MASON CITY — Young roster? Check. Not a lot of experience back? Check. But does the NIACC men’s basketball team feel it still has the pieces to compete? Absolutely.
With one returner back from last year’s team which finished 16-15 overall and 3-9 in ICCAC, the Trojans will go through plenty of growing pains. Nonetheless, they're excited about the future of this season.
“I think we definitely have the potential,” NIACC sophomore guard Nick Wurm said. “We just need to put the right pieces together, which we’ll figure out very soon. We definitely have the potential to be the best team in this league and that’s our goal and nothing short of it.”
The returning experience starts and ends right there with Wurm.
Wurm was third on the team a year ago with 11.1 points per game while adding 140 rebounds and a team-high 100 assists. With only one other sophomore (Cam McPherson) other than him, Wurm is the logical choice as a leader for a team which will need it.
“He’s got a lot more court savvy right now than most of our kids because he’s been out, he’s been through this for 31 games, and out of those games 13 in our league, which is as good as any in the nation,” NIACC coach Mark Mohl said. “He’s got a lot of confidence, first of all, from last year, and he shoots it very well, can handle the ball, and he’s really got to step up as a leader for us and be able to do a lot of different things.”
After him, it’s up to a boatload of freshmen.
In NIACC’s early-season practices, Mohl admitted there has been some bumps and growing pains, and that will likely continue through the first portion of the season.
If they can get up to speed by the time conference play kicks off in January, the Trojans like their chances.
“We just have to stay as a team. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low — Coach Mohl says that all the time,” NIACC freshman Mac Skogen said. “I think we’ve worked through it a lot and I think we’ll get to where we want to be this season.”
Skogen, a Mason City grad, is one of those freshmen who will rotate through.
He said his time playing for Mason City in Class 4A has helped get him up to speed early on, but playing at NIACC and in the ICCAC requires a bit more physicality. In the weeks leading up to Friday’s season opener, Skogen has taken to trying to improve that part of his game.
“Obviously the athletes are much bigger and much stronger than last year, so you just have to be smarter I’d say, and you just have to be physical and not back down from anything,” he said.
Another local player making his NIACC debut will be West Fork grad Gunnar Myers, who redshirted last season.
With nearly two months to work out the kinks early on, Mohl said patience is key, especially with such an inexperienced team. The Trojans will still play the fast-paced, press-heavy style they’ve always played under Mohl. It’ll be up to them to get up to speed, though.
“So far we’ve had to have more (patience) than I thought I knew I had, but they’re kind of like new kids at school and they’re just kind of feeling their way and they’re doing what we ask them to do,” Mohl said. “I’ve seen days with tremendous growth and I’ve seen days where we take steps back. It’s just getting more consistent, and I think we will.”