Tigers working hard as season nears
By Jay Davis
There will be a different look to the Tiger basketball team this year after the graduation of Peyton and Bailley Friesz.
Gone are Peyton’s 1,137 points, the second most in Tiger basketball history. Gone are an all-state and two all-Big Dakota Conference players who last year combined for 34 points, 14 rebounds and five steals per game.
But is it who and what is back that counts. The Tigers return seven players who had appreciable time on the court last year, including four players who were fulltime or part-time starters.
“Losing the Friesz twins means players have different roles and have to step up,” said coach Tim Frederick. “Even though we have seven or eight returning from last year, we still lack the experience of being in games and knowing what to do. Luckily, we have the kids who can do it.”
The Tigers have five seniors back who will be looked upon to lead the team.
Daniel Roberts was All-Big Dakota honorable mention last year. At 6’2”, Roberts will be squaring off against taller centers most every night, but will counter with offensive skills that will be tough for the opposing centers to handle. Roberts averaged 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last year.
“Daniel is undersized, but he can be unstoppable inside,” said Frederick.
Zach Dockter will run the offense. The 5’11 point guard scored 6.6 points per game last year and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc.
“Zach is the premier point guard in the conference,” said Frederick.
At 6’4”, Pearson Wientjes will be the tallest Tiger on the court. The forward averaged five points and five rebounds last year. He got off his feet for 29 blocked shots.
“Pearson is built long,” said Frederick. “He can finish inside and is a very good shooter.”
Cody Schaefbauer is the team’s defensive stopper, but will be looked at for more scoring this year.
“He’s our defensive specialist,” said Frederick. “He can guard anyone.”
Cody Hanson will be in games early and often. The quick defender will be needed to make plays and hit shots.
Senior Alex Greger is back after a year hiatus. The 6’1” forward will add depth and athletic ability.
While the seniors are experienced, they will have a lot of help from juniors Jason Hill, Mitch Heumiller and Tyler Villbrandt, and sophomores Preston Frederick, Reece Wientjes and Mason Keller.
Hill and Heumiller are expected to be ready to produce from the first night out.
“Jason and Mitch have improved so much from last year,” said Frederick. “They are ready to step up and give us quality minutes.”
Even though the first game is just three days away, there are still a lot of decisions to be made about the team.
“We have 27 out, so it has been competitive,” said Frederick. “Nothing is cut and dried. We have a lot of kids who can play a number of positions. We’re not decided on who will start. We don’t even know for sure who will be on the A and B teams.”
One thing is for sure: the Tigers will find out quickly what kind of team they are. The schedule is chock-full of teams that were good last year and return many of their players.
“We won’t have a night off with our schedule,” said Frederick.
Right at home in the conference, district and region are teams that are planning on having big seasons. Cheyenne-Eagle Butte has its stars back. McLaughlin is always a fight and Stanley County will be improved. Chamberlain is big inside and can run the floor. Crow Creek has everybody back. Miller is a team much like the Tigers after losing their premier player to graduation. Then there are quality programs like Aberdeen Roncalli, Groton, Winner, Todd County, Little Wound, Standing Rock and Britton-Hecla, who the Tigers meet on opening night.
“We’re going to have to be able to play against a lot of different styles,” said Frederick.
An added bonus to the schedule is three home-and-away matchups this year. The Tigers will play Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, McLaughlin and Standing Rock twice each this year.
“I’m super excited about this. To have a great program, you have to establish rivalries,” said Frederick. “I have to give Joe Lenz and the other ADs credit. This is good for the schools and good for our district.”
With a team 27 deep, the team’s future looks to be in good hands. Earning their keep on the B and C squads will be juniors Villbrandt and Erik Looyenga, sophomores Frederick, Keller, Reece Wientjes, Sam Weleba, Ethan Kettering, Joey Heil, Jordyn Mertz, Justin Nobles, Skyler Meyer and Tanner Jerome, and freshmen Gary Wollman, Jordan Bachmeier, Lucas Ulmer, Noah Chase, Riley Schott, Trent Chalmers and Tyler Larson.
The Tigers will find out quickly the kind of fortitude they have with games at Britton-Hecla on Saturday and at Aberdeen Roncalli on Monday.
The Tigers are just 2-5 all-time against Britton-Hecla, but have won the last two, including a 60-55 win last year.
Beating Roncalli would be a feather-in-the-hat game. The Cavaliers hold a 34-13 record in the all-time series and have won the last eight games, including a 50-33 win last year. The Tigers have not beaten the Cavaliers since the 2003-04 season.