The Lawrence head coach knows that winning every game in a season that starts Thursday when the Vikings host UW-Stevens Point is just about impossible. DePagter then quickly points out that his team’s leaders, swingman Chris Siebert, forward Conor Klusendorf and guard Brian Gryskiewicz, don’t think about anything other than winning.
“It’s a long season and we’re going to have some bumps in the road, but Conor, Brian and Chris don’t expect to lose any games and that’s a great mindset to have,” DePagter said. “For us to be great, we need those guys to do whatever it takes to win and not just score points.”
This team’s strength lies with its guards, depth and experience. It all starts with Siebert, an all-Midwest Conference selection last season and one of the league’s most versatile performers.
“To do great things, Chris Siebert has to have a great year,” DePagter said. “That doesn’t mean Chris needs to score 30 points a game, but he needs to lead the team, get rebounds and he’s doing those things in practice right now.”
Siebert led the team in scoring last season at 16.6 points per game and assists at 4.0 per contest. The junior from Baraboo also added 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest to his versatile floor game.
Gryskiewicz, also a junior, brings a gritty determination, and DePagter said he has had a great first month of practice. Klusendorf, one of only two seniors on the squad, brings an athletic impact to the frontcourt with dunks on offense and blocks on defense.
“We have an experienced group back,” DePagter said. “We lost an all-conference player (Tyler Crisman), but collectively we’re a more mature, seasoned group. Guys work on things in the off-season, but experience is one thing you can’t work on.”
Lawrence also returns the sizable presence of junior Davis DeWolfe in the paint. The 6-foot-7 junior from Green Bay averaged 10.4 points and a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game last year. The other starter figures to be sophomore guard Ryan DePouw, who showed flashes of brilliance in his sixth man role last season.
“Our starting five is a pretty balanced group,” DePagter said. “We have some guys who can shoot it. We have some toughness with our point guard. We’re a bigger, more physical team than we were last year.”
The Vikings also boast more depth and size off the bench than they’ve had in recent seasons. The Vikings can bring instant offense when junior guard Max Burgess checks in, and junior Tom Antosz also has valuable experience. Lawrence also has freshmen guards Jamie Nikitas and Troy Miller battling for playing time.
“Max is as good a shooter as you will ever see and he has experience,” DePagter said. “He has played key minutes in big games and proven he can play on the big stage.”
The Vikings also got an addition to the squad on Monday when junior swingman Tyler Mazur rejoined the team. Mazur, who just completed a 1,000-yard receiving season with the football team, averaged 4.7 points and shot 42.5 percent on 3-pointers last year.
The Vikings add to the athleticism up front with 6-5 junior Chase Nelson and a trio of freshmen, led by Appleton native Trace Sonnleitner and including Connor Weas and Zach Ricchiuto.
“Trace plays harder than most freshman play. To have another local player is exciting and it allows people to see him continue his career,” said DePagter, citing local players like Rob Nenahlo, Jason Holinbeck and Andy Hurley, who all starred for the Vikings in the last decade.
“Our talent level from top to bottom is improved from the past couple of years. Not only do we have numbers, we have quality in those numbers.”
The Vikings will get a huge test Thursday when they open with the Pointers, ranked 15th in the d3hoops.com preseason top 25.
“Goals don’t change, have never changed since I came back in 1999 to be the assistant,” DePagter said. “What changes is how likely it is to reach those goals. Being so young overall of the past few years we knew it was going to be challenging.”
Milestone for Mazur
Standout wide receiver Tyler Mazur had another huge game in the season finale against Ripon last Saturday. Mazur had six catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns. It was the third 200-yard receiving game of Mazur’s career and the second in three weeks for the Reedsburg, Wis., native.
Mazur finished the season with 53 catches for 1,139 yards and became the first Lawrence player to post 1,000 receiving yards in a season since Zach Michael did it back in 2003. Mazur finished his career with 2,253 receiving yards despite being a wide receiver for only two seasons.
Mazur finished his career ranked fourth in receiving yards, fifth in catches (130), fifth in touchdown catches (25), fourth in total touchdowns (37) and fifth in points (224).
Hartman finishes in style
Senior running back Ben Hartman finished his football career with perhaps his finest day for Lawrence. The Portage, Wis., native ran 14 times for a career-high 125 yards and two touchdowns in the season finale against Ripon. Hartman finished the season with 104 carries for 597 yards for a hefty 5.7-yard average.
Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.