Minnesota Crookston men's basketball season in review

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
Josh Dilling had a strong freshman season for Minnesota Crookston, averaging 14.7 points per game.

This article is the third in a series recapping the winter sports season for Crookston High School and the University of Minnesota Crookston. Previously: UMC women's basketball, UMC hockey. Today: UMC men's basketball.

Dan Weisse didn't want to be young again. 

After a 2019-20 season that saw the Minnesota Crookston men's basketball team with just five returning players in 2020-21, the Golden Eagles' coach tried to reload, rather than rebuild, with his incoming class. UMC brought in 12 new players this season — seven of them transfers — in an attempt to stock up on experience and immediately be able to handle the toughness of the NSIC.

But UMC went just 2-14, finishing near the bottom of the conference in most team statistics. Often, the Golden Eagles were able to hang with stronger teams for a half or more, but rarely were able to put their best stretches together in order to win.

Individually, Minnesota Crookston had some bright spots. Josh Dilling came off the bench for the first four games of his career before quickly proving himself as UMC's best player, and averaged a team-high 14.7 points per game. Returners Brian Sitzmann and Ibu Jassey Demba took steps forward in greater roles than last season. Leonard Dixon proved himself as one of the conference's best shooters, and Ethan Channel, before suffering an injury midway through the season, stood out with his driving ability.

In a year untouched by COVID-19, things might have worked. But while the Golden Eagles were competitive at stretches, consistency eluded them, the possible result of an almost entirely new team trying to gel during a global pandemic and lessened preparation.

Leonard Dixon shot 42.7 percent from 3-point range this season.

Key facts

  • Record: 2-14 (1-13 NSIC)
  • Regular season: eighth in NSIC North
  • Postseason: did not quality for NSIC Tournament
  • Team stats: 66.7 points per game, 81.5 points allowed per game
  • Statistical leaders: Josh Dilling (14.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.0 apg), Brian Sitzmann (11.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 35.0 3pt%), Leonard Dixon (10.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 42.7 3pt%), Ethan Channel (10.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 49.3 fg%), Ibu Jassey Demba (8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg)

What's next?

There are plenty of questions going forward.

Lately, college basketball players have been moving from school to school at unprecedented rates, and that trend also exists at the Division II level. Since the season ended, UMC has been hit hard.

Dilling, who looked the part of a program cornerstone, entered the transfer portal in March. So did starting point guard Georges Darwiche, backup wing Quintin Winterfeldt, and backup forwards Morgan Carter, Georges Blaj-Voinescu and Rafael Carton, among others. Jassey Demba, the team's lone senior, is leaving as well.

 At the moment, the Golden Eagles are set to return just seven players. Many of them, though, were impactful this year. Sitzmann, Channel and Dixon give UMC a solid perimeter group, and UMC should benefit from a healthy Tyrese Shines, who missed most of his sophomore season after a solid freshman campaign.

Recruiting, once again, is tricky, with the pandemic's impact still being felt and impacting travel, among other things. Expect Weisse to find players. The key, though, will be finding a mix of players that can gel regardless of circumstances that make it tough to do so.

Ethan Channel averaged 10 points per game in eight games for the Golden Eagles this season.

The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730 or sports editor Jacob Shames at jshames@crookstontimes.com.

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