DICKINSON, N.D. – The Blue Hawks prepare to open the 2014-15 season on Friday (Oct. 17) against the University of Regina in Scott Gymnasium at 7 p.m. This season, the Blue Hawks will not only take on a new direction under Justin Wetzel, but will compete in the North Star Athletic Association.
"The expectation for myself as the new head coach is to establish our toughness, our culture of effort and execution," said Wetzel. "That's our only expectation right now. It [the North Star] is an underrated basketball league, a league where Dickinson State, who has been well coached, has gone 9-13 in the past three seasons. The small first step in a marathon and that step for us is establishing our culture of toughness. I think we have done that this fall."
During the 2013-14 campaign, the Blue Hawks finished 2-2 against NSAA opponents. Dickinson State swept Valley City St., 2-0, and went a combined 0-2 against Jamestown and Mayville State. Last season, Tevin Russell scored 17 points against Jamestown, 22 points in the second meeting against Valley City, and 16 against Mavyille.
Wetzel's appointment as the head coach of Dickinson State made him the youngest person ever to be named a head coach at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels.
"I try to take an experience from every level that I have been blessed to coach," Wetzel said.
Wetzel has served under former University of Idaho Head Coach, and current Gonzaga men's basketball operations assistant, George Pfeifer, while at Montana State University Billings. He also worked under current MSUB Head Coach Jamie Stevens. In 2008, Wetzel was the head coach for the Butte Daredevils of the Continental Basketball Association. From 2006-2008, he had the chance to work with long-time NCAA Division I head coach Steve Aggers, and former Boston Celtic Steve Wedman.
Last season the Blue Hawks fell to the University of Regina 83-79 in Regina. Wetzel said last season's contest is not on the Blue Hawks' minds.
"No, not at all. I don't think it is in our guys' heads," Wetzel said. "One of the things we have accomplished at camp is that our beginning is now."
The 2014-15 offseason allowed for a host of new players to find chemistry for the upcoming season.
"Chemistry is very important," Wetzel said. I think where we are at, for the time of the season, we are on our way. Basketball is a reactionary game and a fluid game. We don't have the ability to stop and huddle up after a play. It is a game dictated on chemistry."
This season's newcomers are: guard Billy Engel, guard Jacob Gondrezick, post Connor Donaldson, guard Curtis Redd, forward Myka Brown, and guard Liam Thomas. They will join the nine returners, headlined by senior Russell. Last season, Russell averaged 16.1 points per game, scoring 436 points in 785 minutes.
The Blue Hawks will open conference play on January 21, against Mayville State. Dickinson State will open play on October 17 against the University of Regina at home, before heading up to the University of Montana Western for a tournament where they will tackle Rocky Mountain College and Western.
Dickinson State's schedule features six games against NAIA Division I powerhouses, as well as four games against NCAA Division II opponents.
"We are excited to be playing a very challenging non-conference schedule," Wetzel said. "This will help prepare us for the tough NSAA league play."
Tip-off for Friday (Oct. 17) is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Scott Gymnasium