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The Antelope

New players highlight 2021-22 men’s basketball team


With many players from last year’s team leaving the program, the UNK men’s basketball coaches were tasked with finding new players to come onto this year’s team. The Lopers roster features eight new players this year with five returning from last year’s squad. 

Since the team has many new players, the offseason can be an important time for the team to get to know each other.

“I think the chemistry is good,” said coach Kevin Lofton. “The upperclassmen are doing a pretty good job of leading the basketball team and the underclassmen are falling right in line.”

One of the top returners from last year’s team is forward Austin Luger who averaged 13.8 points per game. 

“He does a good job on the post defense and he’s really an active rebounder,” Lofton said. “He’s a kid that a lot of the guys look up to and he works extremely hard in practice and I think that all those things are gonna help us this year.”

Other players returning to the team include senior Darrian Nebeker, senior Matt Brien, junior Winston Cook and redshirt junior Parker Badding. Nebeker was the third-leading scorer on last year’s team averaging 9.3 points per game. 

“We’re gonna put the ball in his hands a little bit more and allow him to come off the pick and roll which is something we did not do last year,” Lofton said. “He developed some confidence in that this offseason in the summer. Then in the preseason when we put him in those situations he was pretty effective.”

One of the top newcomers to the Lopers is redshirt junior guard David Simental as a transfer from Colorado State-Pueblo. Simental was a two-time All-RMAC guard and averaged 18.9 points last year. 

“I think right now he’s our best player,” Lofton said. “He has the ability to score the ball at all three levels. High character kid, works hard, great work ethic. The guys kinda have taken to him and I think he’s assimilated himself pretty well.”

Other newcomers that could make an impact this year are 6-foot-6 forward Tom Connelly, guard Sean Evans, forward Sean Murphy and forward Garret Brown. All four are freshmen who are looking to make a splash for the Lopers this year. 

UNK comes into the season ranked 12th in the MIAA preseason coaches poll where the top 10 teams make the conference tournament. 

“If we stay healthy and continue to gel I think we can be better than that, Lofton said. “Our No. 1 goal right now is making sure we find a way to get into the conference tournament.” 

The Lopers start their year against Minnesota-Duluth on Friday and are at home against Chadron on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

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