BY CHRISTIAN PHILLIPS
Tiger basketball fans should be excited about both women’s and men’s basketball for the 2018 – 2019 season. Men’s basketball head coach, Mark Johnson, has 11 returners coming back, and his fans should be familiar with their winning mentality. The only unanswered aspect that the FHSU men’s team faces is the guy that puts the team on their back down the stretch.
“We did lose Hadley Gillum, who was our leading scorer and I think that’s our biggest question we have coming in,” said Johnson. “We have more pieces to work with this upcoming season, but who’s that guy that can go get you 17-18 a night – the guy who can carry you through late in games. So, I think that’s what we will try and figure out.”
Johnson also said senior forward Brady Werth was “the lead candidate” going into the season to be their go-to guy. Werth averaged about 15 points-per-game in the last 11 games of the season.
The women’s team is in a similar situation as the men. With a majority of the team returning for another run, Tiger fans can expect nothing but an improvement from a year ago (2017-18 record 26-7). Head Coach Tony Hobson is confident that his team can hit the floor running to start the season.
Most of the weight will fall on the shoulders of the two seniors, forward Tatyana Legette and guard Carly Heim. Hobson wasn’t shy on giving his opinion on his two senior stars.
“Carly is a very steady player and not terribly flashy, she just gives us what we need on a game by game basis,” said Hobson. “She’s a good three-point shooter, but she doesn’t take a lot of them because sometimes we don’t need that. She’s a good defender, and she’s not great-great at anything, but she’s way better than average at everything.”
Regarding Legette, Hobson had similar remarks.
“We’ve seen flashes of improvement her first two years, but consistent wise she didn’t give it to us every game and I think that’s the biggest thing coming from high school to college,” he said. “In high school, you have people physically outmatched and you can run over them, but it doesn’t happen in college very often. You have to come ready to play every night, but last year she was just way more consistent. I think she also learned how to mentally prepare a little bit better, and knew what was coming and hopefully, she’s ready for a good year.”
With both the Tiger men and women returning multiple key pieces, both Johnson and Hobson were quick to point out that each team should experience a high level of success. Johnson, in particular, doesn’t feel that his team will lose any ground after leading scorer Gillum graduated and being picked 7th in the preseason poll.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a rebuilding year. We were picked 7th in the polls, which is probably the lowest we’ve ever been picked, not sure how much polls matter,” Johnson said. “We feel like we have enough experience back and with the guys we’ve added, we are expecting good things. If we stay injury free, then we are going to finish better than 7th.”
Johnson also stated that he feels like the men’s side of the league is a little more open compared to the last couple of years.
Hobson also said his team has the pieces to compete right away.
“Well it’s not a rebuilding year, I don’t think we’ve had a rebuilding year for the last seven years,” Hobson said. “We should hit the floor running, last year we were very fortunate because everyone that had returned, we had about 6 players that had played a lot and every one of them had played better.
“Only time will tell, and expectations are fairly high for this team.”
The men’s team will open the 2018-2019 season on the road in Marshall, Minnesota as they take on Sioux Falls on November 9. While the women open the season with a pair of exhibition games against Division I Kansas and Kansas State before opening the regular season at home against Southwest Minnesota State also on November 9.