Video by Jordan Osterman
It’s a new look for the St. Thomas men’s basketball team this season.
Gone are B.J. Viau’s big smiles, Al McCoy’s trademark dreads and Lonnie Robinson’s lock-down defense. In statistical terms that means 2,109 minutes, 791 points and 93 games worth of experience have vanished.
It may then appear that the Tommies would be in a transition year. But coach Steve Fritz and company haven’t let that happen.
This year’s team is off to a 5-0 start and a No. 3 national ranking thanks to some fresh faces who quickly acclimated themselves to Tommie hoops.
“People thought we were a lot more veteran coming in than we really are,” Fritz said. ”But I like the talent of everybody we’ve got involved.”
Freshman Josh Pedretti is already averaging nearly six points and 5.5 rebounds. Other new faces such as freshman transfer John Nance is averaging almost 13 minutes a game while scoring about five points and St. John’s transfer, freshman Noah Kaiser, provides a presence off the bench adding an average more than four points a game.
Insert juniors Anders Halvorsen (averaged seven points per game last season), Tyler Nicolai (scored nearly 10 points per contest and recorded 53 assists last season) and Alex Healy (this year’s second leading scorer) along with battle-tested seniors like pre-season All-American pick Joe Scott and defensive specialist Teddy Archer and the 2009-10 squad isn’t lacking too much compared to the 2008-09 team.
With essentially eight new teammates to add to a group of eight varsity veterans, educating the new guys became a priority.
“This season has been different because we have a lot of newcomers to the team,” Nicolai said. “We’ve been having to do a lot more teaching this year than last year because we don’t have the same veterans that we had.”
Scott believes sheer athleticism can help overcome a lack of experience.
“We’ve lost some experience, but we’ve gained a lot of athleticism and I believe that everyone at each position has improved greatly from last year,” Scott said. “We have athletes at every position on the floor, which will be huge in making us a good defensive team.”
While Scott and Nicolai have been familiar faces on the team since they arrived on campus, both said that this could be a break out year for other players on the team, most notably the 6-foot-9-inch 210-pound Halvorsen. With a wide wing span and a soft touch, “Ders,” as his teammates call him, has the ability to grab boards, disrupt passing lanes and sink all kinds of shots. And much to Tommie fans’ delight he’s not afraid to hammer home a dunk every now and then.
“I think Anders Halvorsen is ready to show what his height and athleticism is all about,” Scott said.
Nicolai pointed to a handful of players ready to soak up the limelight.
“I think a couple people that might breakout this year are Anders Halvorsen, Alex Healy, Noah Kaiser, and Josh Pedretti,” Nicolai said. “All of them are very good scorers so we are looking for them to step up offensively.”