Under a month until the University of St. Thomas Men’s Basketball Team travels to Berkeley, CA for the season opener. Today, the teams and media started the season where they will end in March at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Pre-Season 4th ranked Tommies sent Coach Johnny Tauer and Preseason First-Teamer Parker Bjorklund to represent the purple. Here were the takeaways:
Word of the Day: “Foundation”
Coach Tauer and Parker both were asked a couple times about season expectations they mentioned having a good foundation for the program’s future as a successful outcome from the season.
St. Thomas, once again, is projected to start 3 Division III players. Raheem Anthony is coming off an All-American season at St. Mary’s University scoring 24.6 points per game, and 42% from beyond the arc. JT has seen D3 players immediately adapt to the higher level of competition, so it should not be a surprise that Mr Anthony should come and immediately be expected to make an impact. Die-Hard St. Thomas fans may remember him from his game against the Tommies in the MIAC Semis in late February 2020 when he went 28-10-3 (UST won 79-66).
Coach Tauer on being UST’s pre-season 4th place ranking:
“I know we were picked 10th our first year, I know we were picked 8th last year…I don’t pay any attention to those”
UST last season was able to exceed their pre-season expectations because so many of their players had played together for so long, compared to the high turnover seen around the league. The jump in ranking is probably league voters seeing the benefits that continuity among players+staffs have, not only at UST but at SDSU, NDSU, and ORU. Coach did list those 3 other schools as the teams that the league champion is likely to come from.
Coach Tauer on replacing the 3 point scoring from Riley Miller and Andrew Rohde:
“We aren’t gonna have a guy step into Riley’s shoes, or one guy step into Andrew’s shoes, it is going to be by committee”
UST lost over half of their three point production, JT elaborated they are well positioned with the 11 returning guys and the newcomers to accomplish that prolific 3 point shooting their are known for. The obvious candidates to replace that level of production immediately are Kendall Blue, Raheem Anthony, and Brooks Allen. Parker Bjorklund had 90% of his 30 3 pointers come in conference play. Parker in explaining what he has worked on in the off-season mentioned his perimeter play. Brooks in the final game last season versus the Conference Champions ORU scored 5 three pointers, that allowed UST to be closer in that game then the eventual runner-ups NDSU. My money is on Kendall Blue to have the biggest long range impact early in the season.
The Challenges of Mid-Major Division 1:
2 things were unsurprisingly mentioned: scheduling, and recruiting. NDSU’s Dave Richman had a good (for the media) quote saying “I’m gonna go on a soap box here…Non-conference scheduling is the hardest part of the mid-major job right now.” Coach Tauer in less colorful terms explained how he was surprised at the difficulty, and how Asst. Coach Mike Maker is constantly on the phone scheduling. I think UST has done a tremendous job, given the situation, getting on P6 Basketball schedules. The new Anderson Arena, open in two seasons, will add compelling home-home series to the UST MBB schedule in the future.
Parker on returning for year 6 of school:
“College basketball is special, you only get one chance to play. I wanted to finish out my eligibility…It was a no-brainer.”
He also said he is not going to be Dr Bjorklund at the end of the year, although that will not stop me from saying it. UST’s first opponent Cal played with a seventh year player, DeJuan Clayton, last season. He is still in the portal with eligibility somehow in case JT wants to add his 7 years of experience+competetive intel to the roster.
Parker on the trip to Italy
“[The Italy Trip] really brought our team together…We were able to connect with one another a lot better…That plays a big role in having a good team, and we are gonna kinda just use that momentum these next few weeks to head into the season and get after it.”
Teams are allowed one foreign trip every four years, it is a winning edge to be able to play competitive basketball in advance of practice starting, we will see if that pays off with early season success.
1.) Coach Tauer brushed off Field of 68’s question/implication of UST’s jump to the Big East. Reiterated how happy UST is in the Summit League.
2.) Charley Walters reported that Andrew Rohde‘s NIL deal was worth $150k/yr for 3 years to transfer to UVA. Per on3’s NIL marketplace, Former Bison Grant Nelson is worth 170k/year, Max Abmas 131k/year
3.) If you haven’t already, the best money spent is on a Summit League Network subscription.