For the past four years, Grinnell men’s basketball has maintained its status as a powerhouse team—they have played in the conference tournament all four years, broken numerous records using the system, and packed Darby Gymnasium every home game. For seniors David Arseneault ’09, John Grotberg ’09, Ahmed Idrissa ’09, Bobby Long ’09, and RJ Roewe ’09 it’s been a journey four years in the making.
Though they play as a cohesive unit now, the five seniors had very different beginnings with Grinnell basketball. Idrissa, for one, hadn’t even planned on playing college ball. “I saw the boys shooting around and having a pickup game during my first year,” Idrissa said. “I came back and started playing on the team later in the week.”
For Long and Roewe, however, it was media coverage of the famed style of play that first peaked their interest. “My dad brought home a Des Moines Register paper one time,” Roewe said. “It had a huge article on Grinnell basketball and how they score a bunch of points and that got the ball rolling little bit.”
But for Arseneault, whose father has been the head basketball coach since 1989, Grinnell basketball has always been in his blood, ever since he was a little kid. “When I was old enough to walk I would go over to practice, playing around with the guys and dribbling the ball and causing problems,” he said. “When I was in high school, in the off season I would go play with the college guys and I could see the direction [the system] was heading with a lot more three-point shots
and just playing up and down at a quicker pace.”
Others didn’t have such easy transitions into the system. “When I first came I didn’t shoot 3’s very well and so that limited how I could help the team,” Idrissa said.
Roewe also had a rough adjustment to the system— he was use to playing for large amounts of time instead of the 35-second spurts that have come to define the system. “My high school team was like the direct opposite—we would have games where our halftime score was like 12-7,” Roewe said. “We would play defense on offense.”
Though the system was different than high school play, the seniors were forced to pick up the style of play quickly. “I know especially for me and Dave and Bobby we were sort of thrown into playing a lot right away. They had lost a bunch of seniors the year before,” Grotberg said. “It didn’t take too long to adjust just because we kind of had to.”
As a result of playing the system, the past four seasons have yielded some eye-popping game statistics and a collection of broken records. Last season, in a game against North Central University of Minnesota, Arseneault broke the NCAA assists record for a single game. “I had 34 assists in that game,” Arseneault said. “Fortunately, a lot of people were making shots.”
Though record breaking is not a daily game occurrence, the success of the system translates to conference victories. “[At] Lawrence one time in the second half of the game it was tied at half time and they only missed one or two shots total from the field and we still beat them by like four or six,” Roewe said. “To not lose or to shoot like 90 percent from the field and to lose in general is just a ridiculous thing to think about. It must be so frustrating for other teams but it happens quite a lot.”
Roewe also pointed to the strength of the system against teams that are seen as more talented ball-players than the Grinnellians. “[William Penn] players were like six-foot seven, six-foot-five big individuals like really athletic,” he said. “And a bunch of us little nerds were able to run around and beat them.”
Though Grinnellians usually take for granted the strengths of the system, the men’s basketball team wasn’t always a sure-fi re winning team. However, coming up together against challenges has been one of their strong suits, and has led to some of their most memorable games.
“We had a losing record for the first five or six games in conference and kind of all sat together and tried to figure out what it is that we were doing wrong and where should we go from there,” Grotberg said referring to his secondyear. “Then it just kind of happened that we won 13 games in a row and won the conference championship. That was pretty special.”
Though they are moving on from Darby Gymnasium and Grinnell College basketball at the , all of the seniors want to continue playing basketball in one form or another. For Long and Grotenberg, their sights are set on playing overseas. “I’m looking at Italy or Germany, but really I’ll play
anywhere,” Long said. “I actually went to Italy two summers ago to play with a select team for basketball so I met some coaches there and have been in contact with them.”
Arseneault wants to continue with college basketball, but from the sidelines, hopefully as a coach. “When I go to grad school I want to fi nd a graduate’s assistant job coaching college basketball and eventually get into it that way,” he said. “I don’t want to leave, I want to come back—that’s probably why I’m going to get into coaching, so I can eventually coach here.”
For Roewe and Idrissa, the plan is to return to their roots of pickup games and rec leagues. “I’ll defi nitely play at like a YMCA or some sort of rec league, but nothing too serious,” Idrissa said.
But for now, the players are just focused on one thing: winning the conference tournament. Having gotten into the tournament the past three years in a row, but losing the first game each time, the team has high hopes for this year, and the seniors have big aspirations for their fi nal games. “If we play like we’ve played the last seven games because we’ve won all of them, I think we have a good chance, regardless of if it’s here or somewhere else,” Long said. “We just really want to have a great end to senior year.”
The basketball team travels to Monmouth this Saturday to play the Fighting Scots. A Grinnell victory coupled with a St. Norbert College loss to Carroll University would ensure that Grinnell hosts the MWC championship next weekend.