UMary ready to take next step after last year’s 6-21 campaign
They say everything is bigger in Texas but that wasn’t the case for the rims in Lancaster.
The University of Mary opened up the 2018-19 season down south on Friday and Saturday and dropped two contests to Henderson State and Southern Arkansas.
Finding the bottom of the net from long range was a challenge for the Marauders as they finished 13 for 51 from 3-point land.
UMary junior guard Jaylan White said Friday before the Marauders battled Henderson State that this early season road trip was vital.
“It’s important to get the season off on the right note,” White who finished with a team-high 17 points against SAU said. “… the wins will come.”
The Marauders are coming off a 6-21 season but welcome back just about 50 percent of their scoring and four of their top 7 scorers.
Tommy Kubank, who averaged 11 points, and 4.5 rebounds on UMary’s business trip spent the offseason overseas gearing up for his senior season.
The Adelaide, South Australia native, worked out with a professional team (Adelaide 36ers) in his home city during the offseason and traveled to China with the Sydney Kings to get some more competitive basketball under his belt.
Kubank was fortunate enough to play against former NBA center Hamed Haddadi who plays for the Iranian National Team along with teams from Germany, Czech Republic and a USA squad made up of former Division-I student-athletes.
“I think these experiences really fueled me to work harder and refine parts of my game,” Kubank said. “Because I was able to compare where I was at to some of the best players in the world and it showed me I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet but gave me a lot of motivation to keep going because I held my own.”
The Marauders were picked dead last in the Northern Sun Preseason Coaches’ Poll with 17 points. The blue and orange trailed Concordia-St. Paul by 27 points for the No. 15 spot.
Along with White and Kubank, UMary will have Matthew Kreklow — who started all 27 games last season — back in uniform for his sophomore season and arguable his most important.
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 9.2 points per game as a freshman and hauled down 4.8 rebounds. He also shot 54.3 percent from the floor — the highest on the team for players that took 100 attempts or more— and had a team-high 23 blocks.
But Kreklow isn’t the only underclassmen looking to make a splash this season. Sophomore guard Connor Hellebust will look to improve off his solid freshman year and should see time in the starting lineup this season.
Hellebust started both games over the weekend and finished with 12 points on 3 of 15 shooting.
Joe Kittell will look for contributions from North Dakota State College of Science transfer Johnnie Turner and sophomores Wyatt Carr and Lucas Mayer.
Junior transfers Evan Anderson and Richard Brown also saw minutes in the Marauders first two games of the season. However, the player everyone is excited to see play is Upper Iowa transfer Dennis Austin III.
UMary landed a starting player during the offseason in the senior guard who is familiar with the NSIC.
“He’s going to be a really key addition to our squad this year,” Kubank said about Austin III. “He’s a great dude, he knows how to play the game and he’s got a knack for making big plays.”
“He’s the kinda guy we needed to pick up to make a deep run this year and we’re all really happy he’s on board with us. More importantly he’s embraced the culture we’ve been trying to build here.”
The Marauders start 0-2 for the third straight season but will have an opportunity to break their losing streak Wednesday on the road against Montana State University Billings before their home-opener on Friday against Yellowstone Christian College.
“This year the expectation is to have a winning season,” Kubank added. “Last season was a battle night in, night out but it’s made us much stronger and determined as a group.”
“We’re optimistic as a playing group because we know that we’ve put in the work and improved a lot on where we were at last season.”