Talented and inexperienced

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

Scott Nagy wants to rebound.

No, not rebound from a disappointing bow out in the first round of the Summit League Tournament last year, a 66-61 loss to the Mastodons of Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.

He wants to rebound off a missed shot, then turn around and score on the other end.

“Defense and rebounding,” said sophomore guard Nate Wolters about Nagy’s points of emphasis heading into SDSU’s season-opener Nov. 12 against Eastern Illinois. “We don’t have much size. The big guys are really young – if we play defense [and] rebound, we’ll have a good chance to win a lot of games.”

Winning a lot of games has not come easily for the Jacks since entering Division I six years ago, but the trend has slowly changed over the course of those six losing seasons. SDSU showed signs of promise in 2008-09, finishing with a 13-20 record after winning just 14 times in the previous two seasons combined. Last year, the Jacks went 14-16 and finished fourth in the Summit League, three spots ahead of the previous year.

But that was a vastly different team, roster-wise. This season, SDSU loses seven players from last year’s squad, including two senior starters (Garrett Callahan, Kai Williams), along with plenty of leadership. The Jacks are now a team replete with youth, with four freshmen and two sophomores littered on its 12-man roster. All of those players are expected to see playing time, and perhaps in abundance. That means a roster of guys routinely seeing the court.

“It’s good, but it’s a problem quite honestly, because how do you keep everybody happy?” said 16th-year SDSU men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy. “My job is to make sure we put the best team on the floor. It’s their job to keep a good attitude … Now I feel like I can go down and grab good players off the bench at every position.”

That bench of “good players” may be the tallest in program history. The Jacks boast five players 6-for-5 inches or taller, and all of them are a first or second-year player, except 6-foot-8-inch junior Dwight Pederson. That includes two touted, incoming freshmen &- Marcus Heemstra and Jordan Dykstra. The Rock Valley, Iowa natives and high school teammates won two high school state championships together, with Dykstra finishing his career as the Rock Valley Rapids career leading scorer and rebounder.

“They’re very talented,” said Clint Sargent, senior guard and South Sioux City, Neb. native. “The biggest thing with them is just getting used to the college speed.”

What might be most important for SDSU is not who they lost or recruited, but who they bring back. Sargent enters his senior year after leading the team in scoring his junior season. He shot .415 from three-point range, third best in the Summit League. Wolters, a Summit League All-Newcomer selection last year, enters his second year in the Jacks backcourt after cracking the starting lineup down the stretch last season. SDSU also returns Dale Moss, an energy spark plug off the bench last year who finished third on the team in rebounding.

Sure, the perceived talent is now on the court and on the bench, but will they coalesce? Does SDSU have the size inside with a roster “pretty light in the pants” according to Nagy? Will the young core of Heemstra, Dykstra, Tony Fiegen, Chad White and Brayden Carlson show promise when given the playing time Nagy says will be there?

“Our expectations are that we win the league,” Nagy said. “I don’t want to be around people that think differently than that, and I want our kids thinking that way.”

#1.1766747:3163498349.jpg:Men’s Basketball Aaron Stoneberger 1.jpg: SDSU?s Tony Fiegen jumps for the opening tip Nov. 1 against Dakota State.:Collegian Photo by Aaron Stomeberger#1.1766748:4214185405.jpg:Men’s Basketball Aaron Stoneberger 2.jpg:Nate Wolters brings the ball ahead for SDSU on Nov. 1. He shot 83 percent from the free throw line last year.:Collegian Photo by Aaron Stoneberger