New season of courtships

Bryan Foss approached Minnesota Duluth men's basketball coach Gary Holquist last summer with a request. Holquist paces around a room while preparing for games, but the fidgety coach made several players nervous. Foss, a senior forward, wanted the...

Bryan Foss approached Minnesota Duluth men's basketball coach Gary Holquist last summer with a request.

Holquist paces around a room while preparing for games, but the fidgety coach made several players nervous.

Foss, a senior forward, wanted the veteran coach to change his ways. Or, at least, adjust them.

So, prior to the Bulldogs opening the season against Bemidji State at 7 p.m. today at Romano Gymnasium, Holquist will prepare on his own, limiting his time with the team to chalk talk and a pep talk. It will be up to Foss and his three senior teammates to make sure the players are focused.

"I don't know if it will last all season, but we'll give it a shot,'' Holquist said. "I was impressed with Bryan for raising that with me. You want your seniors to take ownership in the team and getting guys ready to play. What he did was perfect. That's the way it should be.''


While Foss has always been a leader on the court, being a vocal leader hasn't always come easy. Foss is quiet and reserved by nature.

Foss came to UMD after a celebrated prep career at Osseo, Minn. As a junior, Foss helped the Orioles beat a Duluth East team led by Rick Rickert for the 2001 Class AAAA title. The next year, he averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds in earning Associated Press all-state second-team honors.

Foss received strong Division II interest, as well as attention from small Division I programs such as Northern Iowa and Wyoming, but he committed to UMD as a junior after taking a visit in the fall of 2000.

"I just thought Duluth was a beautiful city and I liked the area,'' Foss said. "I also liked that [Holquist] cares about his players. He stresses making sure you get your degree and graduate. It's not just all about basketball. School should be your first priority, and that was a big factor for me.''

Foss has been a four-year starter. He's been steady throughout, quietly working his way to No. 44 on UMD's career scoring list with 862 points after averaging 11.5 points per game last year.

But it's rebounding where Foss has made his mark. With a vertical in the low 30-inch range and a long body at 6-foot-7, Foss averaged eight rebounds per game last season and now has 578 for his career, good for 11th at UMD. His ability to rebound earned him the name "Windex Man'' from former teammate Sean Seaman because Foss "cleans up the boards.''

Foss expects to score more this year, but won't force it.

"We lost some scoring from last season, so the team might need me to help out more there, but I'm just going to keep playing the way I do: going to the boards and taking the shots I have,'' Foss said. "I want to be a leader out there, both physically and vocally.''


While at UMD, Foss quickly struck up a friendship with teammate and fellow education major Matt Hockett of McFarland, Wis. The two have become inseparable.

Hockett said he's noticed a significant change in his best friend.

"I've seen Bryan evolve from someone who wouldn't say two words in the huddle to a leader who isn't afraid to challenge his teammates about where we are as a team and where we need to get,'' Hockett said. "For Bryan, it's all about confidence, and as I've seen him gain it, I've seen him grow as a player and as a person. As a player, the guy can be unstoppable. As a person, it's been a privilege to get to know him like I have, where I've kind of broken through the shell. You couldn't ask for a better friend. The guy's the real deal.''

Foss and Hockett were redshirted as freshmen and are the longest-tenured players on the Bulldogs' roster. They hail from successful prep programs and want the same their senior year, so in the offseason they drafted a list of 15 expectations for the players to follow. The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they finished 15-14 overall.

If Foss has one wish about his tenure at UMD, it's that he would like more success. This season is his chance to get it.

"The seniors on this team really haven't experienced winning as much as we would have liked, and that's what we're hoping to achieve this year,'' Foss said. "We're expecting big things.''

Saints hope to start fast

St. Scholastica finished last season with a flurry, rallying for a share of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference regular season title and then winning the UMAC postseason tournament.


But the Saints' 17-10 record wasn't enough to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Division III postseason, thanks in large part to an 0-5 start.

St. Scholastica would like to get off to a better start this year with the Yellowjacket Tip-Off Classic this weekend at Wisconsin-Superior. The Saints open against Nebraska Wesleyan at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by a 6 p.m. contest Saturday against UWS.

"Part of the reason for the slow start last year was the tough nonconference schedule we play, but we're not going to back down from anybody,'' said Saints coach David Staniger. "We want to play the toughest teams possible to prepare us for the conference and the NCAA tournament. We have two West Regional games this weekend that will carry a lot of weight.''

The Saints graduated three post players and are picked to go third in the conference. The Saints also lost all-conference guard Andrew Schmitz, who had offseason surgery to remove his colon but is expected back next year.

Leading the way are captains Derek Johnson, Williams Maupins and Brady Zubke.

Johnson, a 6-3 guard, is just 81 points shy of 1,000 for his career. The senior from St. Louis Park, Minn., led the conference in scoring at 18.6 points per game last season.

Maupins, a 6-4 guard from Rosemount, Minn., led the league in rebounds and assists and was second in blocks.

Staniger, meanwhile, expects a breakout year from Zubke, a 6-6 junior forward from Laporte, Minn. Add athletic newcomers Eric Langdon of Cloquet, and Akente Ward and Nate Griff of Milwaukee, and Staniger believes the team has the potential for another UMAC title.


"We're going to be up-tempo and pressure the basketball,'' said Staniger, who is in his seventh season as Saints coach. "I think this is the most athletic team since I've been here. We'll put points on the board, so it will come down to how committed we are to defense and rebounding.''

New coach leads UWS

First-year coach Dave Buchanan takes over a team that went 0-16 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and 5-20 overall. The Yellowjackets have only won 15 conference games in the past five years, making it difficult to turn the program around, but Buchanan, a former assistant at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside, is looking forward to the challenge.

"The biggest thing for me is getting our guys to compete and play with teamwork,'' Buchanan said. "Some nights you might not shoot well, but you should always be able to hang your hat on giving a great effort, and that might help you surprise some teams.''

Buchanan has a quality player to build around in senior Leonard Cobb, a 6-5 forward from Detroit who earned first-team WIAC honors after leading the league in scoring (21.4) and rebounding (9.0).

Cobb's scoring may dip with the addition of about eight newcomers, including point guard Lamar Burton-Norman of Houston, Texas, forward James Nobles of Milwaukee and guard John Hebert, a Minnesota-Morris transfer from Ashland.

UWS opens at 7 p.m. Friday against Finlandia (Hancock, Mich.) University in the Yellowjacket Tip-Off Classic.

JON NOWACKI covers college sports. He can be reached weeknights at (218) 723-5305 or by e-mail at .

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