Boys’ basketball preview: New coaches change the basketball landscape

Three programs have new coaches and each experienced different levels of success last season from Andover’s run to the state quarterfinals, returning a majority of its starters including leading scorer Connor Wilkie.

Anoka and Coon Rapids also have new coaches coming off bad seasons. Anoka had three wins and Coon Rapids failed to win a game.

Andover returns several members of its state tournament team including Kyle Kettler, middle, under the leadership of new coach Matt Aune.

Andover returns several members of its state tournament team including Kyle Kettler, middle, under the leadership of new coach Matt Aune.Photo by Bill Jones

Andover
2012-13 season: 7-19 overall, 6-14 eighth place in the NWSC.
Coach: Matt Aune, first season, sixth year.
Returners: Seniors Connor Wilkie (18.5 points per game), Kyle Kettler (13.8 ppg), Evan Olson; juniors Jake McNallan (10.8 ppg), Zach Swanson.
Outlook: The defending section champion returns its top three producers Wilkie, Kettler and McNallan. New head coach Aune replaces Nick Tibesar, who returned to Wayzata after two seasons. Andover shot 37 percent last season and Aune believes that needs to improve if it wants to return to state. “Taking better shots will also help us lower the number of points we allow,” he said.
The juniors and seniors are looking for a third straight section title between basketball and football.

Anoka
2012-13 season: 3-22 overall, 2-18 10th in NWSC.
Coach: Ryan Tohm, first season.
Returners: Seniors Travis Bengston, Torry Ledin, Steve Barthold and J.P. Grow.
Outlook: Despite a third coach in four seasons, Tohm looks to continue to operate similarly to previous Tornadoes coaches, while adding his own spin at a couple areas.
Senior captain and point guard Bengston provides a level of calm that should help keep Anoka competitive. “He’s just so event-keeled, doesn’t get too up or down but keeps things going and doesn’t turn the ball over for us,” Tohm said.
With a lack of a sizable post, look for the Tornadoes to push the pace of the game with their team speed for easy baskets.

Blaine
2012-13 season: 7-19 overall, 5-15 ninth place in NWSC.
Coach: Mark Arzdorf.
Returners: Seniors Matt Barthels, Jason Travis, Chris Novak and Matt Garfield.
Outlook: Blaine returns leading scorers in guard Barthels and forward Travis but look for new faces to emerge from junior varsity to varsity including senior forwards Fedhi Gobena and Novak in addition to sophomore guard Kyle Cappard. The Bengals are a young team with a lot of length like 6-7 sophomore center Ben Scherer and 6-7 freshman center Tim Leo.

Coon Rapids
2012-13 season: 0-27 overall, 0-20 11th place NWSC.
Coach: Mike Ogorek, first season, previous assistant coach at Blaine.
Returners: Seniors Mitchell Zimmerman, Jackson Bednar and Jeremy Becker; juniors Timmy Nguyen and Jordan Lepper.
Outlook: New coach Ogorek brings experience from the Blaine program and already has generated excitement to break the Cardinals’ losing skid. “Summer camp and skills sessions were packed and a lot of our players have improved,” Ogorek said.
The team returns several with varsity minutes and Ogorek believes the team will need to commit itselves defensively to find success, he said.

Legacy Christian
2012-13 season: 11-17 overall, 4-10 in the MCAA, lost to West Lutheran in Section 4A quarterfinals.
Coach: JP Lindgren, fourth season, eighth overall.
Returners: Junior guard Nathan Bertsch and senior forward Luke Johnson.
Outlook: The Lions return two starters from last winter so expect Legacy to be led by new faces, including Caleb Johnson who will look to make a larger impact after seeing limited minutes last season.

PACT
2012-13 season: 3-10, ninth MCAA, 8-14 overall.
Coach: Chad Hazelton 13th season.
Returners: Danny Mooers, Daniel Nelson, Derek Stone, Luke Johnson and Drew Johnson.
Outlook: The loss of Drew Zieroth’s 19.3 ppg along with Austin and Jayden Stone’s rebounding will be tough to replace for the Panthers. Senior guard Danny Mooers averaged nine points per game with a team-high 50 assists last season and will be looked on to provide leadership on the court.

Spring Lake Park
2012-13 season: 15-14 overall, 8-8 NSC, Section 3AAA runner-up to state champion DeLaSalle.
Coach: Grant Guzy, 21st season, 28th overall.
Returners: Captains TC Robinson, Collin Price and Eji Ejiya.
Outlook: Robinson is the only returning starter and earned all-North Suburban Conference honors. Look for Ejiya to play more of a role after coming in off the bench last season. The Panthers coaching staff includes former standouts Steven Bailey, Shaun Jensen and Tyler Ylvisaker.

St. Francis
2012-13 season: 17-10 overall lost in the Section 7-4A semifinal to Andover.
Coach: Ryan Hauge, fifth season, 12th overall.
Returners: Seniors Jake Johnson, Nate Svihel, Austin Carlson, Cody Wald and Taylor Koep; junior Blake Moreno.
Outlook: Johnson, a Northern State recruit leads a veteran group that should compete for the Mississippi 8 Conference title and be back in contention for the section title as well after receiving the top seed last season. Three-year starting guard Cody Wald returns along with the shooting touch from Svihel.
Moreno offers a big athletic inside presence for the Saints. Combine that with Carlson’s athletic ability to push the pace and St. Francis should be able to match any style of game.

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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