Caleb Nelson: Ennema at ease in the Big Time
Is your NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket busted?
I’m a competitive person but this time of year for me usually winds up being more about the upsets that can happen than it is about my domination — or lack thereof — in any bracket challenge, though I entered three of them.
On Thursday upsets were celebrated by Dayton, Harvard and North Dakota State. Friday, Mercer — seeded 14th and the winners of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the same conference Florida Gulf Coast emerged from last year — dethroned third-seeded Duke, which is coached by Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest Division I college basketball coach of all time.
Either way, I’m excited to continue to watch the tournament. It just doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for excitement or enthralling story lines. Two of our neighbors to the south — Iowa and Nebraska — each had two entrants to the tournament. I wonder when the last time that happened was.
But there are a select few area players who have cemented themselves in some way or another in college basketball glory, and I thought, that in the heat of March Madness, it would be a great time to highlight a few of these stories. They are Sheldon’s Dallas Ennema, Ellsworth’s Casey Schilling and Worthington’s Jalen Voss.
Ennema plays for Albany in NCAA March Madness
One of the biggest stories that I’ve been following in the last 24 hours has been the collegiate career of Sheldon graduate Dallas Ennema. A strong force for the Orabs last year in their quest and capture of a Class 3A boys state basketball championship, Ennema scored 10 points in the state championship game, where they defeated West Fork, 48-36.
At the University at Albany, Ennema has played forward and mostly comes off the bench, as he did in the Great Danes’ first-round loss to Florida Thursday afternoon. Ennema scored a career-high 12 points in a game earlier this season with Binghamton and also brought down a career-best seven rebounds in that game.
According to his school’s website, he was named the America East Rookie of the Week on December 23.
There is no doubt that last year’s Sheldon team that went 24-2 was a special one, and a big part of that team was Ennema, longtime boys basketball coach Claude Struve said. Last year’s team happened to be Struve’s final one, as he retired following a 40-year career that included 33 years as head coach.
“(We had a team) that played great defense. We weren’t the best perimeter shooting team but we had two big guys inside,” Struve recalled of last year’s team, mostly referring to Ennema and 6-8 senior Josh Gradert. “(Dallas) was probably our best perimeter shooter but he could do a little bit of everything. He’ll take you off the dribble. He is 6-6 but could play more like a guard. He was a matchup nightmare for you if you played him man-to-man. He can pass the ball really well and shoot it really well.”
When Ennema was nearing high school, people told Struve he could possibly have someone special coming up. Struve said a few things have ended up making Ennema unique amongst a crop of good players he’s coached.
“Offensively there was no question whether he could play at the Division I level, but I wondered about his defensive effort,” Struve said. “Sheldon has had many good players but Dallas was fun to coach because of his great skill and commitment to the game. Against Stony Brook (in the conference championship) he played great defense — and he’ll continue to get stronger and better.
“Both games were in the afternoon,” Struve said of the Great Danes’ conference title game and their first-round NCAA tournament game with Florida. “When Dallas was in the game, I hit record.”
Schilling and Voss end basketball season with honors
Perhaps no area small-college player finished with a more decorated basketball season than did Augustana College sophomore Casey Schilling, a graduate of Ellsworth.
The younger brother of former Vikings standout Cody Schilling, Casey received Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference First Team mention this winter. He started all 30 games through the season and led the Vikings in scoring, with 18 points per game, rebounds (8.4), blocks (37 total) and steals (53). He was second in the conference in scoring, fourth in rebounding, 10th in assists and fourth in steals. Last week, Schilling received mention as a Daktronics All-Central Region Second-Teamer.
At Dakota Wesleyan University, Worthington graduate Jalen Voss, now a junior, improved yet again this season. An All-American honorable mention last season, the forward attained third-team status this year after pacing his team with 20.9 points per game this winter and collecting 7.4 rebounds per game. The Tigers ended their season with a 73-68 loss to Minnesota State University-Mankato in the NSIC tournament. DWU defeated Northern State, 66-64, in the first-round.