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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 17 2014

Feeling better equals playing better for NDSU's Aaberg

Fargo - Jordan Aaberg is a fifth-year senior at North Dakota State who at times feels like a veteran NBA player in his 30s. There are days when it takes the body a while to warm up.

“It’s not as easy, as opposed to one of our freshmen, for Jordan to pop out of bed and play,” said NDSU head coach Saul Phillips. “I don’t think people realize what he goes through just to play basketball.”

It was worth it on Thursday, when he came off the bench for eight points in the Summit League win against Nebraska-Omaha. Whereas last year, back problems limited Aaberg’s mobility and his offensive role was mainly to post up and pass to the open player, he’s been more aggressive to the hoop this season.

The fact he feels better is a big reason.

“Compared to what it used to be, this is a new lifestyle,” Aaberg said. “I’m able to deal with it a lot better now.”

NDSU is expecting another interior struggle today when it hosts Western Illinois at 2 p.m. at the Bison Sports Arena.

The methodical, half-court game of the Leathernecks will be almost a direct contrast to the fast ways of Omaha, although with six seniors, the Bison have seen back-to-back contrasting styles before.

“It will be like the exact opposite,” Aaberg said. “They like to pack it in and play it slow. They’ve been physical ever since I’ve been here.”

The one constant throughout Aaberg’s career has been academics. He’s been named to several academic and honors teams with his management information systems major and computer science minor. His athletic side, however, has been inconsistent mainly due to concussion and back issues.

It started fine and dandy.

He started 16 of 29 games as a true freshman and finished ninth in the Summit League in blocked shots with an average of 1.1 per game in the 2009-10 season. It wasn’t long after that when the health problems started, however. He sat out the following season with concussion symptoms.

“Looking back on it, that was like a blur,” he said. “But I think it actually helped me. It helped me to be more mature.”

Center Marshall Bjorklund has been a rock as one of the top field-goal shooters in the country. But when the 6-foot-8 Bjorklund has been relegated to the bench, usually because of foul trouble, the 6-foot-9 Aaberg has done the job. He was most noticeable in a nonconference game at Utah Valley University in December after Bjorklund got ejected.

Aaberg hit 5 of 7 shots and finished with 10 points in 21 minutes.

“Jordan bailed us out in that one,” Phillips said. “He’s always been there for us. He doesn’t come in very often and struggle.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia