Head coach: Daryl Smith,second season
Career record: 7-18
Assistant coaches: Ryan Fowlds, Nick Peschl
Conference: Great River
2006-07 record: 7-18 overall, 5-9 conference
Seniors: Jase Hegman (6-4, forward), Dalton Moss (6-0, forward), Dan Landrus (6-3, forward), Travis Modl (5-10, guard)
Juniors: Mark Eno (6-1, guard), Shane Sundholm (5-9, guard)
Other varsity candidates:
Senior: Chad Hermans (5-7, guard)
Juniors: Neal Thornbloom (6-0, forward), Dan Catlin (5-10, forward)
Sophomore: Nick Sundholm (6-0, guard), Andrew Welshons (5-11, forward)
2007-08 outlook: Six returning letterwinners, including three-year varsity forward Jase Hegman, will give Aitkin the experience to improve on last year's 7-18 overall record.
Last season Hegman averaged 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds. He led Aitkin with 41 blocked shots to go with 40 assists and 32 steals.
Point guard Mark Eno returns after finishing second on the team with 10.5 points per game. He also averaged 5.2 assists and 1.6 rebounds to go with 49 steals and 15 blocked shots.
Dan Landrus and Dalton Moss will fill in the front court for the Gobblers. Those two combined to average 12.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Shane Sundholm and Travis Modl also return.
"We have six returning players and a solid group coming up from last year's junior varsity team," said Aitkin head coach Daryl Smith. "We've gained valuable experience last year and are now ready to play at a higher level. The group has also developed a strong chemistry with each other."
Smith expects his team to contend in the Great River Conference and Section 7-2A.
Lake Region Christian Hornets
Head coach: Tim Miller, first season
Career record: 0-0
Assistant coaches: John Bolduc
Conference: Minnesota Association of Christian Schools
2006-07 record: 4-14 overall
Seniors: Micah Doxtator (5-9 guard), Austen Ellstrom (5-10, guard), Ben Grotzke (6-1, forward)
Juniors: Jake Czeczok (5-10, guard), Jacob Jensen (6-5, post), Josiah Kreutzfeldt (6-0, forward), Ben Newton (6-0, forward), Levi Skog (5-10, guard)
Sophomores: Eric Bolduc (5-4, guard), Cody Germann (5-10, guard)
2007-08 outlook: First-year head coach Tim Miller inherits a team that finished 4-14 last season.
With three seniors and five juniors on the roster, the Hornets have more upperclassmen this season than in years past.
LRCS has jumped to an early 1-1 record and has received balanced scoring in both games.
Little Falls Flyers
Head coach: Kevin Jordan, 11th season
Assistant coaches: Randy Tabatt, Bob Loukinen, Robin Pohlman
Conference: Central Lakes
Section: Section 8-3A
2006-07 record: 13-13 overall, 8-10 conference
Seniors: John Dunlap (6-0, guard)
Junior: Ron Kornbaum (6-1, forward)
Sophomore: Alex Scott (6-0, guard)
Additional varsity candidates
Junior: Nick Erdrich (6-2, forward), Ryan Voss (5-8, guard), Ryan Thilquist (6-0, forward), Matt Wasland (6-1, forward), Kory Lilga (6-1, forward)
Sophomores: Dan Kornbaum (6-4, forward), Eddie Wenzel (5-7, forward), Ethan Mustonen (6-1, forward), Eli Ploof (5-6, guard), Mic Wetzel (5-10, guard), Cody Waldvogel (5-8, guard)
2007-08 outlook: Inexperience and youth will be the Flyers' Achilles' heel to start the season.
Head coach Kevin Jordan, who enters his 11th season, does have depth in the junior and sophomore classes.
The lone senior is 6-foot, guard John Dunlap. Junior Ron Kornbaum is the top returning scorer. He averaged 4.1 points last season to go with 80 rebounds, 49 assists and 24 steals.
