WolfPack men hope to challenge conference’s elite competition

Members of the Madison College men’s basketball team talk during a break in play during the Border Battle Tournament held at Madison College on Nov. 6-7.


Members of the Madison College men’s basketball team talk during a break in play during the Border Battle Tournament held at Madison College on Nov. 6-7.

Jolie Vale, Staff Writer

Five of the top six scorers from last season’s 22-11 team are gone, but the Madison College men’s basketball team has reason to be optimistic heading into this season.

This year’s roster features a couple red-shirts sophomores, a transfer from Kansas, a number of returning players and some talented newcomers.

So far, the team is off to a 1-2 start, with one loss being a two-point loss to Anoka Ramsey College on Nov. 6.

Gone from last year is leading scorer and rebounder Jerrod Walton, who transferred to West Texas A&M after scoring 15.9 points a game and grabbing 7.3 rebounds a game. Two other team leaders, Shane Kanaman (8.2 points per game) and Tanner Schieve (5.1 points a game), also moved on to four-year schools after completing their second year at Madison College.

But coach Scot Vesterdahl has several players who are ready to fill to scoring void those players left.

Kris Seffrood and Kristian Zimmerman bring valuable experience back from last year’s squad. Seffrood played in 19 games and averaged 6.2 points a game. Zimmerman played in 30 games and scored 4.9 points a game.

Joining them are Malik Henderson, a transfer from Neosho County Community College in Kansas, and red-shirt players Griffin Eckhart and Malek Lemke. Eckhart had 28 starts in the 2013-14 season and averaged 8.7 points per game. Lemke played in 27 games that year and had 12 starts.

The Clarion visited with coach Vesterdahl about his expectations for the upcoming season. His answers to our questions follow.

Question: What would you say are key elements to your coaching philosophy?

Vesterdahl: Our goal is to provide our student-athletes with the guidance and resources that they need to continue to develop in the classroom, on the court, and in the weight room.  Respect, integrity and excellence are important elements in our expectations for our players and staff.
Question: After coming off a good season what changes have you made to further improve the program?

Vesterdahl: Our expectations for off-season training were higher and our returning players did a great job of meeting them. We have had some changes in our coaching staff and I am really excited about our new coaches.  (They are) very experienced, great teachers, and even better men.  We are very fortunate to have them on our staff.   
Question: Why do you think last year was so successful?

Vesterdahl: We had a nice group of second-year players and our depth was better. We could play 11 or 12 guys, which allowed us to play at a faster tempo.
Question: What kinds of roster changes have you made during the off-season?

Vesterdahl: We now have seven returning players and we recruited eight players to join our program.
Question: How do you feel about the incoming prospects this year?

Vesterdahl: We really like our new players … they have a great work ethic and are competing every day for the opportunity to earn playing time.
Question: What do you expect from your returning players?

Vesterdahl: We expect them to be leaders in the classroom, on the floor, and in the community.  They have a unique understanding of what it took to be successful last year, and what they would like to accomplish this season. 

Question: What are the biggest challenges you think the team will face at the beginning of the season?

Vesterdahl: The same thing every team faces …preparing them for the challenges of our schedule, the full time commitment to being a student-athlete, and their roles to help us be successful.
Question: Who do you believe are your biggest competitors and why?

Vesterdahl: Rock Valley has been to the national tournament the last three years and we lost to them in the Regional Championship game last year so they are our biggest hurdle. Everyone in our conference is really good – Milwaukee, Joliet, College of DuPage, Triton. All of them are well coached and talented.
Question: What are your hopes for this upcoming season?

Vesterdahl: We would expect our second-year players to lead us through the challenges and opportunities of every game, practice, film session, weight room training, and team development.  We really like our guys and they are working hard every day to improve.