Coach Jacobson speaks at media day

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  • UNI head coach Ben Jacobson speaks to the media Monday during UNI’s annual men’s basketball media day.

  • The 2022-23 UNI men’s basketball team poses for a team photo during Monday’s media day.

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ADAM JOHNSON, Sports Writer

UNI’s season is getting underway in two weeks, as on Nov. 2, they will go up against Dubuque in an exhibition game. With the season coming up quickly, the team had media day on Monday, Oct. 17, and gave us a chance to see what we might expect from this season of Panther basketball.

The highlight of this media day was a press conference with five-time MVC Coach of the Year Ben Jacobson, who is going into his 17th season as the head coach at UNI. To start it off, Coach Jacobson had sixth year senior Austin Phyfe joining him. Phyfe, who has had a great career at UNI, was there to discuss his health and what this season might look like for him. At the moment his ability to play is still up in the air, with the earliest potential return being around Christmas, but he might not make it on the floor at all. Coach Jacobson says that Phyfe’s health is far more important than him being on the floor. 

After Phyfe left, the focus went to the season, and what things are going to look like this year. One of the things that got brought up immediately was the schedule that UNI has this year. The Panthers look to have a very tough schedule this season, as seven of their non-conference opponents ranked in the top 100 last season. Coach Jacobson said that there are two ways to make it to the tournament. 

“You either win your conference tournament, or you build a schedule that can get you there.” He believes that the schedule is strong enough that if they perform well, they could have a chance at an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. He also noted that he really liked the additions of quality teams like Murray State and Belmont into the conference. UIC has the potential to be a good addition as well.

Going forward, the shift went towards the players. UNI is coming off a great season last year, but they lost a lot of key pieces of the team. They lost the likes of AJ Green, Noah Carter, Tywhon Pickford and Trae Berhow. This means that they will need a lot of players to step up, and make greater impacts on the team this season. 

One of these guys will undoubtedly be reigning MVC Sixth Man of the Year, Bowen Born. Coach Jacobson noted that Born has been looking very good so far, and he’s excited for him to take the next step as a player and as a leader. About Born, he said, “From a mentality standpoint, he just wants to win.” 

Coach Jacobson then went on to talk about the rest of the roster and what playing time might look like. He said that Born, Nate Heise and Tytan Anderson would most definitely be in the starting lineup. Someone between Trey Campbell, Landon Wolf and Michael Duax would likely be another starter in the backcourt, but all will have roles. True freshman Ege Peksari is another guy to look for in the backcourt, and for the forward position, the top guys are James Betz, Cole Henry and Derek Krogmann.

Towards the end he was asked about expectations this season with a young roster. Without hesitation he said, “I think we’re gonna go undefeated.” While he was clearly joking, he said the expectations do not change. They love the good non-conference, and believe they can beat those teams. They also expect to be in the hunt for a conference championship. He closed by saying, “They want to play the best. They might be young, but they are not going to back down to anyone.”

This UNI team looks to do great things this season, and it should be fun to watch in about two weeks. The Panthers will begin the regular season on Monday, Nov. 7, hosting the nearby Wartburg Knights at 7:30 p.m. inside the McLeod Center. This will be part of a doubleheader, as the women will also host St. Thomas in a game scheduled for a 5 p.m. opening tipoff.