Written by David Pederson
The University of Northwestern St. Paul Men’s Basketball team fell to East Texas Baptist University 70-46 Friday night in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin. It was a rough night for the Eagles in almost every aspect of the game. They shot a mere 30% from the field and 21% from Three-Point range. Even though the season did not have a perfect ending, this Eagles basketball team made history.
It is a cliché to say “basketball is a team game”, but it definitely holds true. This Eagles basketball team has a lot of talented individual players, but their greatest strength is that they are a team. Their depth of quality players and personalities may be their greatest strength. I am a student coach for this basketball team, so I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time around these guys. I know all of these guys fairly well, and I know all of the strengths of these players. I know that every single player on this basketball team contributed to the success the Eagles had this year, and I would like to use this article to dive into how each player helped bring the team all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.
Isaiah Rahier- Isaiah is known for his energy. I don’t think that this guy ever gets tired, and you would be hard pressed to find a guy who loves basketball more than this freshman. Isaiah is loud and encouraging whether it’s a practice in December or an NCAA Tournament game.
Matt Lindgren- It is so hard to describe this guy only using words. Matt Lindgren is one of the funniest guys you will ever meet, and he displays this in the locker room prior to games. Whether it is getting in guys’ faces and screaming at them to get them psyched up or giving certain players massages before the game, this freshman is key at keeping the pre-game atmosphere loose and fun. However, on the court, Matt Lindgren is all business. Coming into a game back in December against UW-Stout and contributing to an Eagles win was the highlight of Lindgren’s season on the court.
Tyler Van Maanen- Tyler Van Maanen is a solid post player on the court, but in the pre-game festivities might be where he loves to thrive the most. This sophomore is the one in charge of screaming and getting everybody psyched up in the huddle before the team starts warming up. Considering the Eagles went on to a Sweet Sixteen Tournament run, he obviously did a very good job.
Kyle Filzen- Every team needs a guy who brings cockiness and swagger to the table. Kyle Filzen is that guy for the Eagles. A great three-point shooter, this sophomore expects every single one of his shots to go in. The Eagles are a very humble team, but to be successful a team needs an air of confidence. Kyle Filzen supplies it.
Aaron Youngberg- To contrast the confident swagger of Kyle Filzen, there is the quiet Aaron Youngberg. This sophomore is all business and brings that calming, humble presence to the team. On the court, Aaron Youngberg has a smooth jumpshot and is a very good post defender. Also, I will give 100 dollars to anybody who can find a nicer person than Aaron Youngberg. Spoiler alert: it’s not possible.
Austin Stubbs- Austin Stubbs is another guy that is bursting with confidence. If you need proof, this is a guy made a game winning buzzer-beater three from way beyond the three-point line in a JV game this year. Not only that, but in the huddle before that shot, he told his teammates he was going to make it. However, this sophomore also contributed big time on the court to the varsity Eagles success this season. With his strong speed and his great ball handling, Austin Stubbs came into multiple games this year and played a big role when other guards would get into foul trouble. He was a fan favorite as well. The student section would often chant: “STUBBS STUBBS STUBBS!” whenever he would enter the game.
Cody Sprenger- You often are unable to see Cody Sprenger while he is on the basketball court. Normally, all you can see of this sophomore is a flash of his red hair. This is because Cody Sprenger is one of the fastest basketball players you will ever see. Cody Sprenger spent some time in the starting lineup this season for the Eagles, but normally contributed as the first player coming off the bench. Cody Sprenger was the back up point guard for Northwestern and his speed is just one of the things that the sophomore brings to the table. He also has great skills with handling the ball; he is a great defender, and a great three-point shooter. Even more important than his skill on the court is his personality. I said earlier that you would be hard pressed to find somebody nicer than Aaron Youngberg, well Cody Sprenger is right up there. This makes sense, as they are roommates. Cody has a great sense of humor, and he contributes on the floor as a great player, and off the floor as a great person.
Porter Morrell- “And at our fourth play of the night we have Porter Morrell hitting the game winning shot for the University of Northwestern-St. Paul against the University of St. Thomas.” This is what was being said on Sportscenter the night the team pulled off the huge upset over the Tommies. What can you say about this sophomore? The only word that can be used to describe him is: CLUTCH. To a common fan, this looked like a one time act of “clutchness”. As somebody who has watched the Eagles all season and watched Porter Morrell all season, I can say that he has been that clutch all year. Even the next night against Elmhurst College, Porter Morrell made numerous free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Porter is the starting point guard for the Eagles, and he is solid. He does not turn the ball over, and he does not make mistakes. In my opinion, Porter Morrell has been the backbone of the Eagles all season. Porter’s great mind for the game of basketball and great sense of humor makes him a great presence in the Eagles’ locker room as well.
