Monday, August 20, 2012

MSU football: As normal as possible

The Minnesota State football team wrapped up practice Monday night with interim coach Aaron Keen, and afterward, Keen and a couple players talked about life without a head coach.

MSU football coach Todd Hoffner was removed from practice Friday afternoon and taken from campus. The university has not divulged any details, other than say that Hoffner is on administrative leave.

AD Kevin Buisman appointed Keen, the associated head coach and offensive coordinator, as the interim coach, mainly because of previous head-coaching experience.

Keen will take over Hoffner's responsibilities as receivers coach, and Ron Planz will absorb Hoffner's special-teams responsibilities.

Keen said that the players have remained focused on football, despite some trying times.

WR Adam Thielen and DE Chris Schaudt both said that they were completely blindsided by the Hoffner incident, and both said that Hoffner had not tried to contact them or any of the players.

They both said that the coaches have done a great job of keeping them focused on the season-opener Aug. 30 at Minot State, and that the season's goals haven't changed.

It's certainly been a strange three days since this situation occurred. Hoffner remains at his home in Eagle Lake, and he was seen at a local business Monday afternoon.

There's plenty of speculation and rumors floating around, but there is no news as of now.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

MSU women's BB coach search gets interesting

Over the last two days, the search for the next women's basketball coach at Minnesota State has come down to two candidates: South Dakota State assistant Emilee Thiesse and Southwest Minnesota State head coach Allison Kruger.

Having spoken with both, there seems to be one difference. Thiesse is looking for her first head-coaching job, while Kruger has already had a couple seasons on the hot seat.

Thiesse's resume is good, having worked at South Dakota State and Drake as both programs have competed in the NCAA tournament. She's been the recruiting coordinator for the Jackrabbits, with a concentration on Minnesota.

She seems somewhat soft-spoken, probably doesn't have an intimidating presence on the bench. She's been on winning teams and probably has high expectations for her athletes.

Kruger's resume isn't as impressive, with some experience as an assistant at South Dakota. She's been the head coach at Southwest and won only 13 games in two seasons.

Certainly, there are greater challenges to winning at Southwest than there are at Minnesota State, but she comes across as a more experienced, confident coach, eager to accept a challenge. She also is very familiar with the current roster and the Northern Sun.

It seems that neither candidate would run the program into the ground, yet this decision comes down to which personality the search committee is looking for. The resume seems to favor Thiesse, while the head-coach experience and presence should favor Kruger.

The decision could be made before the weekend, and an announcement could come early next week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

LIVE CHAT: Minnesota State baaseball vs. St. Cloud State

Saturday, May 19, 2012

LIVE CHAT: Minnesota State baseball vs. New Mexico Highlands

Thursday, May 17, 2012

LIVE CHAT: Minnesota State baseball vs. Regis

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

MSU men's basketball gets new look

I understood when Minnesota State men's basketball coach Matt Margenthaler signed Mike Busack of Redwood Valley in the fall.

Busack is an explosive offensive player, long and lean ... the type of player that the Mavericks' head coach usually likes.

Transfer Jayme Moten doesn't fit that bill, but the Mavericks needed a point guard so badly last season that adding Moten, a transfer from Texas-Pan American, makes sense.

The Egyptian center Assem Marei was a no-brainer that fell into Margenthaler's lap. Never turn down a talented big man, and Marei might be the best player on the team next season.

This spring, Margenthaler has added Zach Monaghan (a shooter), Gage Wooten (shooter) and Jarvis Williams (aggressive offensive player at the basket) to his roster. All make sense ... offense-first, filling specific needs for a team that struggled to score last season.

But then the ol' ball coach threw basketball's version of a curveball. This week, he added Waterville-Elysian-Morristown point guard Grant Pope, a defensive-minded player who could probably go the rest of his career without ever taking a shot.

In Margenthaler's 11 seasons as a head coach, he's never recruited a player who's primary strength was defense. Never.

There have been Mavericks who played good defense, and there were others that Margenthaler called good defenders, though that was more to deflect away from their offensive deficiencies.

Pope is the real deal, a non-stop, tough, physical guard whom you need to be aware of every time you have the basketball. He set a state record with more than 500 steals in his career, often coming off his player to double team or sneak up behind the opponent. He's also very good on the ball, as the St. Peter guard found out in the subsection championship game.

He said Monday that he's not an offensive player. Never have been. Never will.

Wow. Never heard that from one of the Mavericks, at least never when I believed it.

Does this signal a change in Margenthaler's recruiting philosophy? Certainly not.

The next player to come to Minnesota State will almost certainly be an athletic, high-flying kid who can either stroke the 3 or dunk with electricity.

But it's nice to see a player get rewarded for stopping an opponent as much as scoring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Time is right for Davis to return to East football

When Eric Davis resigned as football and baseball coach at Mankato East four years ago, you knew he wasn't done coaching.

