Central Lakes College Raiders men's and women's basketball teams will open their seasons considerably early this year compared to past seasons.
The squads have usually waited until after Thanksgiving to play their first games but this season is different. The Raiders open Saturday against the Anoka-Ramsey College Rams. The women start at 3 p.m. followed by the men at 5 p.m.
The Raider women only have one returning starter, Bobbie VanWechel, from last year's 12-13 team. VanWechel averaged 13.6 points per game last year.
This season, women's coach Dennis Eastman recruited size. Kaylee Bandemer of Remer is the tallest starter at 6-foot. Jada Illies of Brooten/Elrosa is the next tallest starter at 5-11. Throw in guard Megan Eastman, who logged considerable minutes last season for CLC, and the Raiders have a solid nucleus.
"We have more height right now than we did last year," Dennis Eastman said. "I also think we have better shooters and better quickness. Those are the things we'll try to take advantage of."
On the men's side, coach Jim Russell will have a wealth of depth at his disposal.
The Raiders return four sophomores in Deejay Mayfield, Ronald Jackson, Mike Pater and Mike Peeters. Chris Metcalf is another sophomore who transferred from Rochester Community College. Mayfield is the top returning scorer at 11.2 points per game with Jackson second at 6.6.
But it's the eight freshmen Russell has that gives his team depth.
"We've got some good balance between the sophomores and freshmen," Russell said. "We have a lot of depth. We'll play a good style of basketball where we share the ball a lot. We have a lot of good shooters and some size."
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