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Warriors shoot for more success this season

By Matt Oliver

FOREST CITY – Loaded with talent and depth, the Waldorf College men’s basketball team is hungry for more success this season.

“I expect this year’s team to be better than last year,” Waldorf coach Nigel Jenkins said. “We always want to keep raising the bar each year for our program.”

A deep postseason run is the top priority for the Warriors, who turned in a 15-15 record in 2014-15 and finished one game out of first place in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) race with a 10-4 league record. Waldorf ended the year in the MCAC North Tournament championship and doesn’t plan on settling for anything less than a conference title as they enter their first season in the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA).

“Being in the hunt for a conference championship is always the goal,” said Jenkins, who begins his fifth season at Waldorf. “Last year, we just missed the goal so this year, we have to finish it. Going to the national tournament is great, but we can’t do that without competing for a conference title first.”

Experience, depth and size are key strengths for the Warriors entering the 2015-16 campaign.

“We have quite a few guys back from last year’s team,” Jenkins said.

Senior Erik Brewer, junior Michael Morgan and sophomore Kaimen Slay are returning starters. Sophomore Kaden Verdin and junior Tyler Parrish played significant roles as reserves last season.

“Their experience within our program is very valuable,” Jenkins said.

Brewer averaged 17.8 points and six rebounds a game last year, shooting 173-of-405 (42.7 percent) from the field and 45-of-118 (38.1 percent) from 3-point range. The 6-foot-6 forward from Las Vegas currently ranks second in school history in scoring with 1,256 points.

Morgan provided 6.7 points and 5.7 boards a contest while going 55.7 percent from the floor on 83-of-149 shooting. He also led the team with 68 assists last season.

Slay started at point guard in 23 contests a season ago. Verdin, a 6-foot-9 center, was a reliable big man off the bench. Parris came on strong down the season stretch, averaging eight points on 25-of-57 (43.9-percent) shooting from the field and 14-of-33 (42.4 percent) behind the arc.

Juniors June Prowell, Pierre Roddy, Brandon Silva, sophomores Cedric Woodson and Chris Ayers are junior college transfers, who join the Warriors this season.

“We added some junior college transfers to add to our experience,” Jenkins said. “Having guys who have been through college basketball programs before helps us keep our composure on the court.”

Waldorf possesses plenty of size. Six players stand at 6-foot-5 or taller and only two players on the roster are under six foot.

“We have a lot of size at every position,” Jenkins said. “Our size will allow us to take up a lot of space and make it tough for teams to score against us.”

Prowell and Roddy are expected to make major impacts as guards.

Last year, Prowell was a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III Third-Team All-American at Southern Crescent Technical College where he averaged 15.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.6 assists. He shot 41 percent (128-of-309) from the field and led the Tigers to the NJCAA Region 17 title game.

“Prowell is a very good point guard,” Jenkins said. “He has the ability to find teammates as well as creating for himself.”

Roddy averaged 14.4 points, 4.1 boards and 2.9 assists while helping Vermilion Community College to a 26-6 record and a Minnesota Collegiate Athletic Conference Northern Division regular-season title. He shot 47 percent (165-of-355) from the field and 47-of-135 (35 percent) from downtown while guiding the Ironmen to the NJCAA Region 13 championship game.

“Roddy is a high IQ player who can fill it up from outside,” Jenkins said. “Teams will have to locate him on the floor at all times.”

Sophomore BJ Brown is also a transfer, along with Silva. Brown, Silva, freshmen Isaiah Curry and Devon Collins will be looked to for contributions. Junior Javon Graves and sophomore Pavle Mihajlovic also return for the Warriors.

Waldorf tips off the season on Tuesday against Dakota Wesleyan University at 7 p.m. at Hanson Fieldhouse. The Tigers, who are ranked No. 24 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II preseason poll, posted a 32-5 record last year and reached the national championship game.

“Our opening game will be extremely tough,” Jenkins said. “Dakota Wesleyan is a very good team and program. They are reloaded and are looking to get back to the national championship game.”

Bringing down the Tigers will take a concerted effort from the Warriors, who are looking to score an upset.

“It will take a huge effort on the defensive end to pull out a win against them,” Jenkins said. “We have to limit our turnovers and be tough on the boards. They are a talented team, but so are we. I expect a very good game to open the year.”

Waldorf begins the NSAA season Dec. 4 against Valley City State University at Valley City, N.D. Building on success one game at a time is the approach for the Warriors.

“Right now, our main goal is winning our home opener against Dakota Wesleyan,” Jenkins said. “We are going to take this season one game at a time without looking ahead. If we can do that, the future will take care of itself with this team.”

Maintaining a commitment on the defensive end and crashing the boards are crucial bullet points on Waldorf’s agenda heading into the new season.

“Defense and rebounding will be the key to us having another great year of basketball,” Jenkins said. “We look forward to the challenges that are ahead of us.”