After the departure of six senior regulars from last season’s 13-14 team that advanced to the second round of section play, the Central boys’ basketball squad is ready to begin a new campaign with a lineup featuring both a few returning starters and some relatively new faces.
The 2012-13 team, which includes seven seniors, doesn’t have the height that last year’s team did, but hopes to make up for that in quickness.
“The guys came in in pretty decent shape, so that helps us hit the ground running,” said Raiders head coach Nat Boyer. “We’re considerably smaller than last year. We graduated quite a bit of height. Luke Marschall is a returning senior at 6-5, but then we’re pretty much 6-2 and below. A lot of the guys are right between 5-11 and 6-2. So height-wise, it’s going to be a different team and we’re going to have to get up and down the floor and play teams strong defensively.”
In terms of experience, only three seniors saw major minutes on the court last season, but most of the rest of the team did get varsity time of varying amounts. Senior center Luke Marschall was Central’s top rebounder (204) and shot blocker (49) last season, and at 6-5 is Central’s tallest player this season.
More key returning players are senior guard Tom Messner, who was second on the team in scoring (277 points) and assists (62) last season and was an all-conference performer, and senior guard Kyle Brazil, who was tied with Messner for second on last year’s team in steals (26).
Other seniors on the roster include Trevor Groschen, Cristian Perez, Chase Schrupp and Taylor Trick. Groschen and Messner are this year’s captains, but Boyer said that all the upperclassmen have showed strong leadership so far this season.
“We’ve got some real good leadership from all the kids that are back, and we’ve got other players who are stepping up,” he said. “They understand what’s going on, that you don’t have to have a label to be a leader.”
While the Raiders have a number of strengths to build from this winter, Boyer said the key to the season will be the team’s effort and attitude.
“We’re going to be fairly quick. We’ve got some good players going to the basket offensively. We’ve got our fair share of outside shooters. We’re just going to have to scrap. It’s going to be based simply on heart, the David vs. Goliath type of thing,” he said.
“We’re just going to have to outwork the other teams in areas that we lack such as height. I think we’ll be able to do that. I feel like we’ve got the kind of kids that are wanting to prove a lot of people wrong. I think that’s a good thing, to have that chip on their shoulder — that idea that, ‘We’ve got something to prove. People are playing us down this year. Let’s go get ‘em.’ So it’s kind of nice to see that the dogs have a little bite in them, so to speak.”
Looking around the conference, Boyer said defending champion Watertown-Mayer will have a target on its back this season, while a number of other teams boast very tall lineups.
“Sibley East is carrying three guys that are 6-6 and bigger. Belle Plaine is big and they return everybody. TCU, Montgomery brought in LeCenter and they have a couple of 6-7 kids that came in. So all of a sudden the conference went from being mid-line to very tall. Mayer Lutheran is going to be solid. Jordan returns a lot. So it could really be a six-team race for the top, really. We’ll see where we shake out in there,” he said.
As for goals, Boyer said Central’s objective will be the same every year — to win the conference. That said, he said the team will be taking things game by game and simply trying to improve on a daily basis. Staying healthy and promoting team camaraderie are some other things Boyer hopes to accomplish this season.
“We don’t necessarily have someone yet who is going to be able to put in 20-25 points a game. We might have that, but we don’t know that yet,” he said. “We’d like to have three guys a night in double-figures. But very similar to what we had last year, we need different guys step up.”
The Raiders open the season this Friday, Nov. 30 at Maple Lake, and will also play at Target Center the following day at 7:30 p.m. against Legacy Christian Academy. Their first home game is Thursday, Dec. 6 against Mound-Westonka.
“We’ve got a good mix of guys who have had good experience, and experience in other sports at the varsity level too. So that should only help us out,” said Boyer.