Howie Hanson: UMD men hoopsters have potential to be good

The University of Minnesota Duluth men's basketball team begins Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play in early January, and the Bulldogs should be ready.

The University of Minnesota Duluth men's basketball team begins Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play in early January, and the Bulldogs should be ready.

The Bulldogs will open the 2003-04 season with 11 non-conference games -- including season-opening contests against highly-ranked NCAA Division II's South Dakota State, MSU-Mankato, Michigan Tech and Metro State. They'll begin league play Jan. 2 at Wayne State.

"We like to play the best teams early in the season for discovery purposes, to see what we've got," Bulldogs coach Gary Holquist said. "Then our goal is to win our conference and get to the national tourney."

The Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back national tournament appearances and have the potential to be "good, real good," Holquist said.

"We have some versatility, we're an excellent perimeter shooting team, and we'll be quicker than we've been in a long time," Holquist said. "We have some guys who can run the floor, and we'll present some matchup problems for opponents."


Between the Lines

The Minnesota Timberwolves have asked second-round draft pick Rick Rickert to get bigger and stronger.

The 6-foot-11, 225-pound power forward from Duluth is playing for BC Krka of Slovakia in the Adriatic Basketball Association. He hopes to land a spot on the 'Wolves roster a year from now, or with another team in the National Basketball Association.

Rickert is lifting weights on a daily basis, before and after games and practices. But between not liking Slovakian food and battling an injured left thumb, his development has been slowed.

But with weight training and proper diet, Rick should be able to put on pounds, his father Lew Rickert said.

"Whatever they cook, Rick will have to eat it," Lew said. "It's a good problem to have."

Rick has averaged 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for BC Krka, through five games. He had six points in 13 minutes in his last game earlier this week, before injuring the thumb.

BC Krka could play up to 80 games this season, including playoffs. Rick will continue to lift weights throughout the season.


"Strength is Rick's thing right now," Lew said. "The skills are there, but he has to get stronger and mature. But he's only 20, and he'll get there."

In the meantime, the 'Wolves are closely monitoring Rick's play, Lew said.

"Statistically, Rick needs to show a little more, but what Kevin (McHale, 'Wolves' general manager) really wants from Rick is added strength," Lew said. "The NBA is a tough league."

Rickert is under contract with BC Krka through the 2003-04 season, and he'll likely will finish the season with the team. Then, he will return to Minnesota next spring to work out at the 'Wolves facilities in Minneapolis and likely play in a pro summer league, either in Florida or California.

"Hopefully, next year at this time Rick will be preparing to play for an NBA team, if not the 'Wolves," Lew said. "He has to keep patient and keep pushing forward."

Lew thought Rick would make a NBA roster this season "but Kevin wanted Rick in Europe this year."

Slovenia isn't the NBA, but Rick is reportedly making $120,000 for the season, tax-free, and receives the use of a new automobile and a rent stipend.

Rick is an easy adjuster, and he's enjoying his time in Krka, Lew said. Rick is joined by his finance, Cici.


"Rick is pretty good at putting things behind him and looking forward," Lew said. "We talk on the phone a couple times a week, and he's willing to work hard no matter what. He'll make an NBA roster someday, and I hope it's with the 'Wolves. I really hope the 'Wolves continue to nurture him, because it would be nice to see him playing close to home in Minnesota."

BC Krka marketing director Peter Gersic e-mailed about Rickert's play so far:

"At the start of the regular season Rick went through difficulties all American players face when they begin playing in Europe: different defence, referees have different criteria, new team, etc.," Gersic wrote. "In summary, Rick had quite mixed record to this point, but on several games he showed that he is very perspective player.

"I have to point out the last game against SCG (Serbia and Montenegro) champion BC Red Star, where Rick's game was like it should be -- as statistic shows (18 points, nine rebounds). Although BC Krka lost this game (100-92), it was in most part the fault of outfield players who scored really bad. We have to admit that club had somewhat 'slow' start of the season, but we have the team and will to improve our record."

  • Duluth met Friday's deadline to submit a proposal to host Vikings training camp. The Vikings expect to interview finalists sometime in November, and hope to select a host city by Dec. 31.
  • The Duluth Huskies finished last in team batting (.221) and pitching (24-39. 4.65 ERA) in the 10-team Northwoods League last season. Only two Huskies pitchers finished the season with a winning record, and no positional player hit above .290.

The expansion Huskies drew 32,334 fans in 30 home games, for a 1,078 per-game average. Five teams -- including expansion La Crosse which nearly tripled Duluth's attendance total for the season -- drew better than the Huskies.
Howie Hanson writes a regular sports column for Duluth Budgeteer News. He can be reached by e-mail at .

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