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Young, inexperienced men’s basketball team hopes to improve in rebuilding season

November 7, 2014

After two straight seasons with an 8-17 overall record the UW-River Falls men’s basketball team has higher hopes for the 2014-2015 season.

Generally, a team will look for leadership from its senior class, but the Falcons lost five seniors from last year’s squad and will have to look for leadership elsewhere.

Head Coach Jeff Berkhof said that he likes to have a point guard who is a good leader, because he is the player with the ball the majority of the time.

“Your point guard is the general of the floor, he is an extension of the coaching staff,” Berkhof said.

Luckily for the Falcons one of its players with the most experience is its point guard, sophomore Grant Erickson. Erickson started in all but one of the Falcons’ games last season, averaging 7.2 points per game while paying an average of 30.2 minutes per game.

“We’re looking for him [Erickson] to provide a lot of leadership,” Berkhof said. “He has been doing a good job so far.”

Having a team that is comfortable playing together is very important to a teams success and with all of the new freshman and transfers coming in this season it may take a while until everyone is on the same page. Berkhof said that the team is showing good team spirit, togetherness and competitiveness in its practices.

Junior center Connor Goodwin is happy with the progress the team has made so far.

“I feel our team chemistry has been really good so far, and I’m excited to see what we can do this year,” Goodwin said.

Having such a young team can be a blessing and a curse, the inexperience may cost the team a few close games, but other teams won’t know what to expect from the Falcons early on in the season.

“With a new group, but we feel a talented group, I really think we can be a surprise team in the league,” Berkhof said. “Not a lot of people are going to know a lot about us early on.”

Since Berkhof took over the head coaching job in 2007 the Falcons have been a team that has looked to push the tempo of the game and run the floor early and often. Berkhof said that fans should expect fast-paced games this season. Berkhof went on to say that he has good depth on this team and he is expecting to use a lot of his bench players.

Ollie White and Ben Gresmer were the only Falcons who averaged over 10 points per game last season and they have both graduated. So, the Falcons will be looking at different players to provide scoring this season.

The Falcons have a balanced team this year and Berkhof expects the scoring to be balanced as well. He said that it is good to have a team that has balanced scoring so that the opponent can’t focus its entire defense to stop one player.

The WIAC looks to be one of the more difficult conferences in the nation, once again. Last year’s national champion UW-Whitewater is the preseason number one ranked team in the nation. While UW-Stevens Point is preseason number seven. Whitewater or Stevens Point has won the national championship in five of the past 11 seasons. Despite the challenging conference, Goodwin says that the team has two goals for this season.

“One is to win conference, and two is to make it to the NCAA tournament and make a run at that,” Goodwin said.

The Falcons will open its season at Bethel University on Nov. 15.