, the MSUM men’s basketball team is ready to continue its success this year. The challenge began with a three-game weekend road trip to Los Angeles.
The Dragons faced other nationally ranked teams in their tournament this weekend. The ninth ranked Dragons took on no. 11 California Baptist, the unranked Colorado-Colorado Springs and no. 15 Western Washington.
“We have a long way to go before our conference schedule,” head coach Chad Walthall said. “This is a great way to get us ready for that by playing these terrific teams.”
Walthall is in his sixth season as head coach. He was the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Coach of the Year and Clarence Gaines Division II National Coach of the Year in 2014-2015. Walthall wants to lead the team to the NSIC North Division title for the third straight year.
But topping 35 wins, the most in MSUM history, will not be easy. Walthall is tempering his expectations.
“You don’t judge a season on wins necessarily,” Walthall said. “You judge on whether the team is fulfilling its potential. I think this team has a lot of potential.”
Even with the loss of key players Jordan Riewer and Prescott Williams, the team has some strong additions.
Junior forward and Winnipeg, Manitoba, native Ayob Ayob, a transfer from Williston State College, averaged nearly 12 points per game while shooting 62.1 percent from the field. He was an all-region player last year.
Junior guard Arroyo Edwards from Milwaukee will contribute to the team this year after sitting out last year as a redshirt. In high school, Edwards led his team to the Wisconsin Division I State Championship game with a 24-2 record.
Incoming freshman center Addison Park will also see significant minutes. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native scored 1,075 career points in high school. Leading his team in points, rebounds and assists during his junior and senior years, Park was selected as an all-conference honoree twice.
Walthall said the team will rely on the key newcomers but also has a good mix of junior and senior players.
“We have multiple guys who lead us,” he said.
Senior guard Tyler Vaughan, junior forward Aaron Lien and senior center Isaac Sevlie will be relied on this year. Lien was an all-NSIC second team selection and Sevlie was an all-NSIC first team selection last season.
“I feel really confident with the guys we have that we can do really well and even better (than last year),” Sevlie said.
Sevlie had a big role on the team last year. He scored 20 points or more six times, and was third in the NSIC in field goal percentage with 63.3 percent and blocks with 33. In helping the Dragons win the regional title, Sevlie was named the Central Region Tournament MVP. He has also been selected in preseason polls as the NSIC North Player of the Year.
“Nothing has been proven yet,” Sevlie said. “I’m going to come into the new year fresh like nothing happened last year.”
Sevlie said the first road trip to Los Angeles will be a bonding experience and a chance to develop chemistry among his teammates. He said it is a confident group and everyone wants to start the year off well before conference play starts.
After the trip to Los Angeles, the Dragons make another road trip to Russellville, Arkansas, Nov. 13 – 14. The team plays its first home game Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. against Concordia.