Sports Odds & Ends
Scots retire early
At this time of year, it’s a known fact that all basketball teams except the championship winners will end their season with a loss. No matter the level, the team either will go far in the postseason, make a quick exit, or something in between.
The postseason is a reset for all participants, but it can also be a boon or bust.
Macalester reached the MIAC men’s playoffs for the second consecutive season, this time as a fourth seed. However, the Scots lost by two to St. Olaf in the opening round after reaching the finals a year ago as a sixth seed.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t finish,” stated Coach Abe Woldeslassie. Not since 2004 and 2005, has the school’s men’s team made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Now completing his fifth year at his alma mater, Woldeslassie and his Scots have improved their winning percentage each year under his watch.
“Our goal was to win a conference title this year, and that didn’t happen,” continued the coach as Mac finished 15-11. “We got a home playoff game. We had 15 wins. We’ve had 11 conference wins, the most since 2004. It was still a good season, a lot to be proud of but short of our goal of winning the title.”
Soph forward Badou Ba was voted MIAC Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-7 Dakar, Senegal native averaged over seven rebounds and more than two blocks per game, led the league with 45 blocked shots, and finished fifth in the MIAC with 152 rebounds.
“His freshman year he averaged three points, three rebounds a game, and didn’t start a game,” the coach recalled. “A tremendous jump on his freshman year.”
Ba, junior Caleb Williams, and soph Coby Gold each received all-MIAC honors. The three, along with soph Robert Grace III, all made the Division III Academic All-District team as well.
Woldeslassie is one of four Black head coaches in men’s and women’s basketball at the college level in Minnesota. He is the MIAC’s only Black coach, and by virtue of years of service he is the longest tenured among the state’s Black coaches as well.
“I want to thank our President Suzanne Rivera and [Athletic] Director Donnie Brooks for their leadership,” said Woldeslassie. “It starts with great leadership, and those two are tremendous leaders.”
Rams get playoff experience
Travis Bledsoe made the jump from coaching high school to the college level. He left Minneapolis De La Salle after five seasons to take over the vacant head coaching job at Anoka-Ramsey Community College this season.
“It’s night and day,” Bledsoe told us in comparing high school coaching to college, “dealing with grown adults, some of them with kids. It’s a lot of trying to get them prepared for the next level, working to prepare for life in general.”
A De La Salle graduate, Bledsoe played and earned his degree at North Dakota, where he finished as the school’s second-best three-point shooter and sixth in made threes, scoring over 1,100 points in his four seasons.
In his first season, the Rams (13-11 overall) reached the NJCCC Region 13 semifinals before losing to eventual champion Rochester in overtime. “I thought it was important for us in our first year to make this region’s playoffs,” said Bledsoe, a member of the too-short list of Black head coaches at the collegiate level in Minnesota. “We have a lot of kids that got that experience this year.
“I thought we maxed out every ounce of potential we had to make it to the semifinals against the top-rated team, taking them to overtime,” said Bledsoe. “The guys know the system a little bit. They know what to expect from me.”
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