Wisconsin boys ready for hoops tip-off

PEMBINE, Wis. – Goodman-Pembine, returning a “great nucleus” with four experienced players, begins the boys basketball season Thursday with Wausaukee. The Patriots and Rangers meet at 6:45 p.m. at Goodman.

All-Northern Lakes Conference first-team guard Trent Heath spearheads the group. The senior averaged 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals per game last season.

The Patriots also return All-NLC guard Alex Whitt, Randall Bose and Jacob Garrelts.

“Having Trent Heath back for his senior year is huge, and Alex (Whitt), Randall (Bose) and Jake (Garrelts) give us a veteran presence with experience that a lot of teams in our conference and region are lacking,” said Coach Paul Whitt. “I think our size and overall athleticism will be strengths for our team. We have a couple of new players joining the team, so it is important to get them involved early.”

Alex Whitt, a 6-foot-4 junior, produced 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals per game in 2012-13. Bose chipped 7 points and 4 rebounds, and Garrelts chipped in 2 points and 2 rebounds.

“Overall this group has high expectations of themselves,” coach Whitt said. “They’ve been working out hard, playing a lot of basketball in the summer and offseason and it shows. Besides that, they’re just a lot of fun to be around.”

Niagara visits Pembine on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Pembine is also the site of the Patriots’ league opener Tuesday, Dec. 3, with Florence.

Whitt calls defending champion Crandon, led by Kory Kincaid and Brett Novak, as the “team to beat” in the conference. Kincaid may be the best player in the conference.

“Those guys are a dynamic duo for sure and control tempo offensively and defensively,” Whitt said. “It will take them having an off night and one of the others playing a perfect game to knock them off.”

Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook predicted a top three finish of Crandon, Laona-Wabeno and Goodman-Pembine.

“I’m humbled that we’re thrown in that group with Laona-Wabeno and Crandon, but it really doesn’t get us anything,” Whitt said. “There are no banners or trophies awarded for your potential.

“We’re hoping to start where we ended last year and build from there. If we focus on us, control what we control, and stay humble and hungry, then we’ll improve week by week and give ourselves an opportunity to be competing at the highest level in the end. That’s what matters.”

League rival Florence has almost an entirely new team.

“But their jayvee team last year could beat some varsity teams,” Whitt said of the Bobcats. “And word on the street is they got a 6-foot-7 transfer so that would be a game-changer in our conference.”

Goodman-Pembine posted a 12-10 record in Whitt’s first season after coaching Northland International University women’s basketball. At one point during the off-season, it appeared he may be leaving the area.

“I’m very blessed to be coaching again this season,” said Whitt, who also serves as Pembine High School athletic director. “I really enjoy the opportunity to influence the guys on and off the floor, hopefully encouraging them to live for something bigger than themselves.”

Goodman-Pembine roster follows:

SENIOR – Tyler Buchner (Post, 6-5), Jacob Garrelts (G, 5-11), Trent Heath (G, 6-0), Jevan Lucena (Post, 5-7).

JUNIOR – Austin Glanzer (Post, 6-4), Seth Kryzwicki (Post, 6-3), Randall Bose (Post, 6-0), Alex Whitt (G, 6-4).

SOPHOMORE – Josh Grandaw (G, 5-7).

New starters for Bobcats

FLORENCE, Wis. – Florence, looking to replace the entire starting lineup, launches the boys basketball season Thursday at Niagara.

“We have no varsity experience,” said Bobcats coach Tom Beck, concerned with scoring ability and depth. “We do have good numbers and the guys are working hard.”

Florence may field one of the Northern Lakes Conference’s taller rosters with 6-foot-8 transfer Connor Beaster plus four others at least six feet.

Drew Seibold, Marshall Kelley, Lucas Gareau and Tyler Valine return from last season. Austin Herman, the only Bobcat earning All-NLC from last year’s 3-19 team, has graduated.

Florence visits Goodman-Pembine on Tuesday and hosts league favorite Crandon on Friday, Dec. 6.

“We have a very tough schedule to start the year,” Beck said. “We play good teams on the road. If we can get our feet under us and survive the start of the year, I think we can have a very good season.

“I see us getting better as the season progresses and we get experience, learn our roles and, hopefully, gain some confidence.”

Beck lists Crandon, Goodman-Pembine and Wabeno-Laona as “teams to beat” in the conference. Crandon is the defending champion after a 14-0 run through league play last season. Roster follows:

SENIOR – Drew Seibold (5-7), Marshall Kelley (6-0), Lucas Gareau (5-7), Tyler Valine (5-8), Connor Beaster (6-8), Thomis Mannebach (6-0).

JUNIOR – Matt Koenig (5-7), Freddy Noeske (5-10), Tyler Beck (6-0), Kyle Windell (5-6), Spencer Davis (5-11), Michael Sword (6-2).

Badgers backcourt strong

NIAGARA, Wis. – Niagara’s varsity boys return four lettermen to the hardwood following a memorable 19-8 season that ended with the school’s first sectional final appearance since 1982.

“Our guard play should be very good,” said 10th year head coach Jim Hoogland. “We are very quick and athletic.”

Seniors Zach Walker, Joey Swanson, Brett Pultz and Jacob Oratch represent the Badgers returners. Swanson was all-conference honorable mention last season.

Niagara lost TJ Liebergen, Colin Anderson, Zach Zychowski and all-conference first team pick Jordan Zawada to graduation.

The Badgers finished third in the M&O Conference last season.

With the loss of four seniors and a roster of 11, Hoogland said two concerns heading into this season are experience and depth.

“Our front court is very inexperienced,” he said.

Defending league champ Peshtigo looks like a favorite in the conference again this season, according to Hoogland. He also threw in Wausaukee, which posted a 10-6, fourth-place finish in the league last year.

“They should battle for the second spot,” he said.

Hoogland envisions a starting lineup of senior Zach Walker, junior Patrick Moreau, senior Jacob Oratch, senior Joey Swanson and sophomore Adam Parent.

Mike Prost returns to guide the jayvee squad.

Niagara hosts Florence Thursday to open the season.

Roster follows:

SENIOR – Zach Walker (G, 6-1), Joey Swanson (G, 5-11), Dyllan Pultz (F, 5-11), Brett Pultz (G, 5-6), Joe Coppens (G, 5-8), Trevor Lantagne (G, 5-9), Tarzis Maurer (G, 5-10), Jacob Oratch (F, 6-4), Brandon Holcomb (F, 6-0).

JUNIOR – Patrick Moreau (F, 6-10).

SOPHOMORE – Adam Parent (G, 5-11).