Trapper men looking to climb

Posted 10/22/09

“I can still see that shot as clear as day,” Ward said, alluding to the buzzer-beating loss his Trappers took at the hands of McCook in the Region IX tournament last year.

At long last, the man at the helm of the NWC program can begin …

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Trapper men looking to climb


NWC hoops shows promise with three returning startersFor nine months, the vision has haunted Northwest College men's basketball coach Andy Ward — a basketball hanging on the rim, frozen in time for a moment before succumbing to the pull of gravity and dropping through the twine. It is a vision of how last season ended.

“I can still see that shot as clear as day,” Ward said, alluding to the buzzer-beating loss his Trappers took at the hands of McCook in the Region IX tournament last year.

At long last, the man at the helm of the NWC program can begin to exorcise the demonic vision that brought a premature end to last year's 16-15 campaign. To that end, the Trappers bring back a solid nucleus of three returning starters to mix in with a host of talented freshmen.

“Our sophomores have done a nice job of training with a purpose during the off-season,” notes Ward. “In our early practices, they've done a good job of helping our freshmen to understand how to practice and the importance of not taking a day off here or there.”

Among those early leaders is Denmark native Casper Hesseldal. Hesseldal returns to the hardwood of Ken Rochlitz Court after a freshman campaign that saw him drop in 14 points per game while also averaging 5.6 rebounds each contest.

“His strength is that he's a very hard matchup for opposing teams,” notes Ward. “He's 6'6” and 230 pounds. He can play on the perimeter — we used him mainly at the three (small forward) last season — but he can also go inside to take advantage of his defender if the matchup is right.”

Also capable of playing inside is returning starter Ricardo Andreotti, although fans initially might recognize him as Ricardo Bodra, the name he went by on last year's Trapper roster. Andreotti ranked among the nation's top 20 rebounders for a portion of last season and narrowly missed averaging a double-double for the Trappers last season with 9.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per outing.

“He's the sort of kid you throw the ball off the glass and tell him to go get it,” Ward said. “That's what he does. His motor is always in high gear. He plays the game hard and he has a nose for the ball. He's going to be in there working to get second shots and controlling the glass.”

Andreotti also was responsible for 36 of the Trappers' 52 blocked shots a year ago.

Completing the trifecta of returning starters is Fort Collins, Colo., native Mitch Ackelson. Ackelson alternated between the point and shooting guard slots for the Trappers as a freshman, averaging seven points and four rebounds per game.

“Mitch has a good basketball IQ, and that's one of his biggest strengths,” said Ward. “He's a very intelligent player and he thinks the game of basketball. He's also an extremely hard worker who has a lot of toughness to him.”

Only one other sophomore returns from the 2008-2009 squad for Coach Ward. Sophomore David Moats saw action in 14 of the Trappers' games last winter, but an expanded role for the Guernsey native could be in the cards this season.

“David has shown a tremendous improvement as a point guard for us,” said Ward. “He didn't see a lot of time last season, but he's a good on-ball defender for us. He plays physical and understands the game well.”

Also back from last year's team is redshirt freshman Amen Osayande. The 6'7” Toronto, Canada, native will be looked upon to give the Trappers an added presence around the bucket this year.

To that group, Ward and his coaching staff will look to mix in a recruiting class of 12 freshmen. Naturally, that means the Trappers' coach has spent a lot of time in early practices teaching the game.

“There's a learning curve when you come to the college level,” said Ward. “It's a process. As a coach, you want things to be a certain way and you always want to get there at a faster pace and get more accomplished, but with a lot of younger players like we have this season, you need to take the time and have them understand why we're doing things that way. There's a lot to learn about playing the game at the college level.”

That said, the Trappers' coach is anxious to see how the new players blend with the returning sophomores on the floor under game conditions.

“I'm excited about our incoming guys,” said Ward. “They've got a good amount of athleticism and there's several that I feel are going to create matchup issues for the teams that we face this year.”

As for season goals, the Trappers' coach isn't offering any sort of numbers. Instead, Ward notes, the focus is on maximizing the team's potential.

“Sure, you play the game to find out who wins, but it's more important to us to maximize our potential. We want to play the best basketball that we're capable fo playing. If we focus on that and do that, then the W's will take care of themselves.”

The Trappers will have plenty of competition for those wins, however. Ward notes that, as a whole, the quality of basketball being played in Region IX is on the rise.

“The teams in this part of the country are really raising the bar,” said Ward. “Traditionally, there's one or two every season that are extremely strong on the national level, but the overall quality of ball being played is on the rise as well. I'm eager to see how we fit into that this year.”

The Trappers tip off their season on Nov. 3 with a home game against Rocky Mountain College.