The boys' basketball season is underway for East Ridge, Woodbury, Park and New Life Academy. All four schools have the same goal and that's to play their best basketball in March and be the hardest team to play during the section and state tournaments.
There's a handful of young and veteran talent throughout these teams as they prepare for the upcoming season. It might take time to adjust, but each coach for these four teams are excited to see the potential from their respective schools.
The Raptors ended their 2018-19 season at the state tournament and finished in fourth place with a loss to Park Center. After the loss, the news continued to keep coming out of East Ridge.
Shortly after the season was over, former head coach Bryce Tesdahl left to become the new head coach at Minnetonka. Also, top prospect in the nation Kendall Brown made his decision to transfer to Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.
The team already graduated three seniors from their starting roster last season and said goodbye to one more with Brown gone. That left one starter coming back for the 2019-20 and that was Ben Carlson.
"We have a lot of new players in the starting lineup, but these players have been growing within the program to reach this point," Carlson said. "Everyone has been doing good these first couple weeks and we're excited about this upcoming year."
Carlson will be one of the leaders for the Raptors this season along with three other seniors: Nolan Goetz, Rob Jeter and Brody Kriesel. The entire team will be led by new head coach Josh Peltier who came from Eagan and he's excited about continuing the success of the program this year.
"We have a lot of talent on this team and I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow as players and as a team this year," Peltier said. "Our goal is to be playing our best basketball in March, so we can be competing for a state title."
The Raptors are 1-1 to start the season as they lost to Prior Lake on Saturday, Nov. 30, but came back to win against Park Center on Saturday, Dec. 7. The goal will always remain the same for East Ridge and that's to reach the state tournament for a second straight year, but this time bring home the state title trophy.
Heading into last season, the question for the Woodbury boys' basketball team was based around scoring as the Royals graduated about 98% of their scorers.
This year, the scoring is back and Woodbury has a lot of veteran talent that they hope to use for an advantage.
"We have a lot of players returning this season, so a lot of us understand the varsity season and what it takes especially in March to play our hardest in the section tournament," said Joe Frommelt. "We've already been building a team chemistry from last season and I'm looking forward to seeing how this season unfolds this year."
The Royals have five seniors and a handful of juniors that played last season. Now, head coach Kent Getzlaff is focused on the small details instead of the bigger picture.
Getzlaff is excited about this upcoming season because there will be leadership from everyone on the court because the players understand the potential this team could have at the end of the regular season.
The Royals will be competing for the top spot in the conference as well as a top seed in the section tournament. As of right now, they're focused on taking one day at a time and that's led them to a 2-0 start this season.
A comeback victory against Farmington and a strong win at Eagan this past week has put them perfect heading into the conference season. Now, the Royals are looking for the momentum to go into next week's games.
"This team has the potential to do some great things and I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow together as teammates," Getzlaff said. "We just have to focus on us and getting better each day, then everything else will follow."
The Park boys' basketball team came into the 2019-20 season with many new faces on the varsity team. The Wolfpack said goodbye to a senior class last year that changed the entire program and the future of the boys' basketball team at Park.
This year, only a couple of players are returning from that roster and will need to be looked at for leadership throughout the season.
Even though there's a lot of changes, head coach Mike Weah is looking forward to what this season has in store for his players.
"We have a lot of talent on this team and these kids are great to coach every day," Weah said. "They want to continue learning and I'm hoping they develop into great players both on and off the court."
Jake Kuemmel said this team will be fast as there's a lot of younger players that can get up and down the court quickly. This team will play best when they can continue to keep that fast pace mentality.
The key leader for this team will be Jayden Lane who played quite a few minutes last year and will be one of the main returners from last season's roster. Lane has been strong early on this season as he's scored double digits in the first three games for the Wolfpack.
Park is sitting at 1-2 with a close loss to Hastings and a strong win over St. Paul Como Park. Now, the Wolfpack will prepare for the conference season and Kuemmel is hoping this team learns from a strong group of seniors last year and carries it into this upcoming season.
"The seniors last year changed the culture and expectation of this program and we want to keep that going this year," Kuemmel said. "After the first couple of weeks, I'm excited to see what this season has in store for us."
New Life Academy
The roster looks pretty similar from last year's lineup, but the head coach will be a new face. Former head coach Kory Kiekhoefer resigned after last season and current New Life athletic director Jed Moseman became the new head coach.
"I've always had a passion for basketball and I thought this would be a perfect fit for this team and program," Moseman said. "I spoke with many people within New Life Academy and around the community to make sure this was the right decision for this school and in the end we thought it would be the right choice."
Moseman has been coaching for many years in boys' basketball and he was excited to work with these players. He said that this team has a lot of talent from top to bottom and he just wants to keep building upon it throughout the year.
The Eagles will have three of their main scorers returning from last season, which includes Konner Ware, Michael Reader and Kollin Kaemingk. These three scored the majority of the points last season and will be looked at to lead this team for the upcoming season.
"We've been learning a lot over the first couple of weeks with a new coaching staff and new plays," Ware said. "It's a lot to take in right away, but we're already seeing improvement from everyone and it's great to see."
The Eagles have started the season with a 1-1 record and these players are determined to make it a special year. There are six seniors on this team, including Ware and Reader, and they want to leave this program in the best shape.
"This is our last year and we want to make it count with a memorable season," Reader said. "We have a lot of returners from last year and we know our potential as a team, which makes all of us excited for this upcoming year."