He left to take an assistant football position at Minnesota State for a couple of years, and last season, he worked as an offensive assistant with the highly successful Mankato West football team.

But as coach Dave Frisell announced his resignation Monday, saying that he was making a family decision to move to the Twin Cities where he could be closer to his mom and in-laws, Davis is the first name you think of to be the next football coach at East.

Davis was a popular coach at East from 2003-07, working with the football, boys basketball and baseball programs during that stretch. His teams were 31-19.

The Cougars have struggled the last four seasons, not because of the coach but because of diminishing talent. The program appears to be improving.

Davis will get a lot of attention over the next month as the position gets filled. There will be other candidates to emerge, though none would have the star power and light a fire in the program like Davis. He's still a teacher in the building, which makes it easier to be a coach.

It seems a foregone conclusion that Davis will be the next football coach at East. It makes a lot of sense.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mankato East vs. Grand Rapids, Class AAA quarterfinals

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LIVE CHAT: St. Peter vs. Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Class AA quarterfinals

LIVE CHAT: Mankato East vs. Grand Rapids, Class AAA quarterfinals

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Star-gazing at high-school basketball games

This is clearly the best time of the season for boys and girls basketball, with various playoff games bringing out the most dramatic performances by the top players.

On Monday night at Bresnan Arena, St. Peter and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown played a thrilling game of back-and-forth. The Saints took a shot early, the Bucs spent most of the game slowly getting back into the game and taking a 10-point lead in the final minutes, only to have St. Peter regain its mojo with an inspiring rally.

St. Peter's Joey Bartlett was clutch; he'll be attending Southwest Minnesota State in the fall. WEM's Grant Pope, who will walk on at Minnesota State, was his usual pesky self, making six steals that nearly propelled the underdog Bucs to a victory.

The second game between United South Central and Hayfield wasn't artistic, but you see what Winona State was looking at when they signed USC's Kyle Bauman. The 6-7 Bauman has a nice touch on a mid-range jumper, and he rebounds well.

On Wednesday, sophomore Carlie Wagner will lead New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva into the girls basketball state tournament. Though so young, she's already got the program scoring record and the eye of Division I coaches, who will also be present watching Braham's Rebekah Dahlman in the quarterfinal game.

Dahlman is averaging 35.5 points, Wagner is at 28.1 points. It should be a good team and individual matchup.

Come Thursday, the Mankato East boys will be looking to end a six-year absence from the state tournament. Waconia is a tough opponent, but East center Brody Ziegler, rumored to be headed to Gustavus Adolphus, leads a senior-dominated crew who will be trying to extend this memorable season.

At the end of every season, I try to take a few moments to reflect, and while I've usually seen quite a few entertaining games, it's usually the players that get remembered. This season, it's no different.

If you've spent any time watching the local boys and girls basketball playoffs, you've seen some impressive talent.

Monday, March 5, 2012

MSU women rewarded with tournament berth

The Minnesota State women's basketball team gathered in the Johnson Alumni late Sunday night to watch the NCAA selection show, and it didn't take long for the Mavericks to discover their fate.

Minnesota State was one of the first schools shown on the brackets, producing a small cheer from the players. Soon, it was obvious that the Mavericks would be facing powerful Wayne State for the fourth time, second time at Wayne.

The program's seniors Jennie Noreen and Laura Weber had to feel some satisfaction in helping the team get back into the national tournament. Both were reserves on the historic 2009 team that won the national championship, and both had survived the struggles of the last two seasons.

This season started with four nonconference wins against lesser competition, then losses at Wayne State and Augustana, correctly predicted to be the top two teams in the Northern Sun. Ali Wilkinson the team's best player, suffered a season-ending injury that seemed likely to torpedo another season.

But the Mavericks gained some momentum through eight straight wins, and it seemed probable that this team would be a threat in the conference and region. However, the Mavericks struggled over the last month, winning some key games just to get into the Northern Sun tournament.

The Mavericks will be decided underdogs at Wayne State on Friday, but last Saturday, the Mavericks had a good game plan in the loss to Wayne State, excpet for the 20-percent shooting.

Wayne State is the better team, but it wouldn't be as big of a shock here as it would be at Wayne State if the Mavericks pull the upset.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

LIVE CHAT: Minnesota State basketball vs. Wayne State

Friday, January 27, 2012

Football recruits start finding homes

The signing date for college football is Wednesday, and the commitments are starting to come in.

Mankato West quarterback Philip Nelson will sign with the University of Minnesota. He committed last fall, and he's already enrolled at Minnesota and is working out i preparation for spring practice.

Blue Earth Area tackle Jonah Pirsig, who is 6-9 and 290 pounds, also will sign with the Gophers on Wednesday.

West receiver Hunter Friesen has committed to Minnesota State. Friesen suffered a broken leg in the state semifinals but said this week that he's healing well. It will be interesting to see what position he plays. He was an all-state defensive back as a junior and all-state receiver last season.

Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial's Nate Meixell will sign with South Dakota State. He played quarterback at LCWM, but that won't be his college position.

BEA tackle Sam Lee is still trying to decide on a college. He has several Division I offers, including Minnesota, but he has two older brothers playing at Augustana so that might lure him to the Division II program.

Haven't heard much else about Minnesota State's recruiting class. Coach Todd Hoffner can't discuss recruits until he receives a signed letter of intent.

You can bet he'll have plenty to say about his incoming freshman next Wednesday night when Minnesota State hosts a signing-day gathering at downtown BW3.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quick look at Mavericks' transfer from Egypt

Took a few minutes Thursday to watch the Minnesota State men's basketball team practice, with a specific eye on Egyptian Assem Ahmed, who began practicing with the team this week.

It tells you a lot about how this season is going that the most interesting thing to watch is a player who is not yet eligible and may not play a minute this season. And his name is pronouced AW-sem, which makes for some nice nicknames should he become popular.

Though only 19, the 6-10, 240-pound Ahmed has played international basketball as a member of Egypt's national U19 team so you know he has skills. On Thursday, he showed good footwork in the post and a soft touch on his shot.

You can tell that he hasn't had a lot of coaching. When he had the ball at the top of the key, he often held it with just one hand and he made some lazy passes. Yet, he certainly knows the pick-and-roll, working that to perfection a few times in half-court drills.

He's going to need to get stronger. He didn't look real aggressive, and he wasn't afraid of contact, but some time in the weight room will further his chances of playing professional basketball, which he said is the reason he came to the U.S.

He's already the best post player on the team, and it remains to be seen how he'll rebound or if he's a shot blocker. At first glance, he seems more athletic than Travis Nelson or Atila Santos, two of the best big men ever to play at Minnesota State. He's not real outgoing, though maybe that will come as he gets more comfortable here. He was one of the first players to high-five a teammate after a good play at practice.

We'll have to see if his work ethic matches those two.

Coach Matt Margenthaler said Thursday that the process of determining Ahmed's eligibility continues to roll along, without any real sense of when it will be decided. Ahmed wants to play this season, and Margenthaler wants him in there.

If Ahmed is declared eligible immediately, the Mavericks will be able to challenge for a berth in the Northern Sun tournament. It's unlikely that his addition will put Minnesota State in position to win the conference tournament, which is the only way this team can continue the program's streak of national-tournament berths.

If Ahmed can't play until next season, that means he and Jayme Moten, who transferred here from Texas-Pan American, will be the first two building blocks for a major roster makeover. The program has already signed Michael Busack from Redwood Valley, but expect another transfer or two or three to show up before Oct. 15.

You wouldn't expect Margenthaler and his staff to meekly accept another season such as this one.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Halfway point of the Northern Sun schedule

Minnesota State reached the midway point of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference basketball season, which makes this a good time to digest what has happened.

Obviously, the men's team has struggled. You knew there would be an adjustment period after the program lost so many talented kids from last season, but you also never expected to see one of coach Matt Margenthaler's teams struggle so much.

The transfers didn't work out. Torrieo Williams was gone before the season started, and D.J. Hoskins left at semester break. Charles McNeal was going to be deep on the bench so he's taking a redshirt season.

That leaves the Mavericks with a lot of young kids, all of whom are talented. But experience is very important in this league. Zach Romashko, T.J. Okafor, Miles Chamberlain and Kelly Madison all look like they have a promising future, but the growing pains are severe.

For the most part, Stephen Kirschbaum has played well, though the team's only senior is much better when others are creating and he can shoot from the perimeter.

Sophomores Jimmy Whitehead, Connor O'Brien, Travis Meinders and Alex Hanks have all had good games, but consistency is an issue.

The outlook for this team will change if Egyptian transfer Assem Ahmed is declared eligibile and is as good as expected, but the Mavericks will be lucky to crack the top eight in the conference to qualify for the league tournament.

The womn's team has been a pleasant surprise. After starting conference play with three losses, and having top scorer and rebounder Ali Wilkinson lost to a knee injury, the Mavericks have won eight straight to move into third place in the Northern Sun.

This team is athletic and defends well, and the last five victories have been by 7 points or less, meaning the Mavericks are performing well under pressure.

Seniors Laura Weber and Jennie Noreen have been very good over the last eight games, and freshmen Aubrey Davis and Jamie Bresnahan have played above their experience.

Ali Hoefer and Jameila Hudnell have provided key minutes, and just about every player that takes the court gives the team something.

It looks like Minnesota State has a very good chance of hosting a first-round game in the Northern Sun tournament, and you shouldn't sleep on their chances to challenge for the conference title and advance in to the national tournament.

As much as the men's team has fallen from last season, the women's team has made that big of a jump.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Minnesota State basketball vs. Mary

Friday, January 13, 2012

Minnesota State basketball vs. Northern State