The Concordia University men’s basketball program has gone through the process of a roster transformation. Sixth-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad is looking ahead to the 2018-19 season with a lot of fresh faces expected to play significant roles. Official practice began on Monday (Sept. 24) for a new-look group.
Some key figures are gone, but others such as juniors Tanner Shuck and Brevin Sloup are back to lead a newcomer-laden bunch.
“You get to this point and you know that this is why you play, this is why you do it,” Limback said. “That’s what I love about coaching – every year is different no matter how it shook out the previous year. This team and the guys returning understand what we need to do better and differently perhaps. It’s a new year and a fresh start.”
There are five players on the current roster who have varsity game experience. Shuck and Sloup have logged the most minutes. Junior Riley Tegtmeier has seen action in 38 games and sophomores Ryan Holt and Grant Wragge got their feet wet as freshman in 2017-18. Their collective ability to lead will be crucial.
According to Shuck, the newcomers have already provided a jolt of energy. The sharpshooter from Grand Island, Neb., is trying to learn and grow from what he’s experienced in two seasons as a Bulldog. Said Shuck, “There definitely have been a lot of things to learn. I’ve come to understand as a leader that if we are going to get to where we want to be, we have to take care of things on the court and off the court. We have to live up to a high standard.”
Departures from last season have opened the door for others. Limback and assistant coach Lance Korell hit the junior college market and landed three big guys who provide needed size and length: 6-foot-7 Samuel Adjei (San Diego Miramar College), 6-foot-7 Zach Auguste (Scottsdale Community College) and 6-foot-8 Chuol Biel (McCook Community College).
“All three played big roles on their (junior college) teams,” Limback said “All three have different skillsets. Chuol is super long and athletic, really gifted defensively. Sammy is a very skilled big man. He can do a lot of things at the offensive end. Zach has one of those unstoppable motors. He provides such a passion and energy. He’s as tough as they come. I think all three together will make an impact immediately with our team.”
A native of Queen Creek, Ariz., Auguste says he now understands the term ‘Nebraska Nice’ after having gone through the first five weeks of the semester. The transitions for the transfers and freshmen seem to be going smoothly, but there’s still a question as to how all these new parts will mesh with the existing ones. In the early days of practice, there’s been a lot to get used to, including new and unfamiliar drills. Perhaps the words of Auguste can help put some of the questions to rest.
“I’m loving it a lot,” Auguste said of his first experiences with his new teammates. “I feel like we’re a big family. We all click together very well. I don’t feel like there are little groups among us. We’re all one big group. I really appreciate that. We have a great culture and we’re all brothers. When the time comes we’re going to be ready to get after it.”
Auguste felt a real connection with Limback during the recruiting process. The same could be said for Crete High School product Carter Kent, a freshman who also has a good shot of seeing the floor right away. He averaged more than 15 points per game as a senior at Crete.
For Kent, it hasn’t been solely about basketball. He’s adjusting to life as a biology major and the demands that it entails. His commitment to Concordia has been validated.
“I believe in Coach Limback and everything that he says,” Kent said. “We lost some people, but we’re getting players who are fully committed to the program. I really love the academics and everything here. That’s probably the biggest thing that made me want to come here. I enjoy the atmosphere.”
A lot more will be learned about this new squad on Oct. 29 when the season tips off for real, but the program needs the time between now and then for further development and building of cohesiveness. Limback is encouraged by a recruiting class he calls one of the best he’s ever had in his years as a head basketball coach (including nine at Concordia-Ann Arbor). Says Limback, “I feel like God was good. There are so many wonderful stories along that way that led to these guys coming together here.”
There are positive vibes for a program that went through some offseason challenges. The players are saying and doing the right things.
Says Shuck, “The new guys have helped bring a lot of energy. There’s a lot of excitement. All of us are ready to get started. We want to play together as a team and have fun.”
Added Auguste, “I think we have some weapons that people don’t know about. We’re all of the same mindset. We can hurt you from the outside and we can hurt you from the inside. From what I’ve been told, we have a lot of height this year that’s different from last year.”
And finally, Kent says, “I don’t care about how I do personally. I just want to make everyone better.”
With practice underway, the Bulldogs are anticipating the start of the 2018-19 campaign, now 33 days from tipoff.