Also returning is sophomore Alex Scott. He averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds to go with 40 assists and 12 steals.
"We only have two players back with experience," said Jordan. "And, we are young and not very tall. If we can find a way to defend the paint and rebounds, we will be a very good basketball team."
Pequot Lakes Patriots
Head coach: Garry Grewe, sixth season
Assistant coaches: Brian Lempola, Bret Sergent
2006-07 record: 29-3 overall, 8-2 conference
Seniors: Brandon Hilts (6-1, guard), Bobby DeWolfe (5-10, guard), Cole Howard (6-3, forward), William Liedl (6-2, forward)
Additional varsity candidates
Juniors: Nic Johnson (6-0, guard), Jonas Dale (6-0, guard), Clayton Foster (5-10, guard), Matt Duval (6-3, forward), Jeff Redmond (6-3, forward)
Sophomores: Matt Michaelson (5-11, guard), Michael Ward (6-4, center)
Freshman: Tomas Parker (6-6, center)
2007-08 outlook: Brandon Hilts is the lone returning starter and player who saw significant time during last year's run to a third-place finish in the Class 2A state tournament.
Pequot Lakes graduated eight players, including four starters who are know playing college basketball.
Last season Hilts averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds a game while shooting 33.8 percent from the field and adding 44 steals and 52 assists.
Also back this season, but battling an early injury, is senior forward Cole Howard. Seniors William Liedl and Bobby DeWolfe also return.
Guard Clayton Foster, Jonas Dale and Nic Johnson will battle for the other starting guard positions along with sophomore Matt Michaelson.
Matt Duval and Jeff Redmond will shore up the forward positions while sophomore Michael Ward will make his presence felt in the paint. The 6-foot-4 center scored a team-high 14 points in a loss to Pierz Tuesday.
"We'll be very competitive if we stay healthy and find some solid, consistent inside play along with additional outside scoring," said Pequot head coach Garry Grewe. "We'll look to play a solid half-court game and run when the opportunity presents itself."
Head coach: Kurt Stumpf, fifth season
Career record: 80-32
Assistant coaches: Danny Saehr, Joe Kahl
Conference: Central Minnesota
Section: Section 5-2A
2006-07 record: 24-5 overall, 12-2 conference
Seniors: Robert Bell (6-1, guard), Shane Stegora (6-4, forward), Aric Welle (6-4, center)
Juniors: Tyler Monson (6-4, forward), Chad Lanners (6-3, guard), Michael Weber (6-3 forward)
Additional varsity candidates
Senior: Alex Leach (6-1 guard)
Juniors: Breck Weber (6-1, guard), Kyle Bednar (6-2, guard), Zack Doroff (6-1, guard)
Sophomore: Andy Kretschmar (6-2, center), Travis Kahl (5-8, guard)
2007-08 outlook: The Pierz Pioneers have just one returning starter from last year's 24-5 team, but he's pretty talented.
Chad Lanners averaged 14.2 points to go with 229 rebounds, 79 assists, 74 steals and six blocked shots. The 6-3 junior guard will be teamed with Robert Bell to run the Pioneers' backcourt.
Other returning letterwinners are seniors Shane Stegora and Aric Welle and juniors Tyler Monson and Michael Weber. Look for Monson to develop into a scoring threat on the perimeter as well as in transition as Pierz looks to fill the void left by Dustin Monson, now playing at Central Lakes College.
"Our strengths will be our perimeter play in terms of shooting and attacking the basket," said Stumpf. "Our post players will be athletic and should be able to create some shots around the basket. We are again going to be very quick and athletic and should continue to play a high tempo game on both ends of the floor."
Pierz also has depth as Stumpf is not afraid to go five or six deep into his bench. It helped the Pioneers open the season with a 55-52 victory over Pequot Lakes Tuesday.
The Pioneers will be considered one of the favorites in the Central Minnesota Conference and Section 5-2A along with Rockford.
