The Elk Mound boys' basketball team will be extremely guard-heavy this season. With eight potential starting guard options, the Mounders aim to use that as a strength in order to strong-arm their Dunn-St. Croix Conference (DSC) competitors and clinch the conference title for a three-peat this 2017-18 season.
Though five seniors were lost from last year's roster, head coach Mike Kessler isn't too worried, as two experienced varsity players will return to lead what could potentially be an ever deeper team than they had last year.
"We may see some struggles early on in the year, but are happy with the work our guys put in over the summer," Kessler said.
Those two returning players are seniors Dylan Black and Ben Lambele. Black is poised as the clear commander of the team, but Kessler said Lambele also developed into a strong leader during the summer months.
Black will lead the Mounders as a starting guard, who averaged 3.1 points per game (ppg) and 2.9 assists per game (apg) last season. Lambele was the second-leading scorer on last year's team with 14.3 ppg, just behind the now-graduated Dane Lew, who led in scoring with 14.9 ppg. Lambele was the team's leading rebounder, however, averaging 6.1 rebounds per game (rbg).
Behind Black and Lambele is an arsenal of returning players who are eager to make a jump from the bench to more time on the varsity floor. Among those players are seniors Ryan Mohr (guard), Connor Mavis (center) and Brandon Redwine (forward).
Alongside the five returning players, nine fresh faces will add to the wide-spread roster. They include: Dylan Curry (guard), Blake Rosenthal (guard), Brett Lew (guard), Logan Bergh (forward), Colton Ward (guard), Jake Mentzel (guard), Brady Redwine (forward), Marcus Kinblom (forward) and Rian Flynn (guard).
Kessler expects many of these newcomers will be in what could be a 12-player rotation.
Last year, the Elk Mound team was taken out of the postseason in the first round of the WIAA Division 3 regional playoff with a heartbreaking two point loss to Altoona. However, not before clinching the DSC Championship outright with a 13-1 conference record.
Kessler will look to improve on that success, but knows the conference is flourished with teams that won't fall over easily.
"I think the conference will be competitive. I expect Colfax and Glenwood City to compete really well, along with Durand and Spring Valley, who are always extremely tough," Kessler remarked. "I would hope that we will be right in the mix for contending for the conference, but much work needs to be done to make that happen."
Kessler aims for his team to be playing their best basketball when the tournament rolls around.
The first game of the season is right around the corner and the Mounders will have plenty of time to climb up to where they would like to be for the post-season.
Elk Mound will travel to Fall Creek for their season-opener Tuesday, Nov. 28 before returning home two days later to host Black River Falls.
Seniors: Logan Bergh, Dylan Black, Dylan Curry, Ben Lambele, Conner Mavis, Ryan Mohr, Brandon Redwine, Blake Rosenthal, Nathaniel Schrieber
Juniors: Marcus Kinblom, Brett Lew, Bryce Maves, Jake Mentzel, Colton Ward
Sophomores: Cade Hanson, James Javanovich, Chase Rhude, Cole Steinhorst, Blaze Todd, Ethan Rubenzer, Kyle Deling
Freshmen: Sam Roder, Mitchell Ruppelt, Ryan Bohl, Logan Schultz, Ethan Levra, Ben Heath, Aidan Balts, Brett Rosenthal, Antonio Meyer, Jackson Severson, Reese Brunner, Jack Gabert, Nate Lew