2020-21 Men's Basketball Preview
- Posted Monday, October 26, 2020
Last year's competitive GPAC schedule saw the Defender men's basketball team finish third in the conference, earning the 23rd spot in the NAIA Division II Coaches' Poll at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. Dordt finished with a 22-9 overall record and a 13-7 record in conference play. Head Coach Brian Van Haaften is heading into his third season leading the team, posting a winning percentage of .651 over his first two years.
Dordt finished the season strong last year, winning 7 of their last 8 regular season games. Their season came to a close in the first round of the GPAC Tournament following a one-point loss to Mount Marty. The Defenders were chosen to finish 3rd in this year's conference preseason coaches' poll, receiving a first-place vote in the poll.
Van Haaften acknowledges the challenges of playing in the GPAC, but he is excited for the opportunity to compete each game.
"The GPAC is an awesome league, where anyone can beat anyone on any night. We love the fact that we get to play a really good team every time we put on the jersey. I believe that Northwestern, Morningside, and Jamestown have the most productive players returning on paper, and it will take a really good game to knock those teams off. Every team has really good potential, and we respect every single opponent."
The Defenders have a core group of players with valuable experience, while the team as a whole is a young group. The team will have five seniors, Dejay Fykstra, Jesse Jansma, Ben Gesink, Kendrick Van Kekerix, and Garrett Franken, while sophomore Cade Bleeker is back after starting 31 games as a freshman last season.
"Our team has five seniors and three of them have a lot of experience, but this is a very young team. After the three seniors - Gesink, Jansma, and Franken - we have very little experience, and this is why our goal is to just keep getting better each day. It is a really great group of guys to coach," said Van Haaften.
The team was led in scoring and rebounds by Garrett Franken, who scored 15.8 points per game and grabbed 7.5 boards per game. Jesse Jansma averaged 2.6 assists each game, helping the Defenders rank 16th in NAIA Division II in assist-to-turnover ratio, at 1.6. Jansma also added 12.6 points per game. Cade Bleeker was 25th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, shooting a mark of 45.1% from behind the arc. Jesse Jansma and Garrett Franken will likely eclipse the 1,000-point mark this season, currently with 957 and 931 points, respectively.
Dordt's offense was among the best in the nation last season, putting up a three-point percentage of 39.2%, which was 11th among NAIA Division II schools. The Defender men were also 16th in scoring offense, scoring 86.1 points per game.
Van Haaften is looking forward to seeing how the team progresses and improves throughout the season.
"Our team has high expectations and we expect to be a consistent team all year long. We just want to be the best team we can be, and we will try to improve one game at a time and see where that takes us."
Multiple members of the team earned postseason honors for their performances last season. Garrett Franken was named to the GPAC 1st Team and was an NAIA All-American Honorable Mention. Jesse Jansma and Cade Bleeker were both selected to the GPAC 2nd Team, while Marcus Winterfeld was a GPAC Honorable Mention. Seven athletes were selected as NAIA Scholar Athletes, and the Defenders were named an NAIA Scholar Team.
The national outlook will be different this year as the NAIA shifts from two divisions to one national division.
"You have to win your league or be at the very top to get in the tournament, so we just have to take care of those games," Van Haaften said of the expanded NAIA field.
The NAIA National Tournament will now have 64 teams at regional sites, leading to a 16-team tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.
Van Haaften commented on the tournament format, saying, "It has a system in place with an RPI, and the best teams will get selected. The pod of four games to start the tournament will have awesome atmospheres and will be extremely challenging. We want to be in those games."
Dordt is scheduled to open their season on Tuesday, October 27 on the road at Kansas Wesleyan. Following their first four contests, the Defenders will play a 20-game conference schedule, culminating with the GPAC Tournament in late February.
"The great thing about our players is their development as people. These young men are striving to not only be great basketball players; they are developing into quality young men that will be great leaders in their workplace, great fathers and husbands, and will make a difference in others' lives. It is a joy to watch these guys grow and our coaching staff loves them."