The Huskies started last season 0-10, but built momentum the second time through the Northwest Suburban Conference schedule going 4-6, including wins at Armstrong and Elk River and home against Centennial, to finish 4-16 in 10th place in the conference and 5-22 overall.
Andover returns key guards, including 6-1 junior guard Kyle Kettler who averaged 12 points and five rebounds per game. He also led the team in assists. Kettler was the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder and has even more upside according to second-year coach Nick Tibesar. “[He’s] an extremely intelligent player with explosive athleticism,” Tibesar said. Fellow junior guard Connor Wilkie and sophomore point guard Jake McNallan give the Huskies three solid guards who contribute in different ways. Wilkie, at 6-5, led the team in blocks while averaging 9.2 points and three rebounds per game last season. He will be looked on to lead with his strong shooting and has the skills to play anywhere on the court. McNallan averaged just five points per game in 2011-12, but led the team in steals. Tibesar said McNallan’s an athletic guard who played a key defensive role last year, primarily going against the opposition’s best ball handler.
After reaching the section semifinals the last two years and records of 13-14 and 11-17 over the last two seasons Anoka has nearly all new faces on the floor this season. Senior captain Malcom Seals is the only returning starter and Zach Engen shares captain duties. Seals has a chance for a great season after playing more of a complementary role with standout Marcus Tyus last season. New coach Matt Fletcher has brought in an entirely new coaching staff after Paul Broberg’s exit after nine seasons.
The Cardinals were bounced in the first round of sections by Osseo while compiling a 7-20 record. Coon Rapids coach Ryan Green begins his fourth season with the team without any major contributors from last season. The Cardinals will rely on outworking the opposition for wins and have to learn how to play at the varsity level quickly in order to have success. “We have to come up with loose balls, take charge and dominate on the boards and defensive end,” Green said.
Legacy Christian posted a 12-16 record and was bounced from sections in the first round. Senior captains are Connor Peterson, who missed last season with a broken hand, and 6-5 post Colton Richards. Junior captain Luke Anderson will be what coach JP Lindgren describes as “the hustle leader.” Sophomore Nate Bertsch brings back plenty of varsity experience after playing as a freshman point guard.
Lindgren hopes the team unity he already sees will translate into wins. “They are ready and excited for the challenge that lies ahead,” he said.
Spring Lake Park
Last season’s North Suburban Conference and Section 3AAA runners-up graduated its top two scorers and best defender but return the core from a 23-6 (13-3) record last season. The Panthers return senior captain Robert Ben, who averaged 10.8 points/7.3 rebounds per game last season, along with senior captain Justin Axelson (2.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Gary Cook (6.6 ppg, 3 rpg). Junior TC Robinson also returns after averaging 5.7 points per game and 2.6 rebounds last winter.
Spring Lake Park head coach Grant Guzy is back for his 21st season with the club.
Coach Ryan Hauge returns with the same staff for his fourth season on the bench at St. Francis. The Saints are coming off a 9-17 campaign and lost in the section opener, but return plenty of experience with the exception of guard Andy Julkowski, who graduated. Senior captains are Bryce Gilbertson and Ben Monnier. Fellow senior Gabe Nelson will be another veteran to provide key leadership. Hauge said a strong junior class will make an impact on the roster, including Jake Johson. “Jake made a name for himself this summer as a versatile big man and will be heavily counted on,” Hauge said. Captain Cody Wald brings in experience as a point guard as a freshman and sophomore and should help control the pace of the game for the Saints.
Defense, rebounds and toughness are three aspects Hauge stresses for success. “Section 7AAAA is wide open this year and the Saints have the talent to score with our opponents, but our ability to defend and finish defensive possessions with rebounds will determine if we can compete for a section title,” he said.
PACT Charter School
The Panthers added former Braham standout and Bethel University player Josh Coleman to the coaching staff as the JV coach. PACT is coming off a 9-17 season and first-round section exit but returns leading scorer Drew Zieroth, who passed the 1,000-point career mark last winter, averaging more than 20 points per game. Look for juniors Danny Mooers and Daniel Nelson to contribute as a guard and forward, respectively, and senior post Austin Stone in the middle.
Blaine coach Mark Arzdorf did not respond to requests for preseason information.
Jason Olson is at email@example.com