If the Brainerd High School boys' basketball team can develop an inside game to complement its outside threats, the Warriors could thrive this winter.
Brainerd returns rugged 6-foot-3 senior post Mike Valesano, who averaged 1.8 points and 2.7 rebounds while adding 25 steals and 24 assists.
"The big key to our success is how many contributions we get from our post players," Warriors coach Matt Urbanek said. "If we can especially get some production defensively and rebounding and some timely scoring out of our post players we think we could have a good season."
13 - at Alexandria, 3 p.m.
18 - at Sauk Rapids-Rice,
21 -WILLMAR, 7:30 p.m.
29 - BEMIDJI, 6:30 p.m.
4 - ST. CLOUD APOLLO,
8 - at Bemidji, 7:30 p.m.
10 - ROCORI, 7:30 p.m.
12 - MOORHEAD, 6:30 p.m.
15 - at Fergus Falls, 7:30 p.m.
18 - SARTELL, 7:30 p.m.
24 - LITTLE FALLS, 7:30 p.m.
29 - at St. Cloud Tech,
1 - ALEXANDRIA, 7:30 p.m.
2 - at Moorhead, 5 p.m.
7 - SAUK RAPIDS, 7:30 p.m.
9 - at Cloquet, 7:30 p.m.
12 - at Willmar, 7:30 p.m.
15 - at St. Cloud Apollo,
16 - at Buffalo, 2:30 p.m.
19 - GRAND RAPIDS, 7:30 p.m.
21 - at Rocori, 7:30 p.m.
26 - FERGUS FALLS, 7:30 p.m.
29 - at Sartell, 7:30 p.m.
6 - at Little Falls, 7:30 p.m.
8 - at St. Cloud Tech, 6:30 p.m.
Head coach: Matt Urbanek, 11th season (seventh at Brainerd, three years boys' coach and one year girls' coach at International Falls).
2006-07 Brainerd record:
11-7 CLC, 15-11 overall.
Brainerd career record:
Career record: 115-116 (.498)
Returning starters: Jed Magstadt, Mike Valesano, Kyle Crocker
Assistant coaches: Shane Jordan, Scott Stanfield, Wade Miller.
Returning starters Jed Magstadt and Kyle Crocker are threats from the outside. Magstadt averaged 7.2 points and 3.4 rebounds and grabbed 44 steals and 46 assists. Crocker averaged 9.85 points, 2.3 rebounds and added 22 steals and 30 assists.
"Jed is one of the most intense players we have," Urbanek said. "He's an extremely hard worker. He's put in a lot of time working on the game of basketball. We're hoping his energy gives us a spark.
"We're hoping he can take the lead on the defensive end and be aggressive. We're hoping he can handle a lot of the ballhandling duties for us. He's capable of scoring the ball too."
Crocker put up his totals as a freshman and started much of the last half of the season.
"We're looking for Kyle to take another step as a sophomore," Urbanek said. "We're looking for him to continue to improve his game. He's got a lot of natural talent. He's worked on his game.
"We want him to continue to get better and not be satisfied. He's a gifted offensive player. We want him to develop more of a versatile repertoire to his game so he's tougher to guard."
Valesano played in all 26 games last season.
"Mike is a hard-nosed player who gives us everything he has, physically," Urbanek said. "He will be asked in a lot of games to guard players bigger and taller than he is, and we need him to be able to do that. We're also looking for more offense out of Mike than in the past."
Jed Magstadt (left) and Mike Valesano are captains of the Brainerd Warriors boys' basketball team this season. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
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Urbanek said 6-6 senior Brad Kirkvold and 6-6 junior Sam Feyder are the early candidates in the post.
"Brad and Sam both have size, both can make contributions in the post, score some points inside and give us interior defense and rebounding," Urbanek said.
Others vying for starting positions, according to Urbanek, include 6-0 junior Ben Gervais, 5-11 senior Kyle Schaible, 5-10 junior Jon Wiese, 5-10 senior Steve Ramerth, 6-1 senior Turner Johnson and 6-2 junior T.J. Struss.
"Ben Gervais is one of the better shooters in our program," Urbanek said. "We're looking for some outside shooting from Ben.
"Kyle Schaible has proven to be a quick defender. He gets his hands on a lot of basketballs. He forces a lot of deflections. He can be valuable to us in that area.
"Overall, we're excited about the season. We're cautiously optimistic. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us. We play in a tough conference and section but we believe we can be successful.
"We believe if everyone plays together and makes a commitment to play defense we can have a good season. We will play an up-tempo style and try to get after people on defense."
Highlights of the schedule include a Feb. 15 game at St. Cloud Apollo with a game at Buffalo the next day. Buffalo is the defending Class 4A state champion. Apollo was the Section 8-4A runner-up last season.
Brainerd will use a shot clock in one game, at home Jan. 12 against Moorhead.
"The Minnesota State High School League allows us to do that as long as it's a non-conference game, basically as long as both coaches agree, and (Chuck) Gulsvig (of Moorhead) has agreed to it," Urbanek said.
"The other thing is to have clocks available. Central Lakes College has portable clocks and they've offered them to us to use. It should be interesting."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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