"We need to slide down, guys. We can't give up wide-open layups. We need to force players to make contested plays on the perimeter."
Minot High boys basketball coach Dean Winczewski stressed those sentiments toward the end of a preseason practice at Magic City Campus. It's an oversimplified philosophy, he said, but it's the strategy the Magicians plan to perfect in their quest to become the state's top defensive team.
"It's been tough because it kind of goes against everything we've been taught up until this point, but we'll get it," junior forward Noah Bosh said. "We have big plans on defense. We have to get it."
Minot High senior Colter Hustad, middle, is the
returner in points and rebounds with eight and 5.5 per game, respectively.
MDN File Photo
How's this for oversimplified? Minot held opponents under 50 points in nine contests last season, coming away with victories each time. Regardless of defensive scheme, those numbers indicate a recipe for success.
The Magicians hope a stingy man-to-man look forces opponents into tough shots and clears a path down Broadway to the Class A state tournament at the Minot State University Dome in March. Minot missed out on the state tournament last season despite posting a 16-6 record.
"Last year I don't think we focused on (defense) enough, and that's my fault," Winczewski said. "We're getting back to wanting to do things fundamentally sound defensively and become really good at what we're doing."
Minot graduated seven seniors, including three all-West Region selections in Brandon Van Dusen, Caleb Albertson and Kyle Gerding.
The Magicians will rely heavily on senior forward Colter Hustad for points and - at 6-foot-6 - a lengthy defensive presence. He posted eight points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a junior, both of which are team highs among returners. Bosh, now listed at 6-4, added 5.3 points and 3.3 boards during his sophomore campaign. Junior guard Dakota Halvorson and seniors Jacob Holmen, Kolton Larson and Jordan Seideman also project to receive plenty of playing time, while many of the reserve minutes are still up for grabs.
Halvorson expects a more cohesive unit this year, noting that a disjointed roster created extra challenges last season.
"We don't have as much experience," he said, "but we have so much more talent now and everybody's together now. No selfish play; everybody's just for the team, not for the individual."
Along with their "oversimplified" defense, the Magicians plan to put out a bare-bones offense designed to highlight a wide variety of talents.
"We're just gonna give our kids a ton of freedom," Winczewski said. "Just a few parameters to play around and then letting them use the abilities they've worked on.
"We've got some pretty skilled kids and some real nice big kids inside. By keeping the floor spaced, hopefully we can use our size and then allow the perimeter kids to use the skills they have."
Asked about his roster's inexperience heading into Saturday's season opener at Fargo North, Winczewski turned away the notion that there might be a bit of a learning curve. He's not one to make excuses for young players or celebrating moral victories.
Besides, as Minot learned well last year - when its successful season came to a roaring halt at the West Region tournament - reaching the state playoffs is a three-month-long process.
"You don't make (state) in December and you don't make it in January," Winczewski said. "You've got to play your best basketball in March, and that's what we're focused on."
Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.
Meet the Magicians
Sophomores - Ben Bolinske, Braydon Lund
Juniors - Dustin Foster, Noah Bosh, Jake Bloms, Nicolas Soltis, Dakota Halvorson, Chase Mosser, Nicholas Hatfield, Vay Davis
Seniors - Cole Jones, Jordan Seideman, Zach Nyakoe, Jacob Holmen, Kolton Larson, Colter Hustad
December - 7, at Fargo North, 5 p.m.; 12, at Bismarck High, 7:45 p.m.; 17, vs. Jamestown, 7:30 p.m.; 21, vs. Dickinson, 7:15 p.m.; 27, vs. West Fargo at MSU Dome, 7 p.m.; 28, vs. Grand Forks Red River at MSU Dome, 6 p.m.
January - 7, at Mandan, 7:30 p.m.; 14, vs. Turtle Mountain, 7:30 p.m.; 17, vs. Century, 7:30 p.m.; 21, at Williston, 5:45 p.m.; 24, at Jamestown, 7:30 p.m.; 28, vs. St. Mary's, 7:30 p.m.; 31, at Turtle Mountain, 7 p.m.
February - 4, vs. Bismarck High, 7:30 p.m.; 7, at Dickinson, 7:30 p.m.; 13, at St. Mary's, 7:30 p.m.; 15, vs. Mandan, 6 p.m.; 21, at Century, 6 p.m.; 24, vs. Williston, 7:30 p.m.
March - 6-8, West Region tournament at Bismarck Civic Center, TBD; 13-15, Class A state tournament at MSU Dome, TBD.