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Fresh Look: Jimmies unveil new team, new arena Friday

University of Jamestown men's basketball coach Danny Neville (top right) and the Jimmies scrimmage during practice Wednesday at Harold Newman Arena. The Jimmies open the season Friday hosting Brandon University. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Friday's first men's basketball game at Harold Newman Arena should prove to be rather fitting.

A new-look Jimmie team will take the court of its brand-new facility against Brandon University. Jamestown is replacing three senior starters with two new senior transfers and homecoming king Sam Johnson.

Tip-off tomorrow follows the Jimmie women vs. University of Manitoba at approximately 7:30.

"I feel like we're way ahead of last year," UJ men's coach Danny Neville said, whose Jimmies finished with a share of the regular season North Star Athletic Association conference title last winter. "Just where we're sitting team chemistry-wise, and understanding concepts and what we want to do. They're itching to play."

The Jimmies will need to replace roughly 50 points and 20 rebounds per game after the graduation of Jake Hagler, Logan Brown and Jacob Havron, and the departure of Riley Henderson, who played in all 32 games as a sophomore. But coach Neville and his staff lured in some interesting pieces to the puzzle in the offseason.

Seniors Leighton Sampson and Ben Weisbeck, along with junior guard Kevin Oberweiser, have transferred right into the Jimmies' starting lineup. They'll join former Linton-HMB standout Jon Purintun and Johnson, a 6-foot-4 forward.

At 6-6, 241 pounds, the Jimmies are banking on Sampson to anchor the post. The Worthington, Minn., native transferred from Dordt (Iowa), where he started 30 of 31 games and averaged 16.1 points and 5 rebounds per night as a sophomore for the Defenders in 2015-16.

Weisbeck, a 6-foot guard, comes from NCAA Division II Augustana. But before that he was a three-time all-state honoree and a North Dakota Mr. Basketball finalist at Bismarck St. Mary's.

Oberweiser was a sharp-shooting reserve for NAIA Division I Montana State-Northern last season. The 6-foot guard, from Drummond, Mont., buried 29 of 79 treys averaging just under 10 minutes per night as a junior with the Lights.

"Kevin will help us tremendously on the perimeter, and our big guy in the middle, Leighton Sampson from Dordt, he's the real deal," Neville said. "Ben is a big, strong Division II kid, and he'll help defensively and athletically."

Purintun, who packed on the muscle in the offseason and weighed in at 185 pounds this fall, should make for a physical backcourt tandem with the athletic Weisbeck. Purintun started 24 games a year ago and is the team's leading returner in scoring (10.1 ppg), rebounding (3.5 rpg), steals (23) and assists (55).

The Jimmies would probably enjoy nothing more than to top the NSAA again in the team's final go-around in the conference. Jamestown joins the Great Plains Athletic Conference next winter and has future conference foes Dakota Wesleyan, Northwestern College and Dordt on its early-season schedule.

But Neville said the Jimmies plan on keeping goals close to the vest this season.

"This year we're focusing on milestones, and our first milestone is to win our opening game," the coach said. "Then win two in a row, and then win our first game on the road.

"We don't really talk about conference championships and national tournaments," Neville added. "We talk about getting better day to day and being great teammates and people. The rest will take care of itself."

Tomorrow's matchup is the first between the Jimmies and Brandon (1-1).

"Brandon is big, long and athletic," Neville said. "We gotta worry about us and do well at the things we want to do well at, which is take care of the ball, rebound and play team basketball."

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