Men’s basketball facing great challenges in 2017-2018

The Mavericks will have many new faces on this year’s roster and an abundance of youth

The Minnesota State Mavericks Men’s Basketball team begins play this week in Pittsburgh, Kansas, as they take on Pittsburgh State on Nov. 10 at noon and Missouri Southern State on Nov. 11 at 8:00 p.m. These two games are a part of the MIAA (Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association) and the NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) Challenge. The Mavericks defeated Pittsburgh State and lost in double-overtime to Missouri Southern State in last year’s MIAA-NSIC Conference Challenge in St. Cloud.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and interview Matt Margenthaler, head coach of the Men’s Basketball team, and discuss the upcoming season for the Mavericks. Margenthaler is entering his 17th season as head coach of Minnesota State, posting a .710 winning percentage since taking the role of head coach.

Heading into the 2017-2018 basketball season, the Mavericks are ranked fifth in the NSIC Men’s Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Margethaler said that his goals for this season are the same entering every season. The first goal Margenthaler has is that he wants to win the NSIC. The other goal that he sets for every season is to reach the NCAA Tournament. In the last 13 years, the Mavericks have made the NCAA Tournament 12 times, but missed out on the tournament last season.

“The big key for us is going to be getting our guys healthy and staying healthy throughout the entire season and into the playoffs,” said Margenthaler.

Karson Arrenholz, a transfer from Sauk Valley Community College in Illinois, is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot. The Mavericks are really impressed with Arrenholz, who has been a very vocal player on the court for the Mavericks. Arrenholz is expected to return in three weeks.

The Mavericks lost some important players from last season. Jon Fuqua started 28 games, while playing in a total of 31 games, led the Mavericks in scoring last season with 15.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game, while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. Aarias Austin averaged 11.8 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, and 3.1 assists per game, while shooting 80.50 percent from the free-throw line.

The Mavs will also be without Joey Witthus this season. Witthus started and played in a total of 29 games on the year and averaged 13.7 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game. Witthus transferred to Northwest Missouri State in this past spring.

“Joey didn’t feel like this was the place for him and wanted to go somewhere else. There are hundreds of Division-I transfers each year and it is the nature of college athletics right now,” Margenthaler said. “We hope he is happy with his decision, we are better for it, and we hope he is better for it too.”

The Mavericks have also lost Trey Sampson, Baily Williams, Grant Pope, Connor Murrell, and A.J. Patty.

The Mavericks have eight new faces inside the locker room this season. Margenthaler is looking for Charlie Brown and Cole Harper to step-up and to be the leaders for the Mavs this season.

Brown, a senior captain, “had a good year last year but we really need him to have a great year this year for us,” according to Margenthaler. Harper, a junior who has spent his entire collegiate career here at MSU, has played a lot of minutes in his career so far and the team will be looking to him for leadership during games.

Chris Kendrix transferred to MSU this year from Missouri State University. Kendrix, a senior, has been a proven scorer at the Division-I level, scoring 15 points in 26 minutes in a road game at DePaul just a year ago.

Cameron Kirksey is also a player to keep an eye on this season.

“Kirksey played a lot of minutes for us last year and is in the starting rotation right now. He is capable of having big nights any time,” said Margenthaler.

Kevin Krieger has returned from an injury that sidelined him for most of the season last year. Krieger is currently in the starting line-up.

The Mavericks’ coaching staff has been very impressed by the development of freshmen Jamal Nixon and Jake Guse. Nixon, a guard from Oak Park, Illinois, has really stepped up his game since arriving in Mankato and should see decent minutes this season. Nixon was a four-year starter at Fenwick High School, just outside of Chicago. Guse, a native of Waseca, Minnesota, has really stepped up and played extremely well for the team thus far this year. The coaching staff is so impressed with the production from Guse that they may decide to redshirt him this season.

Fans will also notice a change of pace in the Mavericks this season. Margenthaler is trying to get the team to be a more up-tempo team, meaning you can expect the Mavs to be doing a lot more running.

“One of the things that we have really been working on this off-season and into the fall is being a good defensive team so that we can play this up-tempo style of play. We have been looking at different ways to create opportunities for ourselves on the defensive end. Whether it is getting rebounds, deflections, or turnovers, we are trying to find ways that will allow us to get out in the offensive end by running down the court a lot more,” stated Margenthaler.

The head coach also noted that in order to play an up-tempo style of offense, players will have to continuously give effort and that he has seen the team get better at playing in this new style over the course of their three scrimmage games.

The Mavericks will open the regular season at the Taylor Center when they take on St. Cloud State on Nov. 25 at 4:00 p.m.

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