MOORHEAD-Minnesota State Moorhead senior Tanner Kretchman has been part of multiple signature moments in Dragons men's basketball history, playing in an NCAA Division II Elite Eight as a freshman and on back-to-back 30-win teams.
The former Fargo Davies High School standout has seen the other side of the success spectrum in his final season with the Dragons. MSUM has lost 21 games. The team lost a combined 16 games in Kretchman's first three seasons in the program.
"It's sports," Kretchman said. "Not everyone is going to be good every year. You have to roll with it."
The Dragons (7-21) play at Minnesota State-Mankato (20-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament. Kretchman is the lone senior on the roster. In his previous three seasons, he helped the Dragons win two overall NSIC regular-season titles and three North Division crowns.
"I think probably more than anything, Tanner will be remembered for how he handled this year from people within the program," said Dragons head coach Chad Walthall. "He epitomizes the word class. ... His legacy in a weird, difficult kind of way was how he handled this year for all the young players who are ready to take the next step."
Heading into what could be his final game with the Dragons, Kretchman has 1,608 career points, good for seventh on the program's all-time scoring list. The 6-foot guard has the school record for career assists with 560. He also ranks second on the career list for 3-pointers made with 266.
"I've been part of a lot of great memories and great games," Kretchman said.
Kretchman played his last game at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse last Saturday, a 71-67 victory against Minnesota-Duluth. He scored 17 points and added a game-high seven assists with one turnover. Even though it was the 133rd game he had played in his Dragons career, that evening had a different feel. Kretchman was honored in a pregame ceremony.
"It's crazy to think that is the last time I played in Nemzek, knowing how many hours I spent in that gym," Kretchman said. "It was a weird feeling. I was nervous."
Kretchman started in 29 games as a sophomore, 30 as a junior and 20 this season. The team has a 96-37 record since he joined the program. His career assist-to-turnover ratio is 3.5-to-1.
"He's best player I've ever coached as it relates to taking care of the ball and assist ratio," Walthall said. "We've always been a program that values possessions, but that starts with your point guard position."
The Dragons snapped a six-game losing streak with last Saturday's home win against Minnesota-Duluth. MSUM's only chance to make the Division II tournament would be to win the NSIC tournament, which would give them an automatic bid.
"The wins-loss record isn't what we wanted it to be, but that doesn't mean we haven't improved as a team," Kretchman said. "We're going to be an underdog, so we shouldn't feel any pressure. ... We've just got to look at it like we're 0-0. Who cares what happened in the regular season. We've got to go out there swinging."