By: John Miller
Tanner Kretchman has been balling his whole life.
“I grew up into it. My dad is a big-time basketball fan. I come from a family that liked to play all sports, (but) basketball is really the love because my dad got us going early with it,” Kretchman said. “‘Space Jam’ was a big part of it, and we had a Little Tikes hoop growing up in the basement so we could play whenever we wanted.”
Kretchman has 433 career assists, five shy of Jordan Riewer’s school record set in 2015. He averaged seven assists per game last season, making the assists record well within reach for next season’s opening game.
“It would be fun to get that on game one; hopefully a win would come of it,” Kretchman said. “Riewer is arguably one of the greatest players to ever come through this program, so to pass his assist record would mean a lot.”
In the 2015-2016 season, Kretchman averaged 14 points, three rebounds, and six assists. He improved his scoring and assist numbers during the 2016-2017 season, putting up 17 points, three rebounds, and seven assists. However, his personal records are not a primary concern, as long as the Dragons continue to see success on the court.
“It’s not always in the personal stats,” Kretchman said. “The goal is to keep improving. If that means the numbers go up, then the numbers go up. Ultimately, it’s about improving in order to benefit the team in the best way possible. It’s about continuing to grow and not being satisfied.”
According to Kretchman, the Dragons will have several new faces next season. He is prepared to take on a bigger leadership role, saying he’ll take control of the huddle on the court and be an off-court leader during practices and workouts.
With teammate Aaron Lien graduating, there will be a sizable void to fill on offense. Kretchman hopes the team can continue to be as high-powered, despite the roster turnout next season.
“I think what made this team so dynamic on offense is that we had a few guys that could get it going,” Kretchman said. “Lien did it consistently throughout the whole season, but we had guys like Booya (Ayob), Jon Doss, and Matt Anderson who could get hot. If we can have multiple guys who can score, that would be best.”
The offseason preparation and training has already begun for Kretchman and the Dragons. He hopes to improve his overall game and bulk up for his senior campaign.
“Weight training is going to be big, especially this spring and going into summer,” Kretchman said. “I’m going to try adding a few pounds and keep working on my game. When you get to this point in your career, you’ve sort of built a craft, and I’m trying to master it.”
Part of the craft Kretchman has built is being the team’s catalyst and playmaker. As the team playmaker, his goal is not only to create opportunities for himself, but for his teammates as well.
“Being a playmaker is very important because you rely on those guys to create shots within the game, within a flow,” Kretchman said. “That’s where I think a playmaker can make a big difference. They create for others and are able to constitute a great offensive flow that can benefit the team.”
The Dragons performed well throughout the regular season, posting a record of 24-4 entering the conference tournament. They were then stunned in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament, losing to the 5-24 Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears.
“I think we came out with intensity against Concordia-St. Paul,” Kretchman said. “We were up by 18, but we let our foot off the gas pedal. Being a captain, that was my fault for letting that happen; I needed to lead better.”
The Dragons advanced to the Division II NCAA tournament, but they lost an overtime game in Round One to East Central despite Kretchman’s 35 points.
Kretchman has emerged as a go-to player for MSUM’s offense, but he insists there are several aspects of his game to improve.
“I think I need to create more space for my jump shot and finish with contact at the rim,” Kretchman said. “Defensively, I need to improve on and off the ball. Specifically, I need to improve my ball-screen defense, so there’s some work to do for next season.”
After a short-lived 2017 postseason, Kretchman and the Dragons will look to fulfill