The Bismarck Demons came into last year with an underdog story. Entering this year, they are the presumed favorites with something to prove.
In what has been a whirlwind of a return to the sport of basketball, head coach Jordan Wilhelm is breathing a sigh of relief as he returns to the gym with his players for another season.
“Not until last week, Tuesday night, did it really hit me,” says head coach Jordan Wilhelm. “Like ‘we’re coming back. This is going to happen.’ Because with the climate across the country, you just never know what’s going to happen when you see all these different seasons getting canceled, in different states. You never know what’s going to happen here.”
Bismarck returns to a bright spotlight. Underdogs last year, returning this year with a wave of double digits scorers, and high expectations.
“Last year, we were a team that was hunting those teams at the top,” Wilhelm says. “We were picked towards the bottom and I don’t think a lot of people expected us to have the kind of season that we had last year, and as a coach, it’s a lot easier to say ‘nobody believes in you’ that kind of mentality. This year, it’s no longer catching anybody off guard.”
With those expectations, it’s about refining a system of on-ball pressure that defined the Demons and their run towards a WDA Championship.
“Obviously, we weren’t picked to finish very high last year,” says senior Gunner Swanson. “And obviously, the defensive change helped us and the play style change helped us. But we got a lot to work on and we can perfect it, and I think if we perfect it, we can be alright.”
“Last year, I would say was a warm-up year for us and our system,” says senior Logan Schaubert. “And this year, we’re already used to it because we don’t have to reteach anything. Because in the preseason, we already know what’s going on. So that’s going to help us a lot going into the preseason because we have a couple of games where we know what’s going on. We know the expectations with the defense and we’re ready for the challenge.”
“We see a lot of areas that we can improve on,” says Wilhelm. “Our half court defense wasn’t great a year ago. I think we can be better on the defensive glass. I think we can finish at the basket at a lot better rate. We didn’t shoot a high percentage around the basket. Which is a little discouraging but also, encouraging because we feel there’s a lot of areas that we can improve.”
These next couple weeks is all about finding that perfect rotation that can get them back to where they were last March, this time hopefully, with the chance to finish the job.
“I don’t care who it’s going to be. We’re going to play 11-12 guys,” says Wilhelm. “So whoever it happens to be, whoever is going to give the best challenge to win, whoever is going to buy into what we’re selling and to what our program says are going to be the ones that play.”
The Demons open their season on the road against Mandan on December 15th.