In our winter sports preview, the Manitou Messenger stated that, after losing a considerable number of veteran players after graduation, many new, young starters would have to take major strides forward this winter if St. Olaf men’s basketball was to have any chance in a harshly competitive conference. Through the team’s initial non-MIAC contests to begin the season, several underclassmen have done just that, helping the Oles to a 60-45 victory over UW-Stevens Point and a 75-61 win during their home opener against UW-Eau Claire.
The real test begins this week against conference rivals Macalester and Gustavus, but claiming two consecutive dominant victories means St. Olaf can head into those crucial contests with confidence and momentum. Among the young players stepping up, Nate Albers ’21 has stood out as particularly impressive, scoring 20 points against Stevens Point, including a clutch three-pointer late in the first half to give St. Olaf a permanent lead, and following that up with a double-double against Eau Claire. Leading the team with 15 points per game, 30 points total, seven three-pointers and 10 field goals made, Albers and the new Ole stars have wasted no time proving their legitimacy, potentially propelling St. Olaf to new heights this season after a disappointing 2016 campaign.
Q: Describe some of your basketball background. How did you get into it, and how did you know it was something you’d want to pursue even after high school? What role models or teachers have helped guide you through your career thus far?
A: I first started playing when I was about three years old in my basement after both parents introduced me to it. My first time competing in it was when I was in first grade, and I knew I wanted to play after high school because I felt passionate about the game and always have had fun playing it. Definitely my parents, coaches in high school and my other relatives have been influential to me.
Q: What’s been the biggest difference maker thus far this season that has contributed toward your improvement and ultimate success, both in terms of individual preparation over the off-season and team strategies or philosophies?
A: Staying together after every game, win or lose, and also working hard to stay motivated in practice to make us all better. Our coaches have also done a great job to keep us involved in the program and have fun while doing it.
Q: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a player? Where do you think you could still improve?
A: My greatest strength is probably my shooting, but I’ve tried to work more on the defensive end since I got to St. Olaf. Trying to work hard in practice and study film is how I’m trying to get better at it.
Q: Thus far you’ve led the team with seven three point shots on 16 attempts. Therefore, would you consider yourself more of a three-point specialist? Rather, is that more of the role you typically try to fill on offense, or do you consider yourself a more all-around scorer?
A: I try to be an-all around player, but my coach and teammates put me in a great spot to be able to take [three-point shots] and make them as well. I think it’s definitely a strength for me, but at the end of the day as long as we win it doesn’t matter. I also try and do my own thing mostly, but there are a few cases where I see someone make a move or do something that I think I could apply to my game.
Q: The team lost several key players from last season’s roster due to them having graduated in the spring, but thus far you guys don’t seem to have been phased by the loss of those veteran players. Where do you see some of the younger players stepping up most prominently to help fill those positions, both in terms of performance on the court and leadership outside of it?
A: The younger guys have done a great job stepping in for the people we’ve lost. That includes guys that are sophomores and juniors too. Everyone has a role on the team and I think we’re just starting to figure that out and be a team with lots of chemistry. I’m trying to be more vocal this year and be more of a leader, especially for the new first years.