VIDEO: Minnesota West signs 7 to men's basketball teamWORTHINGTON — The season may be over for Minnesota West’s men’s basketball team, but the quest for victory never ends for a coach.
WORTHINGTON — The season may be over for Minnesota West’s men’s basketball team, but the quest for victory never ends for a coach.
For a coach of a two-year college, it’s a new roster essentially every season.
“It makes you fresh in having to get new leads and also fill a need,” MW coach Justin Heckenlaible said. “We have a great returning nucleus and we think the guys we have signed thus far are really going to fill a lot of those needs.”
Heckenlaible is familiar with the nuances of recycling a lineup. There was just one sophomore on the Bluejays’ roster last season. For next season, MW is returning six players, including All-State forward Mitch Hopkins and All-Division guard Luke Roddy.
“Last year, we had like nine points coming back and this year I think we have 45 or 46 points, so it’s a much, much different outlook,” Heckenlaible said.
There’s no such thing as being content when you’re a college coach. Heckenlaible has seven new additions to the Blue Jay lineup, adding John Soundingsides, of Wyoming Indian High School, Tyler Aquallo, of Rapid City Central (S.D.), Logan Ahlers, of Ellsworth, Brady Nissen, of Harris-Lake Park (Iowa), Tyson Langdeau (S.D.), Taylor Lupton (S.D.) and Jackson Seitzinger (S.D.) with two or three possible signings still on the horizon.
“All these kids have either had really great senior years or been in state tournaments or are all-state players,” Heckenlaible said. “They’ve all come from great programs and also played against really, really good competition.”
MW was looking for winners and shooters.
Soundingsides led Wyoming Indian to their third state championship in the past four years this season, earning Class 2A Player of the Year honors, averaging 22.8 points, 5.9 assists and 3.9 steals per game. If the Bluejays wanted shooting, perhaps a 65-point performance, in which Soundingsides netted 17 3-pointers, or the fact he hit more then 400 3-pointers in his high school career tickled their fancy.
“We just did not shoot the ball very well last year,” Heckenlaible said. “That was the No. 1 thing going into the recruiting process.
“If we could have guys who could shoot it, we could make up for a lot of the other things. Jon is definitely one of those guys.
Aquallo was a Mr. Basketball finalist in 2011, averaging 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds that season.
“We recruited him really hard out of high school last year and he decided to take a year off and he get some academics straightened out and he’s really turned his life around,” Heckenlaible said. “He and (MW shooting guard) Orie Brown are very good friends.
“He and Orie are going to be a good combination on the wings. With Jon shooting and Tyler and Orie on the wings, we’re very excited with that combination.”
A team cannot function well without its workhorse. Ahlers won’t fill up the stat sheet, but the All-Red Rock Conference honorabl mention will do what is asked of him.
“I like to do anything that can give the team the best chance to win,” Ahlers said. “I really like the (MW) team.”
Ahlers is ready to work.
“I need to work on everything,” Ahlers said. “Everything is a lot faster and more physical at the next level.”
Another area addition to the Bluejays was Nissen. Nissen helped led H-LP to a 22-1 record this season, averaging 15.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He finished with 976 points, 453 rebounds and 115 steals in his high school career. The two-time first team All-Cornbelt Conference guard went with the sport he loved over the one, which he was more pursued for.
“I had a lot of offers to play football, but I love basketball,” Nissen said. “I need to work on about everything.”
Langdeau scored 14 points per game as the point guard for a Chamberlain team that went 20-6 last season. More importantly, he wanted the ball when most others don’t.
“(Chamberlain) was in the state tournament this last year,” Heckenlaible said. “In the first round, they were down by three and he came down and shot the three.
“Unfortunately, it went in and out, but he’s the type of kid that wants the ball at the end of the game. Not every player wants that.”
Seitzinger is another player all over the stat sheet. He averaged 13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game earning all-conference honors
“He’s one of those kids that when he’s on your team, you really like him, but when you’re playing against him, he’s kind of a peasky guy.”
Finally, there’s the big man in Lupton. The 6-foot-5 forward was the sixth man for Washington and led the Warriors in blocked shots.
“He really can get up,” Heckenlaible said. “He can really dunk the basketball.
“(To get a kid from Sioux Falls) will open up another recruiting area for us. I reall think he’s going to be a kid that is really going to progress in the next two years.”
With four starters returning and this competition coming in, the Bluejays have the ability to compete.
“We are going to shoot more threes because of our personnel,” Heckenlaible said. “Defensively, we have enough athletes that we can do some more running and jumping and trapping in the full court.
“There’s always kids out there, but I really, really like the pieces we have thus far. We have a couple more that we have a really good shot at. I’m excited already.”
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy may be reached at 376-7328.