Phillips focuses on improved 'D'
Saul Phillips has the scars and jagged nose to prove that he loves defense. So it's no secret what Phillips will be stressing in his first official practice as North Dakota State's men's basketball coach. The Bison open practice Saturday, after t...
Saul Phillips has the scars and jagged nose to prove that he loves defense.
So it's no secret what Phillips will be stressing in his first official practice as North Dakota State's men's basketball coach. The Bison open practice Saturday, after they meet the public in Friday's 6:30 p.m. informal gathering at the Bison Sports Arena.
"The focus will be on defense," said the 34-year-old Phillips, a Bison assistant for the last four seasons who replaced Tim Miles as head coach last spring.
It was more than a decade ago when Phillips was a defensive-minded guard at Wisconsin-Platteville. In a pickup game when he dove for a loose ball, another player landed on his head - causing a blow to the floor that broke his nose and created a gash above his left eye that required 50 stitches.
According to his coach Bo Ryan, now head coach at Wisconsin, one of Phillips' goals was to knock himself out diving for a loose ball. Now his goal is to make NDSU's talented offensive team into a better defensive unit.
"I'm not asking our guys to do what I did, but they can't be afraid to get their nose in there," Phillips said. "If there is an area where there are improvements to be made, it is defense."
All but one player is back from last year's 20-8 team that ranked fourth nationally in field-goal shooting and averaged 76 points per game. But in five of their eight losses, the Bison gave up anywhere from 72 to 85 points.
Returning starters like Ben Woodside, Brett Winkelman and Mike Nelson - who each averaged nearly 16 points per game last season - are well aware defense will be the focus on Saturday.
"We're going to get after it," Woodside said. "Defense ... that's what we have to improve upon."
Even without a senior on their roster, the Bison will be considered a favorite in their first season in the Summit League. After exhibition games against Bemidji State (Oct. 31) and Minnesota State Moorhead (Nov. 2), the Bison open the season at defending national champion Florida.
"We're definitely excited for the season," Woodside said.
In addition to the junior trio of Woodside, Winkelman and Nelson, the Bison have experienced players in juniors Lucas Moormann and Lorenzo Riley, sophomores Austin Pennick, Sam Sussenguth and Josh Vaughan.
Redshirt freshman forward Michael Tveidt is expected to contribute year. Redshirt freshman Freddy Coleman will add depth to the guard position. And true freshman Eric Carlson has "shown flashes" during summer scrimmages to see immediate playing time.
The big hole to fill is the graduation of center Andre Smith, who is now playing professional basketball in Switzerland. Smith, who started his European career in Germany, was last year's Division I independent player of the year - leading the Bison in scoring (17 points), rebounding (9.1) and steals (45).
"You don't replace Andre with one person," Phillips said.
Phillips says Tveidt, a 6-foot-7 forward from Pierre, S.D., can replicate some of the things Smith did. A much-stronger Sussenguth, who beefed up from 230 to 250 pounds, is expected to help on the boards. Riley will help defensively once he becomes academically eligible at the end of the first semester.
"We are on the border of being a great offensive team," Phillips said. "But right now, we are not a great defensive team."
NDSU men's basketball roster
No. Name Pos. Ht. Gr. Hometown
4 Freddy Coleman G 6-3 Fr. St. Paul
5 Nevin Lubarski G 6-0 Fr. Argyle, Minn.
10 Ben Woodside G 5-11 Jr. Albert Lea, Minn.
12 Matt Rosenberg G 6-2 Jr. Golden Valley, Minn.
20 Lorenzo Riley F 6-6 Jr. Platte City, Mo.
21 Austin Pennick G 6-3 So. Fargo
22 Brett Winkelman F 6-6 Jr. Morris, Minn.
23 Michael Tveidt F 6-7 Fr. Pierre, S.D.
25 Eric Carlson F 6-6 Fr. Shakopee, Minn.
31 Mike Nelson G 6-4 Jr. Madison, Wis.
32 Josh Vaughan G 6-4 So. Braham, Minn.
33 Matt Geiselhart F 6-4 Jr. Wahpeton, N.D.
34 Sam Sussenguth F 6-8 So. Willmar, Minn.
40 Lucas Moormann C 6-10 Jr. Dickinson, N.D.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549
Schnepf's NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com
Phillips focuses on improved 'D' Kevin Schnepf 20071011