Piper hoops looks for big jump

Men’s basketball begin the 2014-2015 season with new expectations and some new faces.


Paul Patane

NAIA National Championship trophies dating back to 1942, 1949 and 1951.

Paul Patane, Reporter

Senior forward Austin Johnson led Hamline with 14 points as the Pipers opened their season on the road, beating the Northwestern Eagles 79-59  on Saturday, Nov. 15.

On the court, the Pipers are led by senior forward Dior Ford. He made the All-MIAC team last year, averaging 17.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Ford has scored over 1,000 points as a Piper and looks to end his collegiate career on a high note.

Ford has big personal and team goals this season.

“I would like to get into the playoffs and average 22 points per game,” Ford said.

Hayes returns for his second season as head coach after having played his collegiate career for the Pipers. He’s no stranger to success, as he ranks fifth all-time in rebounds and ninth all-time in points at Hamline.

Hayes views Ford as a team leader younger players can look up to.

“He [Ford] leads by example and sets the tone. He’s doing a great job and needs to assert himself on a daily basis,” Hayes said.

Ford isn’t the only senior looking to go out winning. Johnson has a lot left to accomplish as well.

“I’d like to make the all-conference team this year and I’d like to lead in rebounds, too. I feel like we have a really good team and a chance to make the playoffs,” Johnson said.

Defense and taking care of the basketball will be key for the Pipers this season.

“We want to make improvements in taking care of the basketball and be consistent on defense,” Hayes said.

Playing good defense is important to Johnson as well.

“We should be in the top three in all defensive categories,” Johnson said.

Continuity is another key factor for the players as they’ve become more familiar with Hayes and his expectations.

“We’re trying to build off of last year, to have that continuity from year one to year two,” Hayes said.

The Pipers hope to start fast and have sustained success.

“I would like us to start undefeated. In the beginning games, we usually start strong. We want to be pretty good over the first half of the season,” Ford said.

Regardless of points scored or where the Pipers finish in the MIAC standings, tradition and legacy is always important to the team.

“Our history and tradition is second to none. We’ve quite the piece of history we’re proud of,” Hayes said.

Ford has never overlooked the history of the program when playing in Hutton Arena.

“Thinking back like that, it’s like ‘wow’. You look back at the old banners. Basketball has been played here a long time,” Ford said.

Hamline is the birthplace of intercollegiate basketball. The school hosted the very first college basketball game in 1895 against the School of Agriculture from University of Minnesota. The program has also won three NAIA national championships, dating back to 1942, 1949 and 1951.

Ford and Johnson lead a talented group of familiar faces, but new players and underclassmen are expected to step up and contribute sooner rather than later.

“We have a strong group of seniors. We have ten new guys; eight freshmen and two transfers. We expect them to contribute right away,” Hayes said.

Ford is also excited with the potential he sees in his new teammates.

“I’m excited by the freshmen. We have so many people that can score on the team,” Ford said.

With so many new players, experience and poise can be a challenge.

“We have a lot of freshmen. The heat of the moment, anxiety and those types of things pose a challenge,” Johnson said.

Last year, the Pipers went 9-16 (6-14 MIAC) to finish ninth place in the conference. This year, the 2014-2015 MIAC Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll projects the team to finish in ninth place again.

The Pipers open their home season tonight, Nov. 19, against UW-River Falls at 7pm in Hutton Arena. They’ll play three road games and return to Hutton Arena to play Concordia on Saturday, Dec. 6.