Braves boys go to post-based offense
From the paint to the perimeter and, now, back to the paint. The pendulum is about to switch in Mandan boys basketball.
For three years the Braves wanted to make sure 6-foot-7 all-state post Bryan Kielpinski got his touches.
Over the last three years, the focus of the Mandan offense was Erron Collins, an all-state point guard.
Now, first-year coach Bran don Schafer wants to make sure the ball gets inside to the likes of 6-foot-4 senior Jacob Hanson and 6-7 junior Jacob Marschner.
“We’re doing a lot of new stuff this year. Definitely, our bigs are going to be a big part of it,” said Schafer, who was an assistant under previous Man- dan coach Jason Horner. “They’re going to be a focus because we’ve got three or four big guys who can create mismatches. That will create opportunities for our guards to shoot.”
Hanson (6.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg) is the only returning starter from a Braves team that qualified for the state tournament last season, a 10-14 record notwithstanding.
Six-foot-3 junior JustinFenster (4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-0 senior Ross Effertz (2.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg) were used liberally off the bench.
Dustin Hermanson (1.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg), a 6-3 senior, and Adam Lech (1.2 ppg), a 5-10 senior, are the only other rostered players with varsity experience.
That leaves a world of opportunity for Schafer’s eight newcomers. Preston Schmidt, 6-2; Alex Weiand, 6-2; Gage Wolt, 6-2; and Matt Ziemann, 6-4, are the seniors vying for spots on the varsity. Bryce Andresen, 5-9; Marschner and Trevor Muth, 5-9, are the junior candidates. Nick Miller is a 6-foot sophomore.
Schafer expects the veterans to shoulder a big load this season.
“The guys we’re really going to lean on are Lech, Hanson and Fenster. They’re going to have to have big seasons. … And the other big guys, Hermanson and Marschner,” Schafer said. “I think our big guys can create a lot of mis- matches, which will help open things up. … It will be important for us to play inside out.”
Obviously, with the loss of Collins and Nathan Schmidt, an all-region guard, some new scorers must emerge. Schafer is optimistic that the point producers are lurking in the wings.
“It’s tough to replace those guys (Collins and Schmidt), not only on the floor but in the locker room. Those were two big-time leaders on the team last year,” Schafer said. “… I think our (current) shootersknow they can shoot. They just have to keep their head in it after they miss a shot. The main thing is attitude and mentality. Our kids have to have confidence in shooting the ball.”
Schafer said that ability to stay dialed in is a critical ingredient for the Braves.
“We can’t let a missed shot affect our next possession. … Our mental toughness is vital. That’s going to be a key to the season — how the kids react to adversity,” Schafer said. “You have to have a short memory.”
With the graduation of Collins, now at the South Dakota School of Mines, Lech becomes the man on the point.
“He’s our primary ballhandler, so we need him to play smart and stay on the floor to run the offense,” Schafer said.
Mandan’s guards benefited greatly from practicing against the likes of Collins and Schmidt last season, according to Schafer.
“We’ve got guys who went against them every day in practice last year, and I think they learned a lot,” Schafer said. “We’ve seen some of that carry over. Just the focus and concentration Adam Lech is demonstrating so far is phe- nomenal.”
Schafer said the change from a perimeter-based to a post-based offense hasn’t come automatically.
“It’s been a learning curve. We’re running a whole new offense, and there are a lot of changes for the guys,” the coach said. “For us to get where we need to be they’ll have to come in every single day with a good attitude. Attitude and mental toughness can make us a contender rather than a team that just competes.”
And Schafer believes there’s something to contend for. He expects St. Mary’s and Century to reside in the upper echelon of the West Region with Minot and Bismarck in the next tier.
“If our kids buy in … I think we have a chance to compete for one of those top four spots,” he said.
Schafer said he prefers man-to-man defense, but is well aware that adjustments must be made in every game.
“In the West Region every game will be a dogfight. You’ll see us in a halfcourt defense, but we’ll need to change it up so we can keep the opposing team on its toes,” he said. “To play a team like St. Mary’s we’ll need to be willing to change things and play three or four defenses.”
By Steve Thomas