Jeff Kolpack, Published January 09 2013
NDSU's Bjorklund leads nation in FG percentage
Football center? Nope, the Bison junior is a physical player without pads for the NDSU men’s basketball team, which hopes to continue its winning ways at home against Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne tonight. Bjorklund will be in the starting lineup, bruises, cuts, broken teeth and all.
“It’s part of it,” he said. “I like it. I’d rather do that than dribble around the outside, which I’m not very good at.”
What he is good at, very good at, is getting position underneath and scoring. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Bjorklund leads the country in field-goal percentage, hitting 70 percent of his shots. He’s made 87 of 125 attempts, which includes a streak of 24 straight in a three-game span against Morehead State (Ky.), South Dakota State and South Dakota.
It was four shy of the all-divisions record set by former NDSU standout Lance Berwald in 1984.
“It’s like having the leading rusher in America in football,” NDSU head coach Saul Phillips said.
“It’s a steady way to score. And I think that’s been reflected in our consistency offensively.”
Bjorklund’s improved strength that has been an almost three-year project is a major reason for his accuracy. He’s better able to get position underneath and combined with his teammates’ better understanding of when and where to get him the ball has resulted in better shots.
“As a post player, you have to do a lot of your work early before you get the ball,” Bjorklund said.
And it doesn’t hurt he’s not afraid of contact.
He said he’s had his nose re-set “a few times,” which will be something that will probably get corrected when he’s done playing, he said. Phillips points to his rural upbringing in Arlington, Minn., where Bjorklund helped out on the family farm at an early age.
“Never underestimate the toughness of being raised on a pig farm,” Phillips said. “Certainly it’s somewhat genetic but it’s been ground in by repetition as well.”
NDSU, 13-3, was 46th in the first NCAA RPI rankings released this week, the highest in program history passing the No. 80 standing in last year’s 10-3 start and a No. 86 final ranking by the 2009 NCAA tournament team.
The Bison and Western Illinois are the only two unbeaten Summit teams. But it’s early – Fort Wayne has won two straight and Oakland, which comes to the Bison Sports Arena on Saturday, is 2-1.
The Oakland game carries a 4 p.m. start because of television. Midco Sports Network and Fox College Sports Pacific are carrying the games.
“They are two teams capable of beating anyone in the league,” Bjorklund said, “so we just have to try and keep protecting our home court.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found