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Simpson men’s basketball headed in right direction

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(Photo: Jayde Vogeler/The Simpsonian)

(Photo: Jayde Vogeler/The Simpsonian)

(Photo: Jayde Vogeler/The Simpsonian)

by Hunter Hillygus, Sports Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — At the core of every successful collegiate team, within every successful collegiate program, you’ll find a group of seniors who make the engine run smoothly.

They set the temperament of how the team practices and plays, determine the collective attitude of the group and, ultimately, they are role models for their younger teammates.

Most teams are lucky to have three or four of these seniors.

The Simpson men’s basketball team has eight. And they’re as tight-knit of a group that you will find. Anywhere.

Austin Turner, Brook Thompson, Logan Losh, DJ Dafney, Ryan Skaar, Cody Good, Cort Singleton and Michael Currie are the seniors that make up the backbone of the 5-2 Storm.

“This is the closest knit team I’ve ever been on,” senior forward DJ Dafney said. “We kind of all look after each other, making sure everyone is doing what they should be and making sure everyone is on the same page.”

This group of seniors has seen their fair share of ups and downs throughout their collegiate careers. Throughout their freshman and sophomore season, they accumulated an overall record of just 10-40 to go along with a paltry 3-25 conference mark.

That wasn’t the impression they wanted to leave on the program. Something needed to change.

And that change began shortly after their sophomore season when then-head coach Charles Zanders resigned and current head coach Brad Bjorkgren was hired.

“We all bought in to what Coach B is doing here,” senior guard Ryan Skaar said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Collectively we were together, but we all bought in to what Coach B wanted us to do.”

Throughout the coaching transition, the players were able to stay committed to each other as well. When a player wasn’t feeling great about themselves or the program, they looked to their fellow teammates for advice.

“We stuck together,” senior guard Austin Turner said. “We were able to look to each other for guidance. Whenever we had tough times, we went to our teammates. We’re all good friends and that helps a lot.”

As their junior year began and their first year under Bjorkgren took off, they weren’t sure how good they really were — until they went to Memphis to compete in the Rhodes College Tournament, which they won.

“We beat a really good Wittenburg team, and we didn’t know how well we were going to do,” senior guard Brook Thompson said. “I wouldn’t say it was a surprise.”

That tournament win gave the team the confidence they needed to be successful moving forward.

“We kind of hadn’t won much (before the tournament),” Turner said. “That when we realized we could beat some really good teams. We knew we had talent, it was just a matter if we could put it all together, and that’s when we realized we definitely could put it together.”

After that realization, the winning started.

The Storm went 15-11 and 8-6 in the conference and held the fourth best win differential from the previous season in Division III.

As their senior season has started, there is a palpable focus on winning that hasn’t been there previously. Every player is locked in, not just the seniors. There are goals to be reached and things to be proved.

“We all have that one goal where we know we got so close that we could win the (IIAC) tournament championship, we could be the tournament team, we might as well focus on that and not anything else,” Dafney said.

It’s their last year – and last opportunity – on the hardwood.

“You never know when you’re going to get a good shot at this (making the tournament),” Turner said. “I was talking to Ben (Rajewski), he was saying that you never really know when you’re going to get a chance to go to the tournament and do big things. He sees this year as definitely one of the best chances he might have.”

When this class graduates in May and their playing days are behind them, they hope to have left as lasting impression on the program.

“Hopefully we’re conference champions, the first team to go to the national tournament in a while and a team that helped turn around the program,” Turner said.

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