The Gustavus men’s basketball team will open its 2008-09 season on the road on Tuesday with a non-conference contest against Bethany Lutheran College of Mankato, Minn. The Gusties will be led by senior Mike DesLauriers and juniors Jesse Van Sickle and Sam Paulson. The Vikings, who are 0-1 to start the season, are the preseason favorite in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. An audio broadcast of Tuesday’s game will be available on KRDS 95.5 FM and the Gustavus Athletics website.
The 2008-09 Gustavus Adolphus men’s basketball team will look to senior Mike DesLauriers (Minnetonka, Minn.) and juniors Sam Paulson (Waseca, Minn.) and Jesse Van Sickle (Garden City, Minn.) for leadership and offensive production early in the season as the program celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Gusties will need to replace a pair of starting all-conference wings in Trevor Wittwer and Kane Sivesind and a pair of key reserve players in post Andrew Doble and guard Tyler Kaus (all due to graduation) from a squad that finished last season with a mark of 19-8 overall and advanced to the MIAC Playoff final before falling to St. Thomas in St. Paul. Head Coach Mark Hanson returns quality players such as senior Robert Schmidt (Watertown, Minn.), junior Ryan McPartland (Le Sueur, Minn.), and sophomore Dan Schmidtknecht (La Crosse, Wis.), but has a large group of unproven players who will be given the opportunity to show their skills at the collegiate level.
Three-year letterwinner senior point guard Mike DesLauriers will set the tempo for the Gusties on both ends of the court as he enters his second full year as the quarterback on the floor. DesLauriers led the team in assists last season (3.1 apg) and finished among the nation’s best in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.98. His ability to penetrate the lane and find open players, as well as take care of the ball, will help the development of other players. He will be asked to be more of an offensive threat in 2008-09 compared to a year ago when he averaged 3.7 points per game. Joining DesLauriers on the perimeter will be three-point sniper and jump shooter Jesse Van Sickle, a two-year letterwinner, who is the top returning scorer from last season at 10.6 points per game. Van Sickle led the squad in three-point baskets made with 47 and finished fourth in the MIAC in three-point field goal percentage at 43.6 percent (34-78).
In addition to DesLauriers and Van Sickle around the perimeter, senior wing Robert Schmidt and sophomore guard Dan Schmidtknecht will provide quality minutes for the Gusties. Schmidt came off the bench last year at shooting guard last year and will likely do the same again this year. The three-year letterwinner shot 50 percent (24-48) from the field including 44.7 percent (17-38) from behind the three-point line in 22 games last season in approximately nine minutes of play. Schmidtknecht provided a third option at point guard last season, but became a regular in the perimeter rotation as the season drew on. The La Crosse, Wis. native has a quick first step off the dribble that creates scoring opportunities for the team and himself. This quickness is also displayed on the defensive end as Schmidtknecht was third on the team with 21 steals in 27 games and just over 12 minutes per game. Depth around the perimeter will likely come from senior Tim Olmstead (Glencoe, Minn.), sophomore Phil Wirtjes (Des Moines, Iowa), sophomore Mathew Doble (Sarasota, Fla.), and newcomers Seth Anderson (Minnesota Lake, Minn.), Peder Beckstrand (Baudette, Minn.), Tyler Grey (Montevideo, Minn.), and Adam Michel (Belle Plaine, Minn.).
In the post, Gustavus will need to fill the spots vacated by Trevor Wittwer and Andrew Doble. Sam Paulson stepped into a starting position last season in his first season at the varsity level and developed into a force down on the blocks. The 6-9 Waseca, Minn. native scored 7.3 points, hauled down 4.6 rebounds per game, and shot 52.3 percent from the floor last year as Paulson improved his footwork and defensive skills throughout the season. He has been hampered by a leg injury in pre-season workouts, but should be ready for the start of the season. Fellow junior Ryan McPartland was one of the first players off the bench last season, averaging 4.2 points and 3.1 points per game, and will see his playing time increase. A gritty player, McPartland provided physicality down low and was not afraid to give up his body on hustle plays. Several players are challenging McPartland for the second and third spots in the post rotation. This group includes junior Ky Battern (Osceola, Wis.), junior Andrew Hartman (Eagan, Minn.), junior Mychal Crowder (Minneapolis, Minn.), and first-year Bobby Johnson (Edina, Minn.).
Coach Hanson feels there are areas of improvement for this team in order to contend for the conference title and make its ninth consecutive appearance in the MIAC Playoffs. The squad will need to be better on the defensive end than it has in recent years, more consistent on the boards, and develop consistency on offense. Strong efforts in these areas are what have defined Gustavus basketball during Mark Hanson’s 19-year tenure and Gustavus teams over the past 99 years.