Men still confident despite early-season struggles

By Jakob Wartman

After making the postseason in three of the last four years the Macalester men’s basketball team is going into a truly unknown season. Unlike the last three years, the team will play without a single star. First it was Ben Van Thorre, the 6′ 7″ forward who scored 1,707 points and was selected First-Team All-American. Then the team was led by Erik Jackson, the swift moving, hot shooting point-guard who graduated last year after scoring 1,345 points and dishing out 372 assists.

Without Van Thorre or Jackson the team will depend on contributions from all players. “This year all our players will need to be threats,” ninth-year head coach Curt Kietzer said. “We can’t just depend on the contributions of just one.”

This year the team is lead by senior captains Terrance Robinson-Wilson, Brendan Bosman and junior captain Lars Johnson. “These guys have already stepped into more of a leadership role,” coach Kietzer said. “They are leading not only by example but by being vocal and getting people to know what is expected.”

Macalester has started the season hampered with injuries and a shorthanded lineup. Johnson and fellow junior Brad Liddell have been bothered by early season injuries but are expected to make their return after the break.

Unfortunately the lack of depth in the lineup has affected the team’s performance in the final quarter of the game where fresh legs are critical. So far the team has dropped all three non-conference games and since winning its home MIAC opener has dropped three straight conference games to St, Thomas, St, Mary’s and St. Olaf.

“We had a good chance to win against St. Thomas and St. Mary’s,” Bosman said. “But our shots didn’t drop in the final two minutes and our opponents’ shots did.”

In their last two losses the Scots have committed 43 turnovers, a critical stat for a team that has lost three games by less than 10 points.

“We have to take care of the ball better,” Robinson-Wilson said. “The MIAC is a very tough conference and we will not beat the best teams in the conference giving the ball away 20 times.”

Even with a 1-6 record, the Scots’ ability to keep games close has the team confident that they’ll once again be among the top six teams in the MIAC and return to the playoffs.

“I think this bodes well if we are able to be this competitive while playing shorthanded.” Kietzer said.

If the Scots expect to make a successful run at the postseason they will have to rely heavily on their underclassmen.

“So far the underclassmen have been very good.” Robinson-Wilson said. “Nate Assel [’09] has done an excellent job running the show at point and Tom Conboy [’08] has been solid for us in the middle.”

Conboy, a member of last year’s All-MIAC first-year team, has already shown his skill and drive by scoring 25 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in Macalester’s only win against Bethel.

In addition to Conboy, the Scots will depend on their junior class and the game play and leadership of Bosman and Robinson-Wilson.

The Scots closed out the first part of the season with a 62-77 loss against St. Olaf on Wednesday, but coach Kietzer is still intent on making a run for the playoffs with a healthy bench after the break.