Men’s basketball looks to compete for A-R-C conference title


Photo by Austin Hronich

by Gunnar Davis, Sports Editor

A season ago, the Simpson men’s basketball team surprised conference opponents and finished fourth in the conference with a new group of unproven players and one veteran.

Now, the veteran is gone, but the squad returns every other player from a team that went 13-12 overall and 9-8 in conference play. Head Coach Brad Bjorkgren plans on improving his team’s finish in the American Rivers Conference standings.

“We have 14 of our top 15 back, which is a good thing,” Bjorkgren said. “Our goals should be to build on success every day in practice and every game. I think we should think that we can contend for an American Rivers Conference championship and that’s what our goal should be.”

The Storm lost forward Sam Amsbaugh to graduation last spring. Amsbaugh averaged nearly 20 points per game and was named co-conference MVP. Bjorkgren knows he will be tough to replace, but he expects other players to step up in his absence.

“We have to learn to play without Sam Amsbaugh,” Bjorkgren said. “We’re very fortunate to have an all-conference point guard back. Conor Riordan was first-team all-conference as a sophomore so we’re lucky to have the guy who holds the basketball the most and the guy who runs the show up front.”

Junior point guard Conor Riordan averaged 19.4 points per game last season and was named first-team all-conference in his first season starting for the Storm. Riordan has been working hard this past season and will look to lead a team full of experienced juniors and seniors.

“I worked a lot on getting downhill on ball screens and being able to finish in different ways,” Riordan said. “Being a more consistent shooter. Then I’ve been working on a lot of intangibles like leadership and being a more vocal presence on the court.”

The Storm will fill out their starting lineup with veteran ball-handler, senior guard Ben Rajewski, who held a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio a season ago. Senior forwards Tyler Stumbo, John Barbee and Taylor Filbert also return. Stumbo averaged over 10 points per game, Barbee averaged seven and Filbert shot 36.4 percent from behind the arc. 6 feet 9 inch junior Adam Reiter returns and will provide a presence down low.

“We have guys that bring different things to the table,” Bjorkgren said. “What we have to do is mesh all those things together. They all need to embrace their roles and hold each other accountable. I think we’re making strides in that.”

Senior guard Cayce Good, junior guard Nick Janssen, and junior forwards Kyle Wagner and Kenton Thoms will all look to fill out a deep bench for Simpson.

Bjorkgren knows he has many players that can step up and play, but hopes his guys can improve on their consistency.

“We just want to make sure that we improve on the things we were lacking last year,” Bjorkgren said. “I don’t think we were as consistent as we should be. We’ve got to make sure that we put an emphasis on that in practice, because otherwise we’re going to be in the same position we were last year.”

Bjorkgren was adamant that his team wants to continue the success of Simpson athletics from this fall.

“Men’s basketball wants to continue what the football team has done and what our other fall sports teams have done,” Bjorkgren said. “We want to be part of something special here at Simpson. It’s not going to change in one year, but we’re making progress to where we’re getting Simpson back to the top of the American Rivers Conference.”

The Storm open up their season at home this Saturday, Nov. 10 against Bethany Lutheran. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.