Team: Waconia boys’ basketball
Head coach: Pat Hayes
Assistant coaches: Michael Johnson, Rich Gove, Don Tangen, Chad Henke, Tom Konrardy, and Craig Stanton
Conference: Wright County – East
Section: 2AAA – Dassel-Cokato, Hutchinson, Mankato East, Mankato West, Marshall, New Ulm, and Willmar
State appearances: 3 – 2006, 2007, and 2011
2011-12 finish: Last season, the Wildcats claimed their fourth consecutive Wright County Conference title and played for the Section 2AAA title against Mankato East. Falling in the section final to the Cougars 73-66, the Wildcats fell just short of a return state tournament appearance. The Wildcats finished the season 22-7, with a 13-game win streak between Jan. 17 and March 10. Waconia scored over 1,900 points with over 850 rebounds and nearly 250 steals.
Key losses: The Wildcats lost just one senior from last season, but Alex Schmitt took with him a host of honors. The four-year starter logged over 1,000 career points, 575 in his final season. He was member of the 2011 state tournament team and the last four conference championship teams, as well as an All-Conference winner.
Key returnees: But with Schmitt as the sole departing member, the 2012-13 Wildcats return a plethora of strong, starting players including 6-foot-5 senior forward Wylie Ferron, 6-2 senior guard Matt Rachey, 6-5 senior forward Alex Chandler, 6-2 senior Josh Lenz, and 6-6 senior forward Austin Fuller. Key returning juniors include 6-6 guard Ryan Boll, 5-11 guard Tommy Gove, and 6-1 guard Jacob Herd. Ferron and Rachey both received All-Conference honors in 2012, while Boll and Chandler were All-Conference Honorable Mention. Ferron, Rachey, Chandler, Boll, Gove, and Herd were the team’s leading scorers behind Schmitt last season.
“With losing only one senior from last year, there is a familiarity in practice/drills to move quickly from one area to the next,” head coach Pat Hayes said.
Key newcomers: 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Avery Talton is expected to be a force on the court this season, according to head coach Pat Hayes.
Teams to beat: With the new conference divisions in boys’ and girls’ basketball this season, the Wildcats find themselves in the large school “East” category with Orono, Hutchinson, Delano, Holy Family, and Mound-Westonka. Hayes predicts Delano will be the team to beat within the WCC – East, along with Annandale and Litchfield conference-wide. Litchfield finished second in Class AA last season. Willmar and Marshall will be the schools to contend with in the postseason.
Goals: Hayes said the team has no set long-term goals. The team simply aims to be competitive in each game throughout the season, which could be a challenge glancing at the schedule, which includes 4A teams such as Edina, Chanhassen, Prior Lake, and Eden Prairie. And once the Wildcats get a few players back from injury, the team should be both competitive and deep, according to Hayes.
First games: The Wildcats open the season this Friday, Nov. 30 at home against Edina.