Oct 11th, 2002 @ 10:54 am | Author: Viking Sports Information
Year two of restoring the championship tradition of the Valley City State University men’s basketball team begins for Viking head coach Adam DeHaan. The Vikings own 28 conference championships in their illustrious history, the last one taking place in 1991. Last year’s 10-19 season, although the second best record since 1995, has the Viking fans anxious for a turnaround.

A turnaround is exactly what DeHaan expects. "We are committed to bringing a DAC-10 banner to W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse. We have worked hard to build a solid foundation of selflessness, energy, and passion. Competing, winning, and excellence are the next bricks to put in place.

The seniors are expected to provide leadership and play vital roles this season. 6-3 All-DAC-10 guard Austin McCullough (Jefferson City, MT) exploded onto the scene last year averaging 16.4ppg. He set school records in 3-point field goals made (87) and free-throw percentage (88.5%). Besides being the team’s go-to scorer last year, McCullough routinely drew the toughest defensive assignment. 6-2 guard and team captain Todd MacIver (Wahpeton) was an invaluable utility player seeing time at both guard positions and the small forward at different times during last season. MacIver averaged 2.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 17.1 minutes a game. The Vikings X-factor could be Paul Henderson (Brooklyn, NY) who averaged 13.6 points and 4.8 assists before becoming academically ineligible at the break last season. Henderson (5-10) is eligible and working hard to regain his stature on the team.

6-4 post Jon Oatis scored 7.7 points per contest and 4.6 rebounds per game last year. His best game of the year came at South Dakota Tech where he was 7-8 from the field, finished with 15 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds. Oatis and Mackenzie Wounded Face (6-5) will be expected to be mainstays in the Vikings’ high-low offense. "Mack is very efficient on the block as evidenced by his 59% field goal percentage a year ago. He contributed 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds last year with a high water mark of 9-12 from the field for a total of 18 points at the University of Mary.

Four perimeter transfers are expected to add offensive punch to the Viking attack. Mario Lewis (Jackson MS) played two seasons at Dawson Community College where he averaged 10 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists from his point guard position. The 6-3 Lewis will be expected to use his speed and athleticism to spur the Viking transition game. 6-2 Garth McFadden (Buffalo, MN) will be looking to take advantage of Lewis’ play making abilities from his wing position. While at Central Lakes College, McFadden averaged 16 points, 4 rebounds a 3 assists. A long-range bomber, McFadden cashed in over 90 three point field goals last year. Jonathan Hippe (Froid, MT) adds another smooth stroke to the wing rotation. As a sophomore at Miles Community College he converted 68 three point field goals. Hard-nosed Travis Knutson (Soldotna, AK) rounds out the talented perimeter transfers. Knutson played two years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, mostly at the off-guard. At VCSU he will be competing for minutes at the point as well as off-guard. Kevin Faulkner (Detroit MI) will be red-shirting this year for the Vikings. A 5-10 transfer from Bismarck State College Faulkner played the point and averaged 13.4 points per game for the Mystics.

Two low-block transfers will add depth to the post rotation. 6-4 Marcus Oatis (Gulfport MS) is reunited with his brother Jon. They both played at Dawson Community College. Marcus brings a defensive presence and great work ethic to the Vikings. Luke Merrifield (Newton KS) brings much needed size to the Vikings. His 6-9, 260 pound frame gives the Vikings a formidable post. Able to run the floor and possessing good hands, Luke has the ability to score and defend. While at Dodge City Community College, Merrifield averaged 6.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest.

Four North Dakota freshmen complete the Viking roster. Brodie Blanchard (Kindred) is a 6-6 post who red-shirted a year ago. Blanchard has bulked up to 215 pounds. The added bulk, raw athleticism, and much improved fundamentals will allow Brodie to compete for minutes in the post rotation. Brandon Bata (Kensal) was the Class B Region III player of the year in 2002. An All-Stater and Mr. Basketball finalist, Bata scored 18.8ppg and ripped 12.3 rebounds per contest. Maybe undersized at 6-4, the diverse Bata will play his natural power forward position for the Vikings.

Steve Trudeau (Mayville) is the wispy thin small forward who sank the game winning shot for May-Port CG in the Class B Championship game this past March. Long and lanky, the 6-6 Trudeau is a classic gym rat who will pick up the college game quickly. A red-shirt season will give this fine player an opportunity to get stronger and mature into a college small forward. Kalyn Luehring (Tolna) walks on to the Viking team after a solid career at Dakota Prairie High School. An all-conference performer as a junior and senior, he tallied 17 points and 7 rebounds as a senior.

With only six returning players, the Vikings have their work cut out for them. "We don’t have the luxury of 5, 4, or even 3 returning starters. There is a tremendous sense of urgency to get this program back to league prominence. We need to be fierce in competition and diligent in learning the system. It all begins with our first practice" DeHaan stated.

Particular diligence needs to be given to the defensive side of the ball, especially rebounding and fouls. Only averaging 31.2 rebounds per contest, the Vikings were outrebounded by their opponents by over 3 rebounds each game. In regard to fouls, the opposition made more free-throws than the Vikings shot!

DeHaan commented, "Our commitment to defending must be foremost in our thinking. This conference has high-powered teams that may win a race to 100. We must play tenacious defense to have the opportunity to consistently win DAC-10 games. Our defensive mind-set will be a key for early season contests.

The Vikings get a test early when they travel to NAIA II power, the University of Sioux Falls on November 8. NCAA II upstarts Bemidji State and Minnesota State Moorhead highlight November home games. A Christmas break contest at North Dakota State on December 21 is highly anticipated.

DeHaan expects Black Hills State to be the class of the DAC-10 with Jamestown College, Minot State, and the University of Mary right behind them. "I’m not sure if we are ready to compete for a conference title this year" DeHaan mused. "But I am sure that we are getting closer. We expect to achieve considerable improvement this year.