Wade Haapajoki has a chance to be a winner in his first season as head coach of the Brainerd Warriors.
Head coach: Wade Haapajoki, first season
2008-09 Brainerd record: 6-12 CLC, 7-19 overall.
Captains: Kyle Crocker, Aaron Pavek
Assistant coaches: Brian Gustafson, Jeff Ramey, Jason Freed.
Dec 4, Pequot Lakes 7:30 p.m.
Dec 12, Cambridge-Isanti at St. Michael 11 a.m.
Dec 15, at St. Cloud Tech 7:30 p.m.
Dec 18, at Alexandria 7:30 p.m.
Dec 30, Bemidji 7:30 p.m.
Jan 2, at St. Michael-Albertville 2:30 p.m.
Jan 7, Willmar 7:30 p.m.
Jan 9, at St. Cloud Apollo 2:30 p.m.
Jan 12, Rocori 7:30 p.m.
Jan 15, at Fergus Falls 7:30 p.m.
Jan 16, at Buffalo 7:30 p.m.
Jan 19, Sauk Rapids-Rice 7:30 p.m.
Jan 22, Sartell 7:30 p.m.
Jan 26, Little Falls 7:30 p.m.
Jan 29, St. Cloud Tech 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4, Alexandria 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 6, at Moorhead 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 9, at Sauk Rapids-Rice 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 12, at Willmar 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 16, at Sartell 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 18, St. Cloud Apollo 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 23, at Rocori 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 26, Fergus Falls 7:30 p.m.
March 2, Moorhead 7:30 p.m.
March 5, at Little Falls 7:30 p.m.
March 9, 13, 18, Section 8-4A tournament
The Warriors return seniors Kyle Crocker and Aaron Pavek, both of whom are entering their third season as starters, and four other seniors who started at one time or another last year.
Haapajoki hopes the momentum Crocker and Pavek experienced as members of the state semifinal Warriors football team carries over to the basketball court. The football season ended Nov. 20 at the Metrodome and basketball practice began three days later.
Captains of the Brainerd Warriors boys' basketball team this season are Aaron Pavek (left) and Kyle Crocker. Brainerd hosts Pequot Lakes in its opener Friday night. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"They were there (the first day of practice) when I said take a couple days off, but they said no we're there," Haapajoki said. "It's not like they're on a mission, but they're playing with a purpose.
"The guys are rejuvenated, they're ready to go. That's been exciting. We've been working our tails off. They're getting used to me and my staff, we're getting used to them. Getting used to each other takes some time, as well as getting used to our offensive and defensive philosophies, how we're going to go about playing the game.
"We're going to try and be blue collar, bust our tails, fear no one. Last year they had some bumps and bruises, but we're not focused on last year. We're focused on going forward. Whether it's scrimmaging Osseo, who we saw Saturday, or whoever, we're going to come at them with everything we've got."
Crocker (6-foot-1) enters the season as the eighth 1,000-point scorer in program history. He led the team in scoring last season (16.3 points a game) and is a three-year letterwinner.
"Kyle has been relied on heavily in the past to score," Haapajoki said. "This year we're going to rely on Kyle to bring some leadership, get guys in the right spots, not rely heavily on him to score.
"And, I think we're seeing that. He's getting more guys in the game, getting them involved. We know teams will be going into games to stop Kyle, but we hope to have some other weapons developed in the next month or so."
Pavek (6-5) averaged 6.9 points last season and led the team in rebounding (4.8).
"Aaron will do his part," Haapajoki said. "He will surprise some people with how he's matured, not only as a basketball player but as a young man."
Seniors Joel Martin (6-0), Thomas Fairbanks (6-1), Garth Askegaard (6-4) and Chris Rud (6-4) started games last season. Martin averaged 1.2 points in 22 games, Fairbanks 5.3 points in 18 games. Rud played in 16 games, Askegaard in 17.
"Joel worked his tail off in the offseason," Haapajoki said. "He came in in the best shape I've seen anybody come into the season. We're looking for him to provide some scoring punch and leadership. Thomas is an emotional player. We think he can provide some scoring.
"We've got some senior leadership on this team. Garth and Chris have worked their tails off."
Juniors vying for playing time include Mitch Bzdok (6-4), Kevin Peterson (6-4), Nick Belgum (6-4) and Pat Skogen (6-0). All except Skogen made their varsity debuts last season.
"We've got nine or 10 guys who can play," Haapajoki said. "We're not going to run around and shoot threes. We want to create tempo on the defensive end, make things happen, and at the offensive end control the tempo."
Brainerd was 6-12 in the Central Lakes Conference last season, 7-19 overall, under head coach Matt Urbanek, who resigned following the season and is now head coach at Jordan.
"As far as where we stack up in the CLC, I don't know," Haapajoki said. "They've seeded us at the bottom of the (CLC/Mississippi conference) classic Dec. 12 when we play Cambridge. That's where everybody thinks we're going to finish.
"Where we finish I don't know, but I do know we're not scared of anybody. We're going out with the attitude of let's get it on."
Seniors: Kyle Crocker (6-1), Aaron Pavek (6-5), Thomas Fairbanks (6-1), Garth Askegaard (6-4), Chris Rud (6-4), Joel Martin (6-0)
Juniors: Mitch Bzdok (6-4), Kevin Peterson (6-4), Nick Belgum (6-4), Pat Skogen (6-0), Ben Klinger (5-10), Jordan Stanfield (6-0), Bryce Johnson (6-5), Justin Dziedzic (5-10), Reggie Turner (5-9)
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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