Hopes high for No. 22 Jimmie menYear 2 is off to a smooth start for Jamestown College men’s basketball coach Matt Murken. That’s not to say the first year was bumpy or rocky, because it was not. Murken led the Jimmies to a 21-9 record and expectations are high again in and outside the program.
Year 2 is off to a smooth start for Jamestown College men’s basketball coach Matt Murken.
That’s not to say the first year was bumpy or rocky, because it was not. Murken led the Jimmies to a 21-9 record and expectations are high again in and outside the program.
When the NAIA preseason top 25 was released Monday, the Jimmies were ranked 22nd.
“When you get into that second year the guys know what to expect from me and what we expect from them, so from that standpoint it’s gone really well,” said Murken. “We’ve gotten great leadership from our four seniors and that certainly is something that is important.”
Byron Jones (5 years), B.J. Mertens (4), Travis Burley (2) and Brandon Robbins (2) are both solid on and off the court.
Jones has become Mr. Jimmie basketball with his ability and outgoing personality. He averaged 12 points and 2.1 assists last season and forms a strong backcourt with fellow combo-guard Mertens, a Devils Lake product.
Burley burst onto the scene last season for the Jimmies and became well known for his rim-rattling dunks. Listed at 6-foot-5 he plays bigger with his long arms and big-time leaping ability. Only C.J. Peeters averaged more than Burley’s 14.2 points per game last season. Burley also averaged almost nine rebounds per game.
Robbins added energy and some offense off the bench and will be in the starting 5 with the three other seniors when the Jimmies open the season Saturday at the Civic Center against the University of Winnipeg.
“The seniors have done a nice job teaching the culture of the program and leading by example in terms of what we expect both on and off the court,” Murken said.
Mark Hoge, who had a strong freshman season, junior Jared Sutherland and freshman Drew Priener, sophomore Davon Thomas and Nick Beckley are also set to be key cogs.
Like last season, they’ll be undersized — they don’t have anyone over 6-5 on the roster — but they’re athletic again and will get up and down the court.
“We’ll have to rebound by committee, but we’ll play a pressure brand of defense and be able to extend full court a little bit,” Murken said. “We’re pretty athletic again this year and I think we’ll play a pretty exciting brand of up-tempo basketball.”
They’ll also play a challenging schedule, especially early. With the Dakota Athletic Conference shrunk to four teams, the Jimmies need to play good teams when they can in order to boost their A.I.I. profile, which right now is ranked No. 1 among independent teams. The postseason A.I.I. tournament will be held in Madison, S.D., which means Dakota State is automatically in, so five spots are up for grabs.
The Jimmies play 12 games in November, two are against teams that are currently ranked. They also play three NCAA Division II teams and D-I UND in Grand Forks on Nov. 30.
The most notable game is part of a marquee doubleheader here on Nov. 5 when the JC men host No. 7 Northwestern (Iowa) right after the Jimmie women take on the No. 1 ranked and 2-time defending NAIA national champion Northwestern women.
Scheduling is a challenge, but Murken wanted to play good teams early and often.
“We want to play quality teams and with our situation we have to play them when we can and more times than not that’s early, which is fine,” he said. “By the end of the November we’ll have a pretty good understanding of how good of a team we are.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org