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Building Blocks (Greg Stiemsma)

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Our Taco John's Athlete of the Week is a big reason the Skyforce played so well at the end of the season.

In basketball, high scorers get a lot of the fan recognition.  But teams always covet dominant defenders.  Greg Stiemsma fits into that category.

"When he's protecting the basket, we're a totally different team.  We get out and run, we get easy points because of him protecting the basket," said Skyforce head coach Tony Fritz.

Stiemsma finished the regular season with 162 blocks.  He had the most blocks per game in the D-League this year and he attributes that as much to his mentality as to his ability.

"In high school and even in college we were always taught to never give anybody anything easy and that starts with protecting the rim," said Stiemsma.

Other players now know to be careful in the paint.  On the other hand, Stiemsma's teammates--even one's who no longer play with him--appreciate his defensive help.  Just ask former Skyforce star and current Golden State Warrior Reggie Williams.

"If we get beat out on the perimeter, I am not worried at all as long as I have Greg back there, because he just blocks everything," said Williams.

Stiemsma shared the court with Joe Krabbenhoft at Wisconsin before their Skyforce days and even then, he was dominant on defense.  But Krabbenhoft says he's noticed a change in Stiemsma's game.

"In college he kind of played his role and that was our intimidator on defense and he didn't really worry about offense so much," said Krabbenhoft.  "Here in the D-League, he's made some great strides offensively."

"If I'm gonna shoot the ball I expect to make it," said Stiemsma.

He just doesn't need to score to have an impact.

"I don't want to see my guys on the perimeter get beat," he adds.  "But whenever I see somebody coming to the basket, my eyes kinda light up."

Stiemsma may not be the top scorer, but he plays his role beautifully, and his teammates appreciate that more than anyone.

Jason Anschutz, KDLT Sports, Sioux Falls.
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