Will Gisler- Will Gisler’s game is deceptive. If you looked at his 6’6 frame you would think he doesn’t belong out on the perimeter. However, Will Gisler is an excellent shooter, and is great at getting himself to the basket and finishing. Gisler is one of Northwestern’s best scoring threats because of his ability to score inside and outside. This sophomore is on his way to building a very successful career here at Northwestern, having all of this success as just a sophomore. Gisler won the UMAC Freshman of the Year last year and had another impressive season this year. Gisler is another one of those “jokesters” that the team has so many of that helps keep the atmosphere around the team light and fun throughout the season.
Caleb Janson- Caleb Janson is 100% heart. This guy will never give up, will never back down, and there will never be a time where Caleb Janson is on a basketball court and not giving it everything he’s got. You have to feel happy for this junior when he got the UMAC Tournament MVP because he had been doing the dirty work for the team all season. An outstanding defender, Caleb Janson is normally tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player. Caleb is also a great rebounder, totaling the second most rebounds on the team. Not only is Caleb a great defender and rebounder, but his offensive game is polished as well. A great finisher around the rim and a smooth mid range jumpshot make Janson even more dangerous on the floor. Although he is one of the toughest guys on the team, Janson is opposite of that off the floor. Another guy on the team with a great sense of humor and a nice personality, Janson provides a lot of laughs for the team off the court.
Michael Carney- If you’re going over the scouting report to play the Eagles, Michael Carney is at the top of your priority list. Anyone who knows Michael Carney knows that he is an outstanding shooter. If Michael Carney has an open three-point shot, you can assume that shot is going in. This junior had one of the most historic seasons in Northwestern history, helping lead them to their best conference record of all time and their first two ever NCAA National Tournament game wins. Carney won the UMAC Conference Player of the Year and scored his 1,000th career collegiate point. These are just a few of the awards Carney brought in this year, but you could argue that Carney is just as important to the Eagles off the court as he is on the court. As a captain for the team, Michael displayed leadership throughout the entire season for the Eagles. There is one simple way to put it: Michael Carney was this team’s leader on and off the court.
Kyle Ooms- Kyle Ooms is the anchor of this Northwestern defense. This junior’s specialty is waiting in the paint for opposing players to drive in so he can swat away their shots. Ooms is also a great rebounder, as he led the team in rebounds this season. On the offensive side, Kyle Ooms is a strong finisher and a human highlight reel. If you don’t believe me, just ask Kevin Heysse of the University of Minnesota-Morris Cougars. This is the guy who Kyle “posterized” in the UMAC Tournament Championship. Kyle Ooms’ toughness on and off the court is great for the younger players to look up to.
Daniel Petkau- There is one word that a person can use to describe Daniel Petkau: ATHLETIC. If you attend a Northwestern practice, this senior can be seen flying through the air dunking basketballs, or blocking shots. A great understanding of the game of basketball and knowing the right place to be at the right time to compliment his athleticism make Daniel Petkau extremely dangerous on the court. In addition to his athleticism, Daniel Petkau provides great senior leadership for this relatively young basketball team.
Thomas Shephard- Thomas Sheppard loves Northwestern basketball more than anybody else out there. This senior bleeds Northwestern purple and gold, and his passion for the game shows on the court. He’s always playing hard and is a fantastic knock down three-point shooter. To go along with his effort and three point shooting, Thomas Sheppard is a great senior leader off the court for the Eagles. You will never see Thomas Sheppard in a bad mood, and his optimism and energy were irreplaceable for the team this season.
Blake Van Maanen- Blake Van Maanen is another guy who loves Northwestern basketball, and has been around the program for a long time. This senior is a perfect example for what Northwestern basketball stands for. He is hardworking, honors God with his play, and puts the team above himself. Blake is a great presence and leader for the team, but that is not all he is there for. A solid defender and a good three-point shooter, Blake Van Maanen is a great player coming off the bench for the Eagles.
Matt Watnemo- In my opinion, Matt Watnemo is the heart and soul of this Eagles team. He is a senior captain, and is as competitive as they come. This guy does not want to lose and is going to leave everything out there every single time he steps on the court. I strongly believe that this senior’s competitive fire is contagious and spreads to the rest of the team. It is not like Matt Watnemo’s only contribution is through his leadership, either. Matt Watnemo is an extremely effective post player for the Eagles as well. He is tough inside, can finish through contact, and will not back down from anyone on the defensive side. It cannot be stated enough how important Matt Watnemo’s toughness and competitiveness is to this basketball team.
I hope that I made my point extremely obvious throughout all of this. The University of Northwestern-St. Paul Men’s Basketball team is just that. A TEAM. They do a phenomenal job of playing as one unit instead of playing as five individuals. What a fantastic year for the UNW Men’s basketball team, and every single one of these players played a huge role in this accomplishment.