Winter is coming — that means it’s almost time to make the 10-minute trek on I-29N to the Sanford Pentagon and watch the Augustana basketball teams compete for the NSIC crown.
The NSIC preseason poll tabbed the men to finish fourth in the NSIC South and the NSIC overall. The poll had the women in first place in the NSIC South and third overall in the NSIC. Senior forward Tyler Riemersma and junior forward Aislinn Duffy are the players to watch for each team. Riemersma averaged a double-double for the Vikings last season and was a member of the All-NSIC South team. Duffy was an All-NSIC second-team representative, averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 points per game. She averaged 31.2 minutes per game for the Vikings.
Senior Forward Tyler Riemersma
Senior Forward Adam Dykman
Junior Guard Isaac Fink
Forward Michael Schaefer (Transfer)
Guard Matthew Todd (Transfer)
The team heads into coach Tom Billeter’s 18th season, coming off a 9-7 record and a first-round exit in the NSIC conference tournament via the eventual champion, Northern State University.
“I think we have a really nice mix of young and old,” Billeter said. “And the older are experienced. So we have way less dependence or pressure on the young guys to be good right away for the first time in probably a very long time.”
The Vikings brought in four freshmen this year — guards Alex Distras, Veron Eze and Zac Johnson. Forward Angelo Winkel rounds out the class. Redshirt freshman, Akoi Akoi, will make his first appearance for the Vikings this season.
“[Akoi’s] gotten a lot better. He was a gym rat in the summer,” Dykman said. “He was in the gym like every single day. He’s become a lot more full player. He knows what he’s doing offensively and defensively.”
Five players (Riemersma, Dykman, Isaac Fink, Dylan LeBrun, Jameson Bryan) return this year who each bring over 20 minutes per game of experience from last season.
Riemersma and Dykman were the Vikings’ top scorers last season with 13.3 and 12.7 points per game, respectively. Riemersma and Fink return the most rebounds from last season with 10.3 and 5.2 per game.
“We fit around our talent. We don’t force our talent to play the way we want,” Billeter said. “We have a structure, and then we will tweak it and adjust it around what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are, and we are still learning them too.”
After last season’s plexiglass-covered games, Dykman and Fink said they’re excited to get back to a typical game atmosphere and are hopeful the Augustana community will be there for tip-off .
“The locker room is confident this season,” Fink said. “We have an experienced core of older players to blend with a talented group of young guys coming in. I can’t wait to get back on the court.”
Junior Guard Vishe’ Rabb
Junior Forward Aislinn Duffy
Sophomore Guard Lauren Sees
Guard Hannah Mitby (Grad)
Guard Izzy Van Veldhuizen (Grad)
Dave Krauth enters his 33rd season as the head coach of the Vikings. He has 32 seasons with a winning record. Last season, the Vikings ended 12-5 after a second-round exit in the NSIC championship to MSU Moorhead.
“I’m trying to get a real good handle of this team,” Krauth said. “We are one of the few teams in the conference, particularly in the South, that looked at any graduation losses last year. What we’ve done to this point is kind of play around with some lineups a little bit, sometimes going a little smaller, sometimes going a little bigger.”
Van Veldhuizen and Mitby averaged 13.4 and 12.5 points per game last season. Both averaged 5.2 rebounds per game. However, Duffy and Sees were the Vikings’ top scorers last season, with 14.2 and 13.7 points per game.
Rabb, the 2018-19 NSIC Freshman of the Year, returns a full season after an ACL tear that took her out of the ’19-’20 season. She averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last season.
“I still notice at times when she’s a little apprehensive about certain things she does,” Krauth said. “Then she’ll forget about it and just be herself on other plays too. But she does bring that athleticism to the floor that every coach is always looking for. She can get to the basket on just about anybody, and so she has the potential to really give us a shot in the arm for sure.”
The team, like Krauth, has been working to find an identity through the first couple of weeks of practice.
“We have days where everything flows, everything clicks,” Rabb said. “Then we have days where we know the idea, but maybe it’s not there, and that’s fine. We’re learning, and we’re having less of those questionable days. We’re creating our own standard for a day.”