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New faces abound for DWU men

The Dakota Wesleyan men's basketball team starts a new season today, with a new cast of players. The Tigers graduated three senior staples last season in Trae Bergh, Jade Miller and Terrell Newton. The trio helped DWU reach the NAIA national tour...

Dakota Wesleyan's Tate Martin goes up for a layup last season against Hastings College at the Corn Palace. (Republic file photo)
Dakota Wesleyan's Tate Martin goes up for a layup last season against Hastings College at the Corn Palace. (Republic file photo)

The Dakota Wesleyan men's basketball team starts a new season today, with a new cast of players.

The Tigers graduated three senior staples last season in Trae Bergh, Jade Miller and Terrell Newton. The trio helped DWU reach the NAIA national tournament the last two seasons, including a national runner-up finish in 2015.

DWU will now feature five underclassmen in its top eight-man rotation, including three freshmen. The rest of the regular rotation will consist of a senior and two juniors.

"We are young, especially at our guard positions," DWU coach Matt Wilber said. "We have been lucky enough to be playing pretty much upperclassmen for the majority of our minutes and this year, it is going to be about half-and-half with young guys."

Wilber, starting his fourth season at DWU, hopes to see the young team make strides during the season.

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"We are going to have to be building, building, building all the time to keep getting better with this group," Wilber said. "Practices are going to have to be as important as games and all that stuff, but I am looking forward to it."

DWU, which went 23-11 last season, will host Waldorf College at 7 p.m. today at the Corn Palace in its season opener.

Despite the newness surrounding the team, the Tigers will start three familiar faces in senior Tate Martin, junior Trae Vandeberg and junior Jason Spicer. Martin, a point guard from Mitchell, was an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American last season. Last season, he tied the school record for assists in a season with 227. Vandeberg averaged 11 points per game and Spicer contributed 4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds a game.

Two freshmen Ty Hoglund and Nate Davis are also expected starters tonight, but the starting lineup will likely depend on the opponent, said Wilber.

Freshman Collin Kramer, sophomore Kellen Barden and sophomore Aaron Ahmadu could also crack the starting rotation.

"I think it could be any of those top eight, frankly could be in our starting lineup on any given night," Wilber said.

The Tigers not only have versatility with their starting lineup but also versatility with their personnel. With the exception of point guards Martin and Ahmadu, DWU's other guards can play multiple positions.

"Tate Martin is going to be pretty solid at the one," Wilber said. "Trae Vandeberg will be able to float around at any of the wing positions. Ty Hoglund is in that mode, maybe doesn't float as far down at Trae Vanderberg will, but he is going to play on the wing and then you have Nate Davis in there."

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Hoglund has created plenty of buzz since he committed to the Tigers. The 6-foot-3 southpaw from Dell Rapids was the South Dakota Mr. Basketball last season. He's the first Mr. Basketball to play at DWU since Armour's Austin Ledeboer (1997).

Wilber said what sets Hoglund apart are his intangibles and his coachability.

"He is just a high character kid and then there are some moments where we are like, 'That is a pretty good play,' " Wilber said. "He has got some athleticism and ability on the wing that is really good. We are going to count on him."

DWU will count on Spicer and Barden in the post. Barden chipped in with 2.6 points per game last season.

"We are going to need those guys to make a step for us," Wilber said. "They both bring different things to the table, but those two guys are going to be key pieces for us."

Kramer, a rangy 6-foot-7 forward from Volga, will also see heavy minutes in the post.

"I have been really impressed with Collin Kramer," Wilber said. "There have been days like, 'Hey this guy is really going to be a player for us,' So that is exciting."

After tonight's game against Waldorf, the Tigers will play an exhibition game at Division I UNLV in Las Vegas on Nov. 1. It will be the first of two trips to Las Vegas, as the Tigers will also play there again during a classic before Christmas.

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DWU will also play in classics in Sioux Falls and in Mitchell and will start Great Plains Athletic Conference play against Dordt on Nov. 16.

"This is the toughest schedule we are going to play since I have been here," Wilber said.

The Tigers were picked No. 3 in the GPAC preseason poll and are No. 25 in the preseason NAIA poll.

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