Christian Zylstra – Staff Writer
The past three seasons have been something special for Dordt Defender men’s basketball, reaching the NAIA national tournament in Point Lookout, MO each season; this year, Dordt tries to make it four years straight for the first time in school history.
Dordt College is accustomed to success on the hardwood, particularly of late. These past three seasons have each ended in a trip to the national tournament, a feat impressive on its own. Dordt’s 4-3 in the tournament the past three seasons, and has reached the quarterfinals twice during the stretch.
Dordt’s all ready made school history by making the national tournament the past three seasons. Before the 2011-12 season, Dordt made the national tournament only twice, during the 1987-88 and 2004-05 seasons; now they sit on a three-season streak.
But even with recent success, nothing is handed to Dordt. Many of the players on those past Dordt squads have graduated, and a young team has taken their place. And with every young team, there are ups and downs.
“This team plays very hard,” said Dordt head coach Ross Douma. “We’re unselfish and we move the ball well, and these guys genuinely and sincerely like each other; our chemistry is very good. But, we need to be a better team defensively on the perimeter, and we need to do a better job of taking care of the ball. Our turnover rate is too high, and we’re a young team, so some inexperience is going to show on certain nights.”
Take Dordt’s game at Briar Cliff on December 3 for example. The Defenders had a 53-45 lead with 13:05 left in the second half. After a couple Defender turnovers, Briar Cliff exploded for a 19-1 run to grab a hold of the game and ease to the finish. On the night, the Defenders gave up 13 three-pointers and turned the ball over 24 times.
“We will need to develop a consistent mindset of toughness,” said Dordt assistant coach Derek Keizer. “Once we establish that consistency, we will be in good position to fight each night for a win—whether that’s on the road or in the DeWitt. This young team will keep growing together.”
To establish that consistency, the Defenders have plenty to work on, but it is something that can be accomplished.
“It’s going to take repetition; repetition of the fundamentals,” Douma said. “We’ll continue to set out each day to improve and enjoy the process.”
Even if the Defenders are unable to make the national tournament for a fourth straight season, the season is not lost.
“Some of my best memories from previous seasons are ones that happen throughout the year, not just at Nationals,” Douma said. “It’s about balance, making it a meaningful five-month experience rather than a 10-day experience.”
With young teams, ups and downs are common. Each night will test the internal fortitude of this Defender squad, but with each game comes more experience, one of the most important components for good basketball play. One thing is certain, Dordt has the ability to play competitively, and as the year goes on, they will only get better.