By Stephen Eibes —
The University of Wisconsin–Stout men’s basketball team will have only five returning players this season, but with a multitude of freshman, the team looks to make the best of one of the youngest teams in recent years.
Brett Ahsenmacher (So, Annandale, Minn.) said, “To say it is a night and day difference, would be an understatement. We went from a senior-loaded, post-play-heavy team to a team consisting of mainly freshman guards.”
Stout welcomes 13 freshmen to the Blue Devil family this season.
Coach Eddie Andrist said, “We are very excited about all the new guys and we think the guys returning will do very well.”
Returning players include: Jarvis Ragland (Sr, Milwaukee), Ahsenmacher, Hank Kujak (Jr, Blair, Wis.), Reggie Kujak (Jr, Blair, Wis.) and Alex Hammond (So, Rosendale, Wis.). Ragland sat out most of the season last year due to injury, but he averaged 9.7 points per game and 3.5 rebounds in the 2012/ 2013 season. Ahsenmacher averaged 4.7 points per game and an impressive 43 3-point percentage. Hank Kujak started 17 games for the Blue Devils last season and looks to get back on the court after his football injury heals up. Reggie Kujak and Hammond both saw limited action last season, but they look to make an impact on the team immediately this season.
Ragland and other returners want to be a helpful influence on the new freshmen. Ragland wants to be a good example for the freshman both on and off the court.
Ahsenmacher said, “We all lead in our own ways and step up differently in the leading role. We all take our turns being vocal, teaching the younger players and leading by example.”
The freshmen are also looking to the upperclassmen for advice and their experience, in order to get better.
Jacob Lindgren (Fr, Crystal, Minn.) said, “The lone senior on the team, Jarvis, has been very good to me. He is a very good captain and is always looking out for me.”
Patrick D’Marcco (Fr, Kenosha, Wis.) said, “They bring good vibes and intensity to practice. They make the team feel like a family and make sure we all stay on the same page.”
The expectations and goals are simple for this team: simply get better.
“We have to approach every game as if it is the most important game of the year,” Ahsenmacher said. “It does not matter who or where we are playing, all that matters is that we play our game and we play to our best abilities.”
While John Lahti (Fr, Turtle Lake, Wis.) said, “My expectations as a freshman are to learn a lot, get better every day, have fun and enjoy the challenge.”
This idea of simply getting better can help the team play more to its strengths, rather than having to learn to a rigid system.
Coach Andrist said, “Our style will change quite a bit. We will have more of a run-and-shoot offense. We need to generate more points per game, we will press more and we will play more guys.”
More pressing, running and individual playing time will allow for more opportunity for freshman to make an impact.
Isaac Elliott (Fr, Stevens Point, Wis.) said, “I worked very hard this offseason to prepare myself for the transition to college ball. I think my shooting ability will transfer well.” D’Marcco looks to use his court vision and passing ability to help teammates score more.
The Blue Devils will again play in a tough conference; the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater won the Division III National Championship last season and will try and replicate this outcome again. Because of the tough conference, every game looks to be a key game for the young team this season.
“The next game will always be the most important,” Coach Andrist said. “It will be an ongoing process of learning and growing. We will get stronger each and every day. If we do that, we will be successful.”
Ragland said, “Every game is important and we expect to go hard and leave it all on the court.” The Blue Devils are expected to finish seventh in the WIAC this season.
The team will open the season Nov. 15 and 16 in the Gabe Miller Tip-Off at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville against Ripon College and Coe College. Stout will also host the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Shootout Nov. 29 and 30.
Be sure to catch a men’s basketball game this season. The team should be very fun to watch!