Bemidji State basketball teams begin practice
Friday, October 14, 2005
BEMIDJI, Minn. – The exuberant tones of red, orange and yellow can be seen throughout the north woods and the nip of the Northern Minnesota air is felt with each crisp breath. Both are sure signs that the season of fall is upon us, but if you ask Bemidji State University head men's basketball coach Patrick Smith or Mike Curfman, head coach of the women's team--it is basketball season.

October 14th brings with it the first day NCAA member institutions can conduct basketball practice and for these coaches and their respective teams, it could not have come a day too soon.

After spending the better part of the last two months conditioning, going through individual workout sessions and pick-up games too numerous to count, the teams are back in the gym and anxiously awaiting the seasons ahead.

The men’s team, under the tutelage of Smith who is in his season season at BSU, is coming off a year in which it posted a 17-12 overall record and finished the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference season in sole possession of second place at 10-4. A team that went into the last weekend of the 2004-05 season in the hunt for its second consecutive NSIC crown welcomes back a nucleolus of four starters and six returning letterwinners.

“We are excited,” stated Smith. “There are high expectations about what this team can do.”

Those expectations have risen at BSU during the last two seasons as the Beavers have posted a 24-6 record in the NSIC and finished in one of the top two spots in the NSIC standings in consecutive seasons for the first time since the team took second in both the 1971-71 and 1972-73 seasons.

This year the Beavers will look to the trio of Alvin Muse (Sr., G, South Holland, Ill.), Duane Fields (Sr., G, Los Angeles, Calif.) and Spencer Carter (Sr., F. Chicago, Ill.) to lead them to another run at the title as Coach Smith stated “We’ve got some unfinished business to take care of.”

Fields returns to the team for his senior campaign after claiming the league’s Newcomer of the Year award last winter. He led the Beavers netting 12.9 points per game while draining a team-best 89 percent of his free-throws, setting a new BSU record along the way. His partner in the BSU backcourt will be Muse who also gained accolades from the NSIC in 2004-05 being named third team all-conference after posting a 12.0 points per game average while hitting a team-best 67 three-pointers. Finally, Carter will anchor the team in the low post bring a 7.5 rebounds per game average in from 2004-05 ranking as the league’s top man on the glass.

With all that talent returning it would be easy to understand why Smith and his staff would be antsy to get back in the gym and work with these players, but they know what these student-athletes can do and although each will be asked to step their games up and be more consistent, Smith is looking past those players to the bulk of his team that will be putting on the Green and White for the first time this season.

“The thing that maybe excites me the most about all this is that we have four players that sat out last year and we have five other newcomers. So even the for kids that sat out last season, this will be the first time they have a chance to be a major part of our program.”

The Beavers will have to get things together quickly as they hit the court Nov. 2 at University of Missouri for its first exhibition contest.

“What an opportunity this team has this preseason with the three exhibition games,” said Smith referring to a trio of exhibition games versus Division I opponents. “The thing that comes to mind about that for me is that we have 19 days before we play our first exhibition game. That might be a lot longer than hockey and some other sports have had. But at the same time, as a coach, that doesn’t feel like very much time. So over the next couple weeks we are going to try tremendously to implement our system. “

“Above all else what I enjoy as a coach is to get the chance to make your team better, a chance to improve your team,” Smith commented. “That is what practice is all about so we are looking forward to it.”

The women’s team comes into the 2005-06 season with a tremendous amount of anticipation as well, but for a much different reason. After three years under the watchful eye of Mike Power, Mike Curfman, who spent the last six seasons as head coach of the Minnesota-Crookston women’s basketball team, took the reigns of the program this summer and with a new coach, staff and eight newcomers, the Bemidji community can expect a new brand of BSU women’s basketball this season.

“This is probably one of the most anticipated starts I have had in several years because I am walking into a situation where I don’t know much about the players so I am excited see what we have and get practices going,” stated Curfman.

The team returns a solid group of players who saw considerable playing time last season led by junior forward Nancy McConckey (Superior, Wis.). McConckey finished the season ranked third on the team averaging over 10 points per game while pulling down a team-best 4.5 rebounds per game. For her efforts she was named Third Team All-NSIC. Also returning is the team’s top scorer in 2004-05 Maggie Gernbacher (Jr., G, Bloomington, Minn.). The junior netted 12.1 points per game in 2004-05 and drained almost twice as many three-pointers as any other player on the team with 69. Two other starters will back for a second tour of duty in Amy Lawson (PG, So. Spencer, Iowa) and Stephanie Peterson (So., C, Bismarck, N.D.).

Although the team has been conditioning and participating in individual workouts, Curfman thinks his team is ready to take the next step and begin to practice as a complete unit.

“We have been really please with the individual workouts and how hard the student-athletes have been working,” said Curfman. “Conditioning-wise, I think we are in pretty good shape as a team, but I think you get to the point where players are ready to get practice started.” He concluded, “The team is eager to go and we as a coaching staff are eager to go.

Each team will take full advantage of practice time, getting sessions in on both Saturday and Sunday before settling into their normal practice schedules.

The Bemidji State men break the seal on the 2005-06 season with an exhibition game at the University of Missouri Nov. 2 in Columbia, Mo. After additional exhibition games against Iowa State and Drake, the Beavers will return home to officially open the 2005-06 season with a non-conference battle versus the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The BSU women will get their first taste of competition Nov. 5 when they travel to NCAA Division I member North Dakota State University for a 6 p.m. exhibition and will open their season just 10 days later when they hit the road for a non-conference affair with Mayville State University.

BSU Men’s Practice schedule
Friday (10/14) 7-10 p.m.
Saturday (10/15) 2:30-5:30 p.m.
Sunday (10/16) 8-9 a.m. and 7-10 p.m.
Monday (10/17) 8-11 p.m.

BSU women’s practice schedule.
Saturday (10/15) 8-11 a.m.
Sunday (10./16) 2-5 p.m.
Mon-Wed (10/18-20) 2-4 p.m.
Friday (10/22) 2-4 p.m.