When looking at the Augustana men’s basketball lineup this year, you can’t help but notice how young they are.
“It’s an investment this year, and we’re winning so that’s just kind of a bonus,” said Head Coach Tom Billeter.
That roster for the Vikings includes zero seniors, so it’s the underclassmen working to take them to the top this year.
“I do wish we had a couple of seniors, they have nobody to tell them kind of this is maybe the way right or wrong or anything like that. But maybe being naive is allowing them to be wide eyed and catch as much as what we’re teaching them and be as good as they can,” said Billeter.
“It definitely makes you work a little harder right away, just to get going. It’s a lot different than what you’d have to do at a different school where you’d have say a loaded senior team.,” said freshman Trevor Hanson.
“It’s gone well, we still have learning curves to get through, but it’s been fun, fun to play with some of the young guys,” said freshman A.J. Plitzuweit.
The numbers speak for itself. The top seven scorers for Augustana this season are underclassmen, including four freshmen starters.
“They’re just really doing a good job together kind of learning together, failing together, stumbling together. But they’re really doing a good job staying together which I think is the key to this team,” said Billeter.
“Being in the starting lineup definitely helps because you get a say in what needs to be done, because you’re out there and you see it all. I know everyone works hard in the summer, we work out all the time and I definitely think we’ve earned what we have,” said LeBrun.
Finding chemistry so early came natural for three of the Vikings, competing against each other in Class-A in South Dakota just last year.
A.J. Plitzuweit played at Vermillion, Trevor Hanson for Sioux Valley, and Dylan LeBrun for Flandreau.
“I liked all of them, but I didn’t really like Tate and Trevor because they always beat our team but they turned out to be really cool dudes so we got along really well,” said LeBrun.
“We kind of always played each other and it was always usually a pretty good game. So yeah we did end up being rivals, but we always won in the end,” said Hanson.
Once rivals, now teammates.
“We were all pretty close friends because we had talked through the high school years, so we had talked about it and we decided to commit here all together. We had communication the whole time and we kind of knew we wanted to go somewhere together and do something special,” said Plitzuweit.
Despite being one of the youngest teams in country, Augustana is off to a 12-6 start, which included a 7-game win streak to kick off conference play. That shows that the new guys are campus, are quickly shifting roles to leaders.
“I think that we had a great opportunity in front of us and we knew that if we did come in we’d have a chance to play right away and we’d have a chance to do something special together,” said Plitzuweit.
“I did not think that I would be playing this early and our team would be doing this well for how young we are,” said LeBrun.
This as the younger teammates are saying it’s only the beginning, as they hope their chemistry and hard work can hopefully bring another national title during their career.
“I think we have that chemistry, which is important it’s something that you can’t really teach. So we have that chemistry now, so it’s just a matter of time before it all just kind of clicks for all of us together,” said Plitzuweit.
Augustana hosts Concordia-St.Paul and Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday and Sunday.