UND men's basketball prepares for upcoming season with a new coach
Coaching changes for UND men’s basketball have been rare. Since 1971, there have been only three coaches at UND.
Now, however, there is a fourth as Paul Sather begins his first year as the head coach of the program -- one that is beginning to adjust to life in the Summit League.
UND held its annual media day Monday at The Betty. The men’s program under Sather will face a difficult nonconference schedule -- with road games at national power Gonzaga plus contests against Minnesota, Nebraska and Oregon State. But it’s a schedule the program is embracing.
“As a competitor, you just have to take the schedule for what it is,” said UND senior Kienan Walter, one of three returning starters. “It’s an opportunity to show what you can do.”
Walter said the transition to a new staff as gone well.
“It’s definitely been a challenge, but a good challenge,” said Walter, who averaged 8.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last season. “It’s been a lot of learning and adapting. But we’ve grown a lot and have new perspectives on how to play.
“Coach Sather is very smart. So, I’m learning a lot from him. It’s been a good experience, for sure.”
UND has had 23 practices so far and its opener is set for Nov. 7 at home against Crown College.
So, what style of play will fans see at The Betty this season?
“We’re going to get the ball inside more to our big men; play more inside out,” said senior Marlon Stewart, the team’s leading scorer from last season (14.3 ppg). “And hopefully, we’ll still play fast as we can because I like to push the tempo.”
UND practices have emphasized playing off the ball.
“The away-from-the ball action is something that we’re really trying to emphasize,” said Sather. “And that’s a whole new style of play. When I don’t have the ball, what should I do? That takes time.”
After UND’s opener against Crown, UND will play four straight on the road -- at Gonzaga, ranked as high as No. 7 in some polls; at Valparaiso; at Milwaukee and at Minnesota on Nov. 24.
There are benefits to playing a demanding schedule.
“You have to look at this as an opportunity,” said Sather. “We get a chance to go on the road and play in some good environments against some really good teams. And those teams are going to maybe push us in ways that we can’t push ourselves in practice.
“So let’s use it the right way. Don’t overthink it. Just go out and play and see what happens.”
The goal, said Sather, is to get the Hawks prepared for their second season in the Summit League. The league opener is Jan. 2 at Denver.