Gopher basketball opens season versus St. Thomas

The Minnesota Gophers open their 2004-05 men's basketball season against Division III St. Thomas Saturday. The Tommies are 1-6 against the Gophers, having defeated Minnesota in what had to be a thrilling 25-24 win in 1933. The game was moved up to a noon start, due to the Wisconsin football game. The exhibition game will not count on the official record, but will give fans a first chance to see the new-look Gophers, who return just three players that played last season.

St. Thomas had a 23-year streak of consecutive winning seasons end in 2003-2004, when they finished 11-15. However, the Tommies lost nine games decided in the final minute and did upset 2003 NCAA Division III runner-up Gustavus Adolphus and finished with five road wins. Head coach Steve Fritz, who is entering his 25th season, is hoping that this year's team, which features four returning starters and three transfers, will get the Tommies back into the title chase of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).

The Tommies graduated starting center Nick Schader (14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game), an honorable mention all-conference honoree, but return nine of their top 13 players, including four with starting experience. The three transfers and at least one freshman are expected to battle for immediate playing time.

Junior guard Sean Sweeney, who attended Cretin-Derham Hall, returns to St. Thomas after leading the Tommies in scoring as a freshman (11.5 ppg, 42 3-pointers) and helping them win the conference championship in a 21-6 finish. Sweeney transferred to Division I Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he practiced but did not play last season. He decided to returned to St. Thomas and has two seasons left to play. He is an excellent outside shooter.

The other transfers are 6-8 sophomore forward Isaac Rosefelt, a 2003 Minnesota high school all-state selection at Mendota Heights (MN) St. Thomas Academy who played in 13 games at Division I Bowling Green last year; and sophomore guard Bryan Schnettler, who played in all 26 games and had 16 three-pointers as a freshman at Wisconsin-Superior.

Tommie all-conference guard Neal Anderson (15.3 ppg, 85 3-pointers in 2003-04), is one of college basketball's best stories of perseverance is the emergence of who returns for his fifth season. Anderson was cut from his Eden Prairie (MN) High team as a sophomore, junior and senior. He played intramural basketball his first two college seasons and played sparingly after he tried out and made the Tommies as a junior. However, last year, he emerged as he made a school-record 85 treys (25th in the country) and converted 45.2% (sixth in the country) from behind the arc. He ranked sixth in Division III in 3-point percentage and 25th in 3-pointers made per game.

Forward Joey Shimek, a 6-foot-5 junior who averaged 10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, started all 26 games last season. Danny Peterson, a 6-foot-4 junior forward, started 18 games and averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 rebounds. Six-foot-2 junior guard Alex Weaver averaged 7.0 points and 2.5 boards per contest. Six-foot-9 junior Nate Worrell contributed 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds, and 6-3 senior guard Ryan Hatteberg averaged 2.0 points in limited playing time.

The game will not be on radio because of WCCO Radio commitments to the Minnesota football game, but can be heard on the internet. The game will not be televised.

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