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Eric Peterson, Published December 28 2010

Men's basketball: Trio of Bison freshmen off to fast start

North Dakota State head men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips usually doesn’t count on new talent to make an immediate impact.

“I never go into a season with any expectation that a freshman is going to make you significantly better,” said Phillips. “You’re mostly just thinking about getting them on pace and getting them in flow with the team.”

This season has been the exception to that way of thinking.

Three Bison freshmen – Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright – are already making their marks just 11 games into their college careers.

A redshirt, Braun is in his second year with the team, while Bjorklund and Wright are true freshman.

“They’ve far exceeded my expectations,” Phillips said. “Since I’ve been here, we haven’t had true freshmen play very often, let alone be major contributors.”

The Bison are scheduled to renew Summit League play at 7 p.m. today at Missouri-Kansas City.

A redshirt, Braun is in his second year with the team, while Bjorklund and Wright are true freshman.

“They’ve far exceeded my expectations,” Phillips said. “Since I’ve been here, we haven’t had true freshmen play very often, let alone be major contributors.”

The Bison are scheduled to renew Summit League play at 7 p.m. today at Missouri-Kansas City.

NDSU (7-4, 1-0 Summit) is jumping back into league play after an extended break from conference games. The Bison started the Summit season with a win at South Dakota State on Dec. 4.

“Hopefully as the season goes on we can keep contributing and keep helping the team out,” said Bjorklund, who prepped at Sibley East High School in Arlington, Minn.

Bjorklund has started all 11 games and is averaging 10.2 points and is tied for the team lead with 6.2 rebounds per game. The

6-foot-8 forward is shooting 70 percent (45 of 64) from the field.

A 6-7 forward, Wright has come off the bench and impacted the game with his athleticism. His signature performance was a 15-point, 15-rebound effort in a 82-75 win at SDSU. In that game, Wright (who has a 40-inch vertical) had three monster tip-in dunks. Wright played for Waterloo (Iowa) West High School a season ago.

“Our older teammates … all those guys have helped us through everything and tell us what we need to do,” said Wright, who started working out with the team over the summer along with Bjorklund.

“I think since the day we stepped foot on campus this summer, they’ve really helped us out,” Bjorklund said of the upper classmen,

“That’s a big reason why we have been contributing. They have been good leaders for us.”

A 6-7 guard from Newberg, Ore., Braun started three games to start this season and has been coming off the bench since.

Fifth-year Bison senior Freddy Coleman has been impressed with the three newcomers.

“They are doing really well,” said Coleman, who missed the first three games this season with a knee injury. “They’re length bothers everybody. … They continue to amaze us everyday.”

Phillips said he likes the way Braun, Bjorklund and Wright blended in with the holdovers. Their play has the Bison coach not only excited about their impact in the coming years, but also the present.

“We are not a 7-4 team without their contributions right now,” Phillips said. “I don’t think we’d be nearly as optimistic heading into the conference season if we hadn’t seen them being very good for two full months now.”


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Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com