Familiar faces Ė like Damien Crump, Greg Dean, and Cornelius Bishop Ė are all gone. There isnít even a Nick Guida, Kevin Pearson, or Brett Klabo to remind you of last yearís team.
"It will be a new adventure for us," said Cobber head coach Duane Siverson. "The last three years we have had the best teams, in terms of wins and losses, ever."
In those three seasons the Cobbers compiled a 52-23 record.
According to Siverson, defense will be the cornerstone of the 1997-98 Cobbers.
"We basically lost all our scoring production," Siverson said. "Weíre bigger than we have been in the past though. When you combine that with intensity we could be a better defensive and rebounding team than we were last year."
Brian Kjesbo, a 6-foot senior guard, agrees.
"If we are going to be successful," Kjesbo said, "itíll depend greatly on our defense. We have some good size, and generally, some good quickness."
With the majority of his offense lost to graduation, Siverson will be looking for someone to step up.
According to Siverson, 6-foot-3 fifth-year senior forward James Gillhouse will be the "prime candidate."
"He has a real knack for getting the ball in the hole," Siverson said. "Heís played in the post most of his life, and he just has a garbage manís mentality when it comes to scoring."
As co-captain, along with Kjesbo, Gillhouse will also be looked upon to provide leadership.
"Heís been a great inspirational leader to us on and off the court," Siverson said.
Another player who Siverson believes has a lot of offensive potential is freshman Mike Wrobel.
"He can play on the post. He can play on the perimeter. He can do a lot of different things," Siverson said of the 6-6 forward from Willmar, Minn.
Aside from Kjesbo and Gillhouse, the Cobbers will start Micah Benson, a 6-1 sophomore from Moorhead; Trevor Peterson, a 6-3 senior from Staples, Minn.; and sophomore Nate Malchow, a 6-8 transfer from Aberdeen, S.D.
As a freshman, Malchow saw about 8 to 12 minutes a game playing for St. Olaf.
Benson didnít see much playing time last year until after Christmas, when he averaged about 14 minutes a game.
Benson is a three-sport athlete, competing in track and field and soccer for the Cobbers, in addition to basketball.
"We have five seniors and three juniors," Siverson said, "so it isnít like we have guys that havenít been around basketball. Theyíre a smart bunch of kids. They seem to grasp things relatively quickly."
According to Siverson, the big question is one of chemistry.
"Itís going to take a little while for us to be cohesive," Siverson said. "Now we have to play some games and try to find the correct combination of who plays well together."
Considering how little his players have played together, Siverson isnít setting his sights too high.
"The goal is to get to the playoffs but obviously thatís going to be a big task," Siverson said. "We probably have the least amount of returning players (in the conference)."
Kjesbo thinks that the team should get better as the season goes on.
"Weíre pretty deep," Kjesbo said. "Weíll be able to play a lot of players. If we continue to improve we should have a successful season."
1997 Concordia Menís basketball