The Tigers were just a 6-15 team last year, but they were also a team that did not have a senior on the roster. This year’s team has 13 players back who scored points last season. The only player they lost is foreign exchange student Tom Zott, but Zott was an important player for the team. The All-Big Dakota Conference selection led the Tigers with 206 points and 118 rebounds.
There is one more thing that is new for the Tigers this year, and that is the head coach. TJ Knudson takes the helm as the 16th head coach in Tiger basketball history. Knudson has been teaching and coaching at Mobridge-Pollock since 2007. He was an assistant under Mike Busch the last two years.
Knudson said the preseason has gone well. As for the new coach transition for the players, “It’s been great because I coached most of them in middle school and helped Coach Busch for two years, so we do a lot of similar things.”
He added that having nearly the entire team back has made preseason practices very productive. They have had to spend less time teaching the fundamentals and the system and gotten to spend more time becoming better basketball players and a better team.
“They definitely have experience and that makes them better at the fundamentals and at getting things down,” said Knudson. “They are enjoyable to coach. They are a good group of kids and they are happy to be in the gym.”
Knudson won’t say exactly who will be in the starting lineup when the Tigers open the season at Britton-Hecla on Saturday. He knows who some of the starters are, but there are a couple spots where two or three players are competing.
“We have 14 players who want to win the starting job,” said Knudson.
One thing is for sure, “We need to play a game. The kids are ready,” said Knudson. “There are a lot of things we want to get better at, but it’s all right there. If we can limit our turnovers and make free throws, we should be a successful team.”
Here’s the long list of players returning to the varsity and some stats from last season.
Braxton Albers, 6’3 senior forward, 236 points (team-leading 11.8 average), 59 rebounds.
Noah Feyereisen, 6’1 senior forward, 93 points.
Jalen Hitland, 6’5 senior center, 41 points.
Noah Fried, 5’6 senior guard, 10 points.
Jayce Chasing Hawk, 6’0 senior guard/forward, first year on varsity.
Reese Cerney, 6’0 junior guard, 158 points, 66 rebounds, 30 assists, 19 steals.
Caden Halsey, 6’1 junior guard, 180 points, 60 rebounds.
Kregen Norder, 6’3 junior center, 36 points.
Braden Goehring, 5’6 sophomore guard, 19 points.
Zane Reinert, 5’10 sophomore forward, four points.
Gavin Reinert, 5’11 sophomore guard, 31 points.
Cayden Eisemann, 5’11 sophomore guard, 10 points.
Trace Cerney, 5’10 sophomore forward/center, 74 points, 72 rebounds.
Bryston Goehring, 6’0 sophomore guard, 20 points.
That’s 14 players, 13 who scored varsity points a season ago.
Knudson said the wealth of experience will come in handy from game one on as the Tigers start with road games at Britton-Hecla and always tough Aberdeen Roncalli, and then come home for a four-game stand against Timber Lake, Herreid/Selby Area, Sully Buttes and Sisseton.
“It’s a good test and that’s the only way we want it,” said Knudson. “We want good tests and good matchups.”
The Tigers and Britton-Hecla will be playing for the 14th time on Saturday. The Braves hold a 7-6 edge in the series, but the Tigers have won the last three, including 59-52 last season.
The Tigers and Roncalli are playing for the 54th time in Aberdeen on Monday. The series has been one-side with Roncalli holding a 39-14 all-time record in the series. The Cavaliers beat the Tigers 70-43 last year for their fifth straight win in the series.