Leadership plus young talent provides unity for Men's hoops

By Nate Wilson-Traisman

Coming off a mediocre 2006-2007 campaign in which the Macalester men’s basketball team finished 11-14, the young Scots come into the upcoming season with a bit of a new look. “We’ve tried to instill this year as being more of a new beginning,” forward Tom Conboy ’08 said.

Having lost three of last year’s starters to graduation, the Scots will rely heavily on new leadership and new talent. The Scots started the same five players in every game last season, so a lack of depth and experience is a noticeable concern. The production they received from Brad Liddell (school record-holder in three pointers made) and Jesse Hollander, who last season was fourth in the MIAC in rebounds, will surely be missed.

With the addition of four freshmen to the 15-man roster, the younger players will undoubtedly be counted on to fill that void.

“The freshmen as a group will play a large and important role, as they represent essentially all of our depth beyond the starting five,” Head Coach Curt Kietzer said. “How far and how fast they progress against a higher level of competition than they have faced previously will have a significant impact on our success this season.”

A key part of the “new beginning” has been the development of a team unity which coaches and players alike feel is as strong as it’s ever been. Kietzer believes that the blend of veterans with the influx of freshman has created an atmosphere conducive to success.

“I feel great about the team’s chemistry at this point, and am hopeful that this will help to offset our lack of experience,” Kietzer said. “I think the younger guys are responding well to direction and correction from our seniors.”

Despite losing four seniors from last year’s squad, the Scots return key playmakers in Conboy and Abe Woldeslassie ’08. Conboy, an all MIAC selection the past two years, led the Scots in scoring last season (17.4 points per game) and rebounds (8.0 per game). With 1,369 career points, Conboy is in reach of the school record of 1,707 held by Ben Van Thorre.

With Woldeslassie, the Scots return experience at the point guard position. Woldeslassie started every game last season at the point, leading the team in assists (5.7 per game) while averaging a solid 16.2 points per game.

Guards Brian Ranwick ’08 and Paul Richie ’10, as well as forward Jerry Kraus ’10, should also see significant playing time this year. Ranwick and Richie are the only non-starters from last year’s team who scored on the entire season, so again, lack of experience is a concern.

Conboy and Kietzer were hesitant in making predictions concerning MIAC play, but they made it apparent that the team believes it can hold its own.

“At this point, I feel confident that we will be competitive with every team in the conference,” Kietzer said.

With the construction of the new athletic center, the Scots will play their home conference games at nearby College of Saint Katherine, which also serves as their practice facility. According to Kietzer, the relative unfamiliarity with the gym shouldn’t be an issue come conference play.

“The space at St. Kate’s has at least some similarity to our old arena, so that should ease the transition somewhat,” Kietzer said.

With the season set to begin Nov. 16 versus UW-River Falls, the Scots are anticipating an improvement from their 8-12 MIAC record last season. With new personnel, and a new feel, Macalester is eager to see how it sizes up with the rest of the conference.

“I’m definitely more excited about this year and playing with this team than I have been with any previous teams at Macalester,” Conboy said.