The Elk Mound boys basketball team returns five letterwinners as it looks to advance in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference standings this winter for third-year coach Michael Kessler.
Among those five returners includes a pair of starters with forward/center Marcus Kinblom (4.6 points per game last year) and guard Brett Lew (3.7 ppg).
Guards Jake Mentzel (2 ppg), Colton Ward and Nate Lew are also back to give the Mounders many experienced options in the backcourt. Newcomers Bryce Maves, Max Marquardt, Rian Flynn, Cade Hanson, Blaze Todd, Ryan Bohl and Ben Heath are expected to see time on the court this winter as well for a Mounder squad that finished in a three-way tie for fourth with Mondovi and Colfax in the league standings a season ago.
“We have a great low post presence with a couple of our guys,” Kessler said. “I also think that we will be able to shoot the ball from distance. We have a good deal of athleticism that we hope to utilize on both ends of the floor. We have to replace a large number of seniors and contributors from last year, but our guys worked extremely hard this offseason to get ready.
“This is a great group of kids that is willing to do whatever it takes, and truly put the we before the me.”
Durand won the conference championship last year with an unbeaten 14-0 mark in league play with Glenwood City and Spring Valley tied for second, each with 8-6 conference marks. Kessler said a number of teams should be in play for the top spot in the league and he’s optimistic his team can be one of them.
“We hope to be in the conversation of teams that can contend for the conference championship,” Kessler said.
Elk Mound finished with a 10-14 record a season ago, falling to Eau Claire Regis in the Division 4 regional semifinals.
The Mounders opened the season on Tuesday with a home game against Fall Creek and are back in action on Thursday at Black River Falls. The Mounders cap a busy first week of games on Saturday when they face Altoona at the Northwest Tipoff Classic hosted by UW-Stout in Menomonie. The Mounders open league play on Dec. 6 at Boyceville and overall play just three home games before the new year before a more home-heavy schedule in January.
Out of conference the Mounders face strong programs like Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau (Dec. 28), Eau Claire Regis (Jan. 21) and Bloomer (Feb. 4), among others.
“We hope to be right in the thick of things in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference title race and hope to advance in the playoffs,” Kessler said. “We have a very difficult nonconference schedule that we are extremely excited about.”