One of the hardest taks for collegiate athletic teams is replacing players who graduated the previous season.
The UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team will face that task this season, as four starters from the 2012-2013 squad saw their four years come to a close.
Second year head coach Matt Siverling said he will be looking to some of his now more experienced players such as juniors Lewis Mau, Trevor Berkley, Eric Effertz and sophomores Adam Hjelter and Jacob Kohner to provide leadership this season.
“They are the guys that are expected to show the new guys the way we want things done,” Siverling said. “By setting the tone in practice, leading by example or being vocal leaders.”
Siverling said he expects his returners to do the things that need to be done in order to win. Hjelter, a six-foot guard, said he is ready to take on the responsibilities his coach has laid out for him.
“I can take [the newcomers] under my wing and help them understand what it is like to play at this level,” Hjelter said. “It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be good at this level.”
Hjelter said he wants his teammates to understand the concept of being a student-athlete, which include staying on top of academics and getting their bodies right for competition.
“Outside of class and practice there is a lot of free time,” Hjelter said. “Our priorities need to be straight, meaning school first, basketball second, and everything else after that.”
On the basketball court this season Siverling said his team hopes to play an up-tempo game.
“We want to get the ball up the floor as quick as we can and look for easy baskets in transition,” Siverling said.
If the team has nothing in their transition offense, they will look to set a lot of ball screens in their half-court offense.
“That gives our front court players a chance to get out on the perimeter and also for our guards to drive the basketball,” Siverling said.
Twelve new players will try to find their spot in the Blugold offense this year as the team welcomes the group of true freshman and transfers.
“They are excited to be at UW-Eau Claire, and to play for the Blugolds,” Siverling said. “They are anxious to learn and to become better basketball players. That has been exciting for me as a coach to have players like that.”
Kurtis Moody, a six-foot-two inch forward transfer from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, said despite the fact he is a newcomer, he believes he has the college basketball experience that can help the team going forward.
“With my experience, I know how fast and tough it can be, and I just want to help the new guys with that transition,” Moody said. “We need to make the extra play and hit the open guy. The little things can make a big difference.”
Hjelter said he expects the WIAC to be strong this year, but if they can stay in games and compete every night then they have a chance to make a run in conference.
Siverling said the big thing for them is understanding this season will be a process.
“We just know that every single day we want to come in and work as hard as we can to get better as a basketball team,” Siverling said.
The Blugolds will tip-off their season at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 at Hamline (Minn.).