The University of North Dakota men’s basketball program turned the page quickly after a difficult 2021-22 campaign as the Fighting Hawks dealt with significant injuries to major contributors and worked through the challenges of having an inexperienced roster. As with any program in the NCAA these days, there’s going to be player movement and attrition. UND was no exception with some defections including Summit League Freshman of the Year, Paul Bruns, who transferred closer to home at the University of South Dakota.
The Fighting Hawks have eight returners, most of whom played significant minutes and roles throughout last season. They include Forward Mitchell Sueker, Guard Caleb Nero, Guard Matt Norman, Guard Reid Grant, Forward Brian Matthews, Forward Tsotne Tsardtsidze, and Forward Brady Danielson. 6’6” A’Jahni Levias, a transfer from Central Wyoming College, redshirted due to injury. Although this group struggled with consistency on both ends of the floor, there were glimpses of what the Fighting Hawks *could* do. The hope is that another summer of development along with some impact newcomers will translate into more victories this coming season. Having a healthy Sueker and a healthy Nero back should really help lead this group and develop some chemistry over the summer.
Head Coach Paul Sather and his staff spent a majority of the last couple of months recruiting more size, length and athleticism as UND will look to make a jump up on the defensive end. This is an area the Hawks MUST improve as opponents shots 48% from the field against them last season. It's a tricky time navigating the transfer portal while also continuing prep recruiting. UND found a mix and here’s a look at the some of the new pieces joining the roster this summer.
The Fighting Hawks still have a scholarship available for the 2022 class and have at least one offer out to Kansas Mr. Basketball winner Elijah Brooks.
Treyson Eaglestaff – Bismarck, ND
The only early signee for the Hawks had a fantastic senior season for Bismarck High, earning North Dakota’s Mr. Basketball Award in March. A gifted perimeter shooter and scorer, Eaglestaff developed his passing skills more in his final high school season. The big adjustment for him will be on the defensive end. Bismarck High’s full-court scheme is built on speeding teams up, ball pressure, double-teams and traps, where Eaglestaff played centerfield on the backend. His time on the floor will be determined how quickly he can learn the nuances of defending man-to-man at the collegiate level.
B.J. Omot – Mankato, MN
An intriguing prospect that had some significant recruiting interest last spring/summer from the likes of Providence, Boston College, George Washington, Cal Poly, St. Thomas, among others. He adds an element of length and athleticism at 6’8” 185 pounds the Hawks haven't had and has a good chance to earn some minutes right away. Omot is a versatile wing that averaged around 23 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this season for a state qualifier at Mankato East and was a nominee for Mr. Basketball in the state. The upside and ability is definitely there.
Victor Ndoukou – Wigan, UK
The UND coaching staff went across the pond to locate another big body (6’8” 225) that showed some versatility to go inside/outside playing for the Loughborough Riders and for Charnwood College in England. Ndoukou was named the 2021-22 Elite Academy Basketball League Most Valuable Player and put up 30 points in the EABL Championship game. The sense you get watching some of his highlights is that his game has tons of room to grow. He’s only been playing basketball for four years. How quickly he makes the adjustment from the competition level in England compared to what he’ll see night in and night out in Division One college basketball will determine his role, but you can never have enough bodies like the one Ndoukou possesses.
Jalun Trent – Baltimore, MD
North Dakota needed to add a point guard to this class and did so with a junior college player that averaged 9.4 PPG, 8.0 APG and 7.2 RPG per game at Cochise College in Arizona. He shot high percentages from the floor/free throw line and was named the NJCAA Region I Defensive Player of the Year. He was also selected to the 2021 All-ACCAC First-Team & NJCAA All-Region I First-Team. He’s a longer perimeter defender and fills a need for the Hawks on the roster. I would anticipate Trent to challenge hard for significant minutes immediately. In my opinion, his game and body type resembles Tyree Ihenacho.
Brady Nicholson – Chaska, MN (Preferred Walk-On)
Another interesting addition to the roster for 2022 is a 6’9” 240-pound bruiser that has a chance to develop into a very serviceable big man. He shed nearly 80 pounds from his junior to senior season at Chaska High School and isn’t afraid to get physical in the post. He’s also shown a nice touch on his jumper from 15-18 feet as well. Definitely a player to keep an eye on down the road.
Daniel Hong – Barrington, IL (Preferred Walk-On)
Hong is a 6’2” point guard that played in the highest division of high school basketball in Illinois. He had a strong finish to his high school career, helping lead his high school program to its first sectional title in 20 years. Hong shows good body control, fundamentals, and toughness in video footage. He’s a little unorthodox in his movements, but very productive. He also wrote the longest commitment note on his social media I have ever seen, so he must be a detailed individual.
Summer workouts get rolling into full swing soon with camps running throughout the summer months as well.