Head coach: Jim Bentson, eighth season
Assistant coaches: Scott Mudgett, Chris Berent
Conference: Park Region
2006-07 record: 14-13 overall, 8-4 conference
Seniors: Jake Martin (5-9, guard), Luke Nelson (6-0, guard), Tyler Holbrook (5-10, guard), Jake Eastman (5-10, forward), Nick Beimert (6-1, forward), Zack Kadus (6-3, center), Josh Weizenegger (6-0, guard), Garyck Ellingson (5-9, guard)
Juniors: Justin Gangestad (5-11, guard), Adam Bybee (5-9, guard), Nathan Marcy (5-11, forward), Josh Rardin (6-2, center), Derek Minkel (5-10, forward), Andrew Knebel (6-4, forward), Shawn Baron (5-11, guard), Justin Ringler (5-11, guard)
2007-08 outlook: Solid team depth is what Jim Bentson will bank on to help his Huskies compete in the Park Region Conference and Section 5-1A.
Sixteen seniors and juniors will see playing time as the Huskies will use their team speed and quickness to wear opponents down.
"We're looking to improve on last year's success," said Bentson, who returns after serving nearly two years in Iraq with the National Guard. "Our post players must fill big shoes of our graduated players."
Pillager's tallest players are 6-5 junior Andrew Knebel and 6-3 senior Zack Kadus. From there it drops off sharply.
Pine River-Backus Tigers
Head coach: Matt Moen, fourth season
Career record: 18-58
Assistant coaches: Shaun Howard, Jason Roepke
2006-07 record: 8-19 overall
Seniors: Trenton Fisher (5-10, point guard), Steve Gertken (5-11, forward)
Juniors: Dylan Rice (6-4, forward), Ben Kline (5-10, guard), Clay Hamilton (6-5, center)
Additional varsity candidates
Senior: David Sullivan (6-5, post), Nathan Kottschade (6-5, center), Ryan Snavely (5-7, guard), Bobby Brogle (5-7, guard)
Juniors: Glen Abbott (6-2, forward)
Sophomore: Jon Bristow (6-4, center). Jordan Farmer (5-10, guard)
2007-08 outlook: While the Tigers will be without the scoring punch of Micah Eveland, who graduated, scoring may not be a problem.
Led by Steve Gertken (6.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg last season) the Tigers will have height, athletic ability and the ability to score on the inside. Head coach Matt Moen would like to see his team improve on the defensive end. With teams like Class 2A's top-ranked Crosby-Ironton along with Pelican Rapids and Perham in their section, and 1A's top-ranked Cass Lake-Bena in their conference, PR-B will need to play tough defense.
"We are young on experience, but we are tall and should be fairly athletic," said Moen. "The key is to get the guys to improve as the season progresses. Early on it could be interesting while guys get used to their roles and our expectations."
Dylan Rice, Ben Kline, Clay Hamilton and Trenton Fisher also returns to the Tigers, who finished 8-19 last season.
Head coach: Lynn Peterson, 33rd season
Career record: 617-212
Assistant coaches: Ryan Beachy, Ray Gildow, Paul Mithun, John Riewer, Josh Anderson
2006-07 record: 14-12 overall, 3-7 conference
Seniors: Jose Alba (6-2, center), Caleb Nurnberger (6-0, guard), Ryan Halverson (5-10, guard), Joe Fuhrman (6-0, guard), Ben Enney (6-2, center), Denis Shatilov (6-5, center), Ben Duhn (6-2, forward)
Juniors: Jacob Zetah (6-2, forward), Mike Lindamann (6-3, forward), Adam Cox (6-4, center)
Sophomores: Terrance Anthony (5-10, guard-forward), Trevor Wentworth (5-9, guard), Jordan Peterson (6-0, forward), Derek Wolhowe (6-3, forward), Isaac Fuhrman (5-10, guard), Jordan Riewer (6-1, guard), Rob Warner (5-7, guard), Brandon Larson (6-1, forward)
2007-08 outlook: The triple threat of senior Caleb Nurnberger and sophomores Jordan Riewer and Derek Wolhowe return to help the Cardinals improve on last season's 14-12 record.
