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Rebound in Valley City

It's been a quick turnaround for the Valley City State men's basketball team this season. After a rough 2014-15 season, coach Jeff Kaminsky overhauled the roster and the results so far can not be disputed. At 11-2 heading into tonight's exhibitio...

It's been a quick turnaround for the Valley City State men's basketball team this season.

After a rough 2014-15 season, coach Jeff Kaminsky overhauled the roster and the results so far can not be disputed.

At 11-2 heading into tonight's exhibition game against UND at Grand Forks, the Vikings are just one win away from matching last season's entire total.

"I think when you have good players who are committed to playing hard and playing together, that's usually a good combination," Kaminsky said. "I liked the guys we had last year, but it just wasn't the right mix. The guys we brought in this year have fit in really well.

"The good thing is this team practices really well. There's never been any issue with effort and competing and they care mainly about team success."

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The cupboard was not bare coming into the season with returning contributors in sophomore Jayden Ferguson and juniors Riley West and Ellwood Ellenson. However, it was a tricky needle to thread for Kaminsky and longtime assistant Nathan Stover to work a half dozen newbies into the fold.

"Bringing in six transfers, I'm generally not a fan of that formula, but if you're fortunate to get the right mix of guys you can have some success pretty quickly and that's what's happened with our group," Kaminsky said.

Ferguson is having a banner campaign. The Williston native is averaging 17.4 points and 5.1 rebounds, but right behind him in scoring are a pair of newcomers in Darryl Howell (15.8 ppg) and Justyn Galloway (12 ppg).

"Both of those guys have been really good," Kaminsky said. "They've fit in really well and done what we've asked them to do."

The Vikings are averaging nearly 90 points per game with balanced scoring punch. Their success can not be chalked up to a cupcake schedule, just the opposite in fact. The Vikings are 4-1 against teams that were ranked or receiving votes when they played them, including an impressive 66-60 win over 13th-ranked Bellevue, Neb., on Saturday.

They've also faced steep competition in exhibition play with the likes of Division I Marquette and NDSU.

The rest of the NAIA has taken notice of the Vikings' fast start, going from unranked and not receiving votes in the preseason poll to No. 19 in the latest rankings.

"We've always tried to schedule challengingly, like Jamestown does, because we feel it gets us prepared for conference play, and the way our conference is shaping up this year, it's going to be very important to have played good teams because our conference is as strong as it's been since I've been here," Kaminsky said.

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The veteran coach is in his 11th season at VCSU.

"Our conference right now has the second-best winning percentage (in the NAIA) behind the Crossroads (conference)," Kaminsky said. "Our conference has always been competitive, but you can really see this year with how well our league has fared outside of our conference.

"It helps obviously when you add teams like Bellevue, Waldorf and Viterbo and with Bellevue being a national power, but the rest of our conference looks really good. Jamestown is very good. Dickinson is better. We're better. Mayville and Dakota State have nice teams. Our conference looks really, really strong."

To Kaminsky's point, North Star Athletic Conference teams currently hold a combined record of 66-36. Only Mayville State (5-6) and Viterbo (5-7) are under .500, while four of the nine teams are ranked or receiving votes-Bellevue (13), Valley City State (19), Jamestown (receiving votes) and Waldorf College (RV).

Kaminsky said standing pat or regressing never work, but especially this year.

"It's nice to be recognized, but the only brief comment I made to our team (about the poll) is that it only really matters at the end of the year," he said. "There are so many games still to be played that to worry about the poll or any of that just isn't going to do any good.

"I think we have a fairly mature team and they're not going to get too high on themselves. There's still too much work to be done."

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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