"There is a different feeling because of the maturity and the focus this group has shown during the offseason," Jones said. "Most of these guys have been on this journey for a while now and understand the hard work that it takes to be consistent and compete, not only in the Big Sky, but as a Division I program.
"What has really been nice, is just seeing this group of seniors since last spring have a focus of improving upon last year's finish. And, also understanding this is their last go-around as college players and wanting to leave their legacy, not only as individuals, but as a team that they can be proud of, our fans can be proud of and our University can be proud of."
Jones has a roster of 16 and it features seven seniors that are expected to all play integral roles on making this upcoming season a special one. Five of those seniors have combined to start 353 games during their careers. Point guard Jamal Webb leads the way with 94 career starts, while Troy Huff (73), Aaron Anderson (66), Brandon Brekke (55) and Josh Schuler (55) have all started more than 50 games during their careers.
This group has also ended each of the last three seasons in postseason play at the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
"These seniors have had three very, very good years in this program," Jones said. "But, nowthey want to make the most of this fourth and final one and make it a historical and special year."
PRESEASON NOTEBOOK: IN THE PAINT
• Head coach Brian Jones enters his eighth season at the helm of North Dakota men’s basketball program and won his 100th game at Eastern Washington last year. He has guided the Green and White to three consecutive CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament appearances, including an at-large bid in 2012-13.
• The 2013-14 season will mark the second for the club in the Big Sky Conference. In year one, Jones led UND to 12 wins, which were the most ever by a league newcomer and a third-place finish in the league standings. UND opened the campaign 1-4, but finished with an 11-4 mark and won a Division I-program record six games on the road.
• Jones has a veteran team back to make arguably its most serious run at a NCAA Tournament berth. His squad features four returning senior starters and will welcome the addition of senior big men Jaron Nash (Texas Tech transfer) and Alonzo Traylor (who was ineligible for second half of last season) to his rotation. Fellow senior Brandon Brekke is also healthy after suffering through an injury-plagued season a year ago and will be aided in the low post by a pair of JUCO-transfers in Chad Calcaterra and Ryan Salmonson.
• Senior Troy Huff won the Big Sky scoring title with a 19.2 ppg average despite missing eight games with a broken jaw he suffered in the season opener at Kansas State. He averaged 19.7 ppg in Big Sky play and was one of two league players (Montana’s Kareem Jamar) to earn unanimous All-Big Sky first team honors. Huff also landed on the Lou Henson Mid-Major All-America Team.
• Huff stands in 11th-place on the school’s all-time scoring charts entering his senior season with 1,353 points. He scored a career-high 481 points as a junior and his point total is the third most by a junior in school history. All-time leading scorer Scott Guldseth (2,190) had 1,574 after his junior season and the program’s third all-time leading scorer Travis Tuttle (1,935) had 1,427.
• Classmate Aaron Anderson had his best season as a collegian in 2012-13 and earned All-Big Sky second team honors after averaging a career-high 13.3 ppg. Anderson is the only UND player to have started each game of the last two seasons (65 total) and leads all active players with 99 games played, 341 free throws and 110 3-pointers.
• Senior Jamal Webb already sits a top UND’s all-time list for career steals with 183 and is fifth in assists with 380 through 97 career games. He led the Big Sky in steals with 74 and was one shy of tying UND’s single-season record in that department. He has also averaged 9.5 ppg during his career and has been one of the top rebound guards in the Great West and Big Sky during his career (4.8/g).
• Senior Josh Schuler battled through various injuries during the 2012-13 season, but managed to average a career-high 9.2 ppg in 25 contests, which included 20 starts. He shot a career-high 37.1 percent from 3-point range and 79.7 percent from the foul line.
• Brekke was also limited by injuries, appearing in only 19 games. He could never really get on track, but did average 5.3 ppg and 4.1 rpg.
• The 6-foot-8 ultra-athletic Nash is eligible after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and eager to get back on the court. Nash averaged just 2.5 ppg and 1.5 rpg in a reserve role for head coach Billy Gillespie’s 2011-12 Texas Tech team. Nash is expected to play a bigger role for UND and return to his prep form when he averaged 17.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg at Waterloo East High School in Iowa.
• Traylor was starting to come into his own after eight games of the 2012-13 season, but poor academic performance cost him the second half of his first season at UND. Traylor had a double-double in what was his final game of the season in the Big Sky opener at Southern Utah. He averaged 7.1 ppg and 5.0 rpg in just over 16 minutes per game.
• Junior guard Lenny Antwi inherited a pair of classmates with the additions of Calcaterra and Salmonson. Antwi appeared in a career-high 33 games last season and averaged 4.7 ppg, while shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range.
• Shane Benton is the lone sophomore on the squad and the team’s ultra-utility player performed admirably last season, appearing in 30 games and starting eight. All three of the 6-foot-3 guard’s double-digiting scoring games came during Big Sky road wins.
• Newcomers Estan Tyler (Kansas City) and Cole Stefan (Green Bay) are a pair of Division I transfers that will make for a productive scout team during practices. Stefan is seeking a waiver to play immediately from the NCAA, and, if one is granted, could factor into immediate playing time. Stefan began his collegiate career at LaSalle in 2010-11 and later transferred to Green Bay for the 2012-13 season. Tyler will sit out the 2013-14 season due to NCAA transfer rules and have two seasons of eligibility remaining when his career resumes. Tyler led Kansas City in scoring a season ago at a 11.4 ppg clip.
• Quinton Hooker is the only true freshman on the 2013-14 roster and the point guard is coming off a prep career that saw him garner the 2013 Minnesota Mr. Basketball Award. He led Park Center to a title game berth in the Minnesota Class 4A State Tournament and averaged 23.0 ppg as a senior and scored more than 2,000 points in his prep career.
BY THE NUMBERS
|3||UND has made three consecutive appearances in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, including an at-large bid last season.|
Senior Jamal Webb ranked third in the Big Sky with 4.2 apg and now has 380 for his career - a total that ranks fifth all-time at UND.
Senior Troy Huff led the Big Sky in scoring at 19.2 ppg and was one of two unanimous selections named to the All-Big Sky first team.
Senior guard Aaron Anderson has started each of UND’s 65 contests the last two seasons and averaged a career-high 13.3 ppg in 2012-13.
Webb tallied 74 steals - the second most in a single season at UND - en route to bringin his UND career record total to 183. Webb averaged 2.3 spg (2nd in Big Sky) last season.
Head coach Brian Jones reached the 100-win plateau last season in leading his club to its third straight CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Jones is entering his eighth season at the helm of the program.
Anderson has made 341 free throws during his three-year career at UND. Anderson’s total ranks 10th all-time at UND and the all-time record of 507 makes by Dave Vonesh is within his sights.
The senior quintet of Aaron Anderson (66) Brandon Brekke (55), Troy Huff (73), Josh Schuler (55) and Jamal Webb (94) have combined to start 343 games over the past three seasons. That means only 152 starts over that stretch came from a player in a different class.
Huff trails UND and NBA legend Phil Jackson on UND’s all-time scoring charts by 355 points - a total Huff has exceeded in each of his first three seasons at UND. Jackson stands fifth on the all-time list.
Huff’s point total through three seasons is the third most by a junior in UND history. Only all-time leading scorer Scott Guldseth and Travis Tuttle (third) had more.
The UND men’s basketball program needs just two more victories to reach the 1,500-win milestone. The first victory in UND basketball history occurred during the 1904-05 season when the squad recorded a 38-10 victory over Warren (Minn.) H.S.