Nurnberger led the Cardinals in scoring with 17.5 points per game. He added 1.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds a game to go with 57 steals.
Riewer averaged 13.0 points, 4.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds. Wolhowe averaged 6.0 points and 3.4 rebounds a game.
All three are three-year starters, but at 6-foot-3, Wolhowe is the tallest of the group.
"We have several players on the roster capable of playing extended minutes this year," said Peterson. "We just need to have some players step up. If Denis Shatilov can contribute, it will give us adequate size. If not, we will really need to work on defending teams with size."
Seniors Jose Alba, Ryan Halverson, Ben Enney, Joe Fuhrman and Ben Duhn will battle for the other two starting positions. Junior Adam Cox (6-4) and Shatilov (6-5) are S-M's only hope for height in the middle, a deficiency the team has been battling the last few seasons.
"Last year we averaged approximately 65 points a game, which we were happy with," said Peterson. "We were not as good on the defensive end of the floor as we needed to be and we really need to focus on defense and rebounding."
Head coach: Greg Johnson, ninth season
Career record: 94-105
Assistant coaches: Matt Parker, Jim Runyan
Conference: Park Region
2006-07 record: 20-9 overall, 8-4 conference
Seniors: Caleb Seals (5-8, guard), Cole Cottrell (6-1, center)
Junior: Jay Runyan (5-8, guard), Brady Siedschlaw (5-10, guard), Dan Weiher (6-1, forward), Shylo Moyer (5-11, guard)
Sophomores: Caleb Burczyk (center), Tim Youngbauer (center), Evan Northup (forward)
Freshman: Zack Meidinger (6-0, guard), Matt Willis (guard), Kyle Booth (center), Dustin Motschenbacher (guard)
2007-08 outlook: It's a new season for the Pirates. Verndale returns no letterwinners from last year's 20-9 season.
Dan Weiher tops the list of varsity candidates. In 17 games he averaged 1.5 points and 1.0 rebounds.
Jay Runyan has been leading the charge so far this season. Last year he averaged 1.3 points a game.
"We will be very inexperienced, but I feel that we will work hard to become an excellent defensive team," said Pirates head coach Greg Johnson.
Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines
Head coach: Travis Hensch, fourth season
Career record: 24-50
Assistant coaches: Paul Drange, Tim Fiskum, Dave Kahl
2006-07 record: 7-18 overall, 1-9 conference
Seniors: Matt Lepper (6-2, guard), Mason Lynk (6-0, forward), Cory Asfeld (5-11, guard), Zach Toedter (6-1, guard), Jake Trosen (6-0, guard)
Juniors: Donny Tabery (6-4, guard),
Additional varsity candidates
Senior: Alex Barbato (5-11, guard)
Juniors: David Paulson (6-2, forward), Cody Truax (6-2, forward)
Sophomore: Scott Syverson (5-10, guard)
2007-08 outlook: Increased team speed, and more depth and offensive potential, has the Wolverines' expectations at the highest point in years.
Six returning letterwinners pepper fourth-year head coach Travis Hensch's roster.
Senior Matt Lepper leads the charge. He averaged 15.3 points per game to go with 89 rebounds, 86 assists and 71 steals.
Also back are seniors Cory Asfeld (10.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg), Mason Lynk (6.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Zach Toedter and Jake Trosen (3.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and junior Donny Tabery (9.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg).
"Look for Matt Lepper to set the career steals mark at WDC and Cory Asfeld and Scott Syverson to set some new records in terms of 3-point shooting," said Hensch. "Depth and experience are our two biggest assets going into the season. We are not as big as we've been in the past, but our quickness and depth should help offset that on most nights."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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