'It doesn't change anything for me': Beeninga thrives for Dragons men whether starting or coming off bench
MSUM sophomore Jacob Beeninga has unexpectedly stepped into a starting role to start this season.
MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead was 10 minutes from starting its regular season when a Dragons player suffered a badly timed injury.
Sophomore starting point guard Gabe Myren hurt in ankle in warmups.
“That was quite the experience," said Dragons first-year head men's basketball coach Tim Bergstraser.
The Dragons, however, had a reliable replacement in waiting with sophomore Jacob Beeninga.
“I’ve never really had something like that happen where it’s literally 10 minutes before the game and all of a sudden a lineup change," said Beeninga, from Maple Grove, Minn. “I was hurting for Gabe.”
Beeninga has started all four games this season and helped the Dragons to a 3-1 record heading into their Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener. MSUM plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D. The 6-foot-3 Myren is doubtful for the Northern State game, but is expected to return to the lineup soon, Bergstraser said.
That could mean Beeninga heads back to the bench, but he's ready to play either role.
“The approach didn’t change much, whether I’m starting or not, I’m just going to give it all for the team," Beeninga said. "I’m going to work hard for my teammates. I have an aggressive mindset when it comes to playing. I’m just going to go out there and try to do my thing.”
Beeninga is averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 rebounds in four starts this season. The Dragons only loss was a 78-77 setback against Black Hills State in Sioux Falls, S.D., on a buzzer-beating shot.
“Our ceiling is so much higher than we’re showing right now, even though we’re playing decent to start the year," Beeninga said.
Beeninga played in 29 games last season, making five starts. His minutes fluctuated throughout last season, but he became a valuable bench player late in the season to help the Dragons win the NSIC tournament championship.
Beeninga said that experience is one of the reasons he can flourish as starter or coming off the bench.
“I was playing my best ball last year when I was coming off the bench and if it helps the team, who am I to think I’m bigger than the game?" Beeninga said. “It doesn’t change anything for me. Gabe’s a really good player and one of my best friends. We support each other, whoever is starting.”
Bergstraser — who was a Dragons assistant before he was hired as the head coach in the offseason — said Beeninga is fun to coach due to his ability and intangibles.
“He’s always one of those guys that you can rely on," Bergstraser said. “He wants to win so bad and he plays so hard. He just doesn’t care (if he starts), he just wants to do what’s best for his teammates.”
Veteran guards Lorenzo McGhee and Gavin Baumgartner and forwards Jaden Stanley-Williams and Dane Zimmer have joined Beeninga in the starting lineup through four games. McGhee leads the team in scoring, averaging 16.8 points per game.
“We have a lot of depth, we still do," Beeninga said. "I know that the coaches trust me whenever I’m out there. I don’t really care what role I do have.”
The Dragons were picked No. 2 in the NSIC preseason coaches' poll behind Minnesota Duluth, which is also in the North Division. Beeninga said MSUM is motivated to prove it's one of the top teams in the conference.
“I think we’re a little more hungry this year," Beeninga said. “We’ve got to go earn this. Teams are going to try to take games from us.”