Full strength: Jimmie men's basketball opens season Friday

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University of Jamestown's Mason Walters drives the ball to the inside as Hunter Mengel of Midland applies pressure Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, at the Newman. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Back in April, former University of Jamestown men's basketball standout Jon Purintun predicted the Jimmies' Mason Walters is sitting on a breakout season.

That season begins Friday for Jamestown and its 2019 Great Plains Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. The Jimmies open at Harold Newman Arena hosting Bemidji, Minnesota's Oak Hills Christian College at 7 p.m.

"I love Mason Walters, man. I coached him in AAU the last two years, so I got to know him really well before he even committed to Jamestown," Purintun said last spring. "That was such a good get, not only just because he's a great North Dakota talent, but he's just got such a passion to work hard. He's going to develop into something scary over the next couple years."

The 6-foot-9 former Jamestown Blue Jay averaged 14.2 points and 8.7 rebounds last season as a true freshman, helping UJ to an 18-13 record as a rash of injuries throughout the winter helped to derail what should've been a more promising season. Key forward Brock Schrom missed Jamestown's final 10 contests with a back injury, while All-GPAC forward Jack Talley missed UJ's final two games with a foot injury.

Walters missed eight games himself with a broken toe, costing the up-and-coming talent crucial minutes to develop chemistry with teammates.


"He was just getting into a flow, too, right before he got injured," said UJ men's basketball coach Danny Neville. "We just had a ton of injuries last year. It was just one thing after another, but this year I like our guys and I like the direction that we're headed."

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University of Jamestown's Mason Walters makes his way to the basket through Mount Marty players Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at the Newman. John M. Steiner / The Sun

It was learned publicly last week that Talley, a 6-5 senior, has been dealing with adverse effects due to contracting COVID-19 in September, but Neville said Talley will be in the starting lineup Friday.

"He's ready," Neville said.

Talley (16.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg) will be joined by projected starters Walters and Brady Birch (11 ppg, 7 rpg) in the frontcourt and guards Allante' Pickens and Marc Kjos (4.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg).

Pickens, a senior transfer, is a 5-9 point guard from Chicago, Illinois, who hit 67 3-pointers and averaged 10 points and 2.7 assists per game last season for Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. He also helped Kirkwood Community College (Iowa) win an NJCAA D-II national championship in 2019.

Schrom (11.4 ppg, 5 rpg), a 6-8 senior forward, is expected to rotate onto the floor with left-handed redshirt freshman guard Cole Woodford, junior guard Devan Praska and true freshman guard Will Cordes.


"Allante' is a playmaker and he can really shoot it, but he's also quick," Neville said. "He's unselfish and just a really, really good basketball player."

The Jimmies lost three guards to graduation in 2020: Isaiah Dobson, Terrell Alfred and Jack Frazier. Along with Talley, Birch, Schrom and Pickens, the 2020-21 UJ senior class includes guard Tanner Slag.

University of Jamestown's Jack Talley (15) slams in for two points over Brandon's Kobyn Jopp on Saturday at Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun
University of Jamestown's Jack Talley (15) slams in for two over Brandon University's Kobyn Jopp on Oct. 20, 2018, at UJ's Harold Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun

"We have a great group of seniors," said Neville, who reached 100 coaching victories last season and is entering his sixth season at the helm. "They're just always on the guys and holding them accountable."

The Jimmies averaged 87.3 points per game last winter while allowing 82.2, and were ranked fourth in the GPAC preseason coaches' poll behind Morningside, Northwestern and Dordt. Jamestown struggled to close out games down the stretch last season, losing five straight to close and failing to hold on to halftime leads in four of the five.

Jamestown's season ended in the opening round of the GPAC tournament with a 90-75 loss to Dakota Wesleyan at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

"I think one big thing that we've kinda fixed in the offseason, and especially in the preseason, is our defense and defensive intensity," Neville said. "I think that's improved drastically."


Purintun, who set the Jimmies' single-game scoring record at 45 points in December of 2018, is hoping he's not a hex on the team in 2020-21. The Jimmies host Presentation College on Oct. 28 and Valley City State on Oct. 30, before opening GPAC play hosting Morningside on Nov. 11.

"I got over to about five games last year, but hopefully this year I can get over there to a couple more and see them win," said Purintun, who lives in Bismarck. "Every game I went to they lost. I didn't know if I was bad luck or what? But, hopefully, they get back on the winning train here."

Great Plains Athletic Conference

2020-21 Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

Team Pts

1. Morningside (7) 96

2. Northwestern (2) 84


3. Dordt (1) 82

4. Jamestown (1) 77

5. Dakota Wesleyan 62

6. Concordia 57

7. Mount Marty 49

8. Briar Cliff 38

9. Hastings 28

10. Midland 22


11. Doane 10

Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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