Bring on Jimmie hoopsOne of my favorite times of the sports year is about to arrive. I’m talking about Jimmie basketball, of course. I know, due to a quirk in the schedule, the men have played and won a pair already. But come the end of October and early November, things will really start to get interesting.
By: Mark Schuttenhelm For The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
One of my favorite times of the sports year is about to arrive. I’m talking about Jimmie basketball, of course.
I know, due to a quirk in the schedule, the men have played and won a pair already. But come the end of October and early November, things will really start to get interesting.
The women get started Friday and Saturday at home, then both the men and women will head down to Iowa in early November for a challenging pair of road games against Dordt and Northwestern. Let me just say right here that if you’re one of those folks that haven’t ventured out to the Civic Center for a Jimmie hoop doubleheader, you really need to check it out. Jimmie basketball at the Civic Center is pretty much a guaranteed good time. The tickets and food are reasonably priced, the basketball is always exciting, and quite frankly, you won’t find a better bunch of people to spend a few hours with.
Unlike the cozy gyms where many small colleges play, the Civic Center is a big building. It takes a good number of folks to get the place rocking. It’s up to us to get out there, support our local college and the student athletes that represent Jamestown.
When we take a look at the men’s side, change is the word that best describes the off season. The men are coming off a 25-7 season, finishing 11th in the final NAIA Division II national poll. A last second, heartbreaking loss in the first round of the national tournament ended the season. With all five starters from last year’s team gone, it seemed possible that we might be staring a rebuilding year right in the face.
To make matters more challenging, coach Matt Murken decided to leave Jamestown for Minot State. In the midst of all this, longtime Jimmie great Byron Jones was hired as an assistant coach here. Since Byron was a great player as well as an all-around good guy, I thought his hiring was a great addition to the coaching staff. Well, Byron then decided to follow Murken up US-52 to Minot.
Things were looking just a bit crazy at this point for sure. Enter new coach Justin Wieck. Coach Wieck is a 28-year-old with quite an impressive résumé, having worked with two successful coaches, Steve Alford and Todd Lickliter. He seems like a great fit here in Jamestown.
Holdovers from last year’s team include guard Mark Hoge and forwards Jared Sutherland and Davon Thomas. All three were significant contributors last season. Thomas averaged 10.6 points a game, shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point land.
Hoge averaged eight points a game and Sutherland scored five points a night while shooting 55 percent from the field. Hoge, Thomas, and Sutherland scored a combined total of 78 points and pulled down 35 rebounds in the two games against Brandon. These three look ready to step up to the next level, and along with sophomores Taylor Newton and Beny Collins, seem to be forming the nucleus of our 2012-2013 men’s team. Time will tell how good this group can be. I don’t know if I’d go out on a limb and predict another 25-win season, but my sense is our men’s team will continue their successful ways.
There’s little uncertainty on the women’s side of things where the Jimmies open the season ranked No. 11 nationally in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll.
This team is loaded for bear, metaphorically speaking, of course. The Jimmie women are talented, hard-working, very well coached, and motivated to make another run at a national championship this year.
The team is coming off a 27-5 season with a 12th-place finish in the final NAIA Division II national poll.
A second-round loss to eventual champion Northwestern of Iowa at the national tournament ended the season. The only starter gone from last year’s team is guard Kellie Schuneman, who will certainly be missed. She closed out her Jimmie career with an excellent season, averaging 7.5 points a game while shooting 85 percent from the free throw line, 46 percent from the field, and almost 40 percent from the 3-point arc. She also collected her 1000th point.
Honorable mention All American Bridget Schuneman returns at the center position. Schuneman averaged 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game last year, and is a dominant player in the low post.
Amber Ramlo returns at forward. The former Blue Jays averaged 7.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game last season, while shooting 45 percent from the field, 36 percent from 3-point range, and 70 percent from the charity stripe. She’s a power forward with a wonderful shooting touch, a rare combination.
Point guard Hannah Steele returns for her junior year after another solid season. Steele averaged 7.8 points, about four assists and two steals a game, while knocking down 79 percent of her free throws. She’s an excellent ball handler and passer, and like the whole team, solid defensively.
Fourth returning starter Casey Geffre is out with a knee injury and should be back after New Year’s Day. There are plenty of options to fill out the starting lineup. Carly Jensen averaged 7.4 points per game and shot 37 percent from the 3-point arc while Morgan Mathison averaged 13 minutes and 4.7 points a game.
Like the starting lineup, the supporting cast is extremely strong on this team. Coach Ulland enjoys the luxury of being able to rest his starters without experiencing a drop-off in performance on the court. At the NAIA Division II level, this team should prove to be among the best in the country once again.
The schedules are back loaded with home games this season. The men have only five home games between now and New Year’s Day, while the women have just six. Both teams will play four at home in January and at least four in February, including the A.I.I. tournament, which Jamestown is hosting this year. With the lack of home games early in the season, basketball junkies like me will need to make good use of the Jimmie athletics web site and the sports pages of the Sun to keep up.
Well that’s it. Some new faces and a bit of uncertainty on the men’s side, and what should be another solid season on the women’s side. Now folks, remember, get out to the Civic Center and support these teams!
Mark Schuttenhelm is a contributor to the Opinion Corner