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MW basketball: New recruits give Bluejays more hope

WORTHINGTON -- The 2016-17 Minnesota West Community and Technical College men's basketball team gave off flashes of brilliance, but wins were not plentiful.In 2017-18, second-year head coach Kris Babler says he'll field a team that's bigger and s...

WORTHINGTON -- The 2016-17 Minnesota West Community and Technical College men’s basketball team gave off flashes of brilliance, but wins were not plentiful.
In 2017-18, second-year head coach Kris Babler says he’ll field a team that’s bigger and stronger, with more versatility, and it’ll be a team that knows how to develop the teamwork mentality.
“Bigger through the roster. Better athletes through the roster,” Babler said this week in his office at the school’s Center for Health and Wellness. “We’ve got an interesting team. Very interchangeable parts this year.”
Gone are Brandon Harcula, who signed to play his sophomore season with a South Carolina school; and Trevoris Waugh, who returned home to Miami. Jayden Hampton’s availability for the Jays is still uncertain.
Two redshirt freshmen, Jeffery Hudson of Cristo Rey in Minneapolis, and Tyrone Walker, of Graceland University in Iowa who struggled with injury last season, will play with the locals this year. Returning to the squad are Darin Hesebeck, a 6-6 Lake Park, Iowa, product who started a little bit in 2016-17; Jordan Snelling, 6-3, of Inver Grove Heights; and Kuol Chol, 6-5, of Ames, Iowa.
Chol is the big piece. He averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last year.
“Actually, we want a little less from him,” Babler said. “He had too much on his plate. We think we can be a better team is we ask him to a little less offensively and a little more defensively.”
Babler is excited about several new players who’ve signed or made verbal commitments.
Included in that group is Teddy Taylor, a 6-7 athlete from Flandreau, S.D., who is expected to patrol the inside with force. Taylor is an interesting player -- he suffered a concussion during his high school football days that was so serious, he lost feeling in an arm for a week.
Now, he’s a physical presence for the Bluejays. “The size that we missed last year. Good defensive forward. Strong. Physical,” Babler describes him.
Also on board is 6-5 Devon Jacobson of Tri-City United, a long, rangy athlete with some shot-blocking skills. Babler likes his smarts, saying he’s a kid who could flourish at the college level.
Alex Preston, a 6-3 guard from Prior Lake, is described by the Minnesota West coach as a “knock-down high percentage shooter.”
Zion Henderson, 6-5, of Hot Springs, S.D., was a post in high school but will probably play farther out from the basket. He’s rangy, and has room to develop.
Antoine Williams, 6-1, of St. Peter, is a very good leaper and plays above the rim.
These, and likely a few more, will be joining the Bluejays in an attempt to become a more consistent team. Babler said defense will be a key.
“I think that’s what this group is going to hang its hat on,” he said.
Despite the occasional struggles of the Bluejays last season (they sometimes appeared to be a team that lacked the ability to follow through on their opportunities) Babler saw it as a growth opportunity. Actually, he said, the team probably performed as well as it was able.
“That group really did achieve a lot for how young they were and how inexperienced the sophomore class was,” he said.
And this year …
“There’s more guys who understand what it takes to be successful.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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