Christian Zylstra – Staff Writer
Dordt College men’s basketball missed the NAIA Division II tournament for the second straight season last year, but with another young and talented roster, the Defenders feel that the pieces are there to construct a run through the GPAC and contend for a spot in Point Lookout, MO, next March.
2015-16 Record: 15-16 (9-11 GPAC)
2015-16 GPAC Tournament: Quarterfinal loss at Nebraska Wesleyan, 111-98
Head Coach: Ross Douma
Assistant Coaches: Derek Keizer, Kyle Hiemstra and Brandon Schwebke
Key Returning Players:
Dordt College returns four starters from last season, and eight varsity players as a whole. Among those four returning starters are Dalton Franken, Andrew O’Donnell, Leighton Sampson and Alec Henrickson. Sampson was last season’s leading scorer, averaging 16.1 PPG. Franken, who averaged 15.3 PPG, was second on the team in scoring.
Key Players Missing:
The biggest shoes that the Defenders have to fill belong to Nathan Rindels, the team’s leading rebounder (8.1 RPG) and assist man (5.8 APG). Rindels was third on last year’s team in scoring with 15.2 PPG. Other missing contributors include sharpshooter Bryan Sumner, wingman Austin Bykerk and Grant Harkness.
New Faces to Watch:
With numerous fresh faces, plenty of guys will have the chance to step up and earn playing time. Among the roster’s 10 underclassmen (five freshmen and five sophomores) will be freshman guard Marcus Winterfeld, who earned a start in Dordt’s 2016-17 season-opening victory over Calvary University (Mo.). Other young guns to watch include Late Night with the Defenders dunk champion Chad Barkema, guard Chandler Brunsting and forward Josh Van Lingen.
Keys for the Season:
Team health is always key over the long stretch of the season, but it will be another critical factor in helping determine Dordt’s on-court success. The past several seasons have been riddled with career- or season-ending injuries. Franken and Taylor Feenstra both missed substantial time last season with injuries, but the two appear to be starting out healthy as the season gets underway.
Other keys include Dordt’s defensive effort and the potential use of zone defense, as well as rebounding. Dordt figures to mix in some more zone defense into the defensive scheme this season to take advantage of Dordt’s length and combat the three-point shooting that is so prevalent in the GPAC (e.g., Briar Cliff). The Defenders struggled to rebound at times last season, led by Nathan Rindels, the team’s starting point guard, in that category. No one else averaged more than 5.6 RPG.
“It is critical for our upperclassmen who have experience to teach our freshmen how to prepare and play each night,” Douma said. “Our freshmen are talented and are going to be very good at some point. We just hope that it’s tomorrow and not two months from now.”
“My confidence in our team comes from the vast amount of potential that the freshmen on our team have,” Franken said. “We show signs of being a really good team all the time in practice and in the scrimmages we had before the season started. We just have to continue to work together and become a more consistent team.”
“We are definitely not a flashy team, so it will be important for us this season to beat teams up on the defensive end of the floor and, most importantly, to beat teams on the boards to limit their second-chance points and to increase our second-chance point opportunities,” said senior guard Danny Vos.