New faces, new conference for Kingsland boys basketball team

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“New faces in new places” is the theme for this year’s Kingsland boys’ basketball team. After a 17-win season in 2017, most of the regular rotation from last year is gone to graduation. Kingsland head coach John Fenske said it’ll basically be a brand-new team playing ball in Spring Valley.

“We graduated eight of our top nine players from last season,” said Fenske. “We did get our leading scorer back from last season but everyone else graduated.”

Wyatt Pruter, a senior shooting guard, returns to lead a new team. However, just because the roster is new doesn’t mean they’re all underclassmen. This year’s roster includes seven seniors — Reid Kruegel, Nick Wernimont, Brady Wilford, Josh Warren, Austin Stephans and Jacob Welch in addition to Pruter — and six juniors — Ashton Kohn, Lucas Howard, Reed Merkel, Nate Lund, Zach Hauser and Brady Musel — to start the season. Fenske said it will take some time to find the most successful playing rotation for the Knights. That starts with the players learning to play together. It helps that the players don’t have to learn new schemes when they move up to the varsity roster.

“We run a lot of the same things on the B team and the varsity,” he said, “so it’s not like starting everything over again. We also had these kids playing together during the summer. They practiced two days a week during the summer, played three or four weekends, and were in a league every Wednesday.

“We will have to do some different things this year, primarily because we lost a lot of size from last season,” Fenske added. “We were 6-foot-8, 6-5, and 6-3 up front. This year, we have one kid that’ll have good size in the post. That’s going to be a big change.”

Fenske said that should give the Knights a good opportunity to push the tempo every time they hit the floor. They’re going to have a lot more quickness than the team did last season. He said the biggest challenge early on will be to find players who can score points consistently. The summertime experience on the basketball court will go a long way to helping them develop on both ends of the floor.

“It’s huge,” Fenske said. “While teams are made in November, players are made in the summertime. The kids that don’t play during the summer may be just as good athletically as the kids that do, but they’re so far behind because they didn’t get the opportunity to work on the fundamentals and learn anything new.

“One of the new things we’ve been working on is defense,” he said. “Again, with a new team this year, we’re changing things up after being dealt a whole new hand. That means you have to do what’s best for the group of players you have. We’re definitely going to play more zone defenses than we did last year. The offense won’t change too much.”

Another change to the boys’ basketball season is a brand new conference. The Knights are moving from the Three Rivers Conference to the Southeast Conference. Fenske said the competition is going to be tough. In fact, this may not be the ideal year to make the move.

“They’ve got a lot of talented teams,” he said. “Spring Grove will be very good, Houston’s going to be good, and Grand Meadow is very good. All of those teams have a lot of seniors. It’s going to be a big learning year for us, I believe.”

Of course, the main goal is to win games, but Fenske said defensive improvement will go a long way toward making that happen. They’ll be experimenting, trying to determine what works best. They don’t get much more time to work on things with the first game set for this Thursday, Nov. 29, at Lyle/Pacelli.

There’s already a change to the schedule to take note of. The Knights home opener was scheduled for the following Tuesday, Dec. 4, but that’s been moved to Dec. 17 because of the lengthy Spring Grove football season. The Knights home opener will now be on Dec. 9 against the Randolph Rockets.