2017-18 Boys Basketball Previews

Alpena

Last season: 9-12; lost to Marquette in district quarterfinals.

Key Players: Chris Derocher, jr., Aidan Goike, jr., Bruz Copping, jr.

Coach John Pintar: “We have had young and inexperienced teams the last few years and you can’t rush the aging process. We are ready to compete and this year we are going to have to defend at a high level in order to be successful.”

Outlook: For the past few seasons, Alpena has had to depend on youth and inexperience while learning on the fly. This season, the Wildcats are ready to rely on a group of players that have gained experience during a tough two year stretch and this year’s team is determined to turn the corner for the program. Alpena returns leading scorer Chris Derocher, point guard Aidan Goike and Bruz Copping who all started as sophomores a season ago and all three will look to take a step forward during their junior campaigns. The Wildcats also return seniors Walker Martin and Eli Alexander who will be relied heavily upon for their play and leadership for a team that now has experience on its side and is ready to make an impact in the always challenging Big North Conference.

Hillman

Last season: 24-2; lost to Powers North Central in quarterfinals.

Key Players: Brandon Banks, sr., Billy Kolcan, sr., Jared Juergens, sr., Kory Henigan, jr.

Coach Eric Muszynski: “Our expectations are similar this year. Experience will be key for us and we’re going to continue to do what we do. Over the years we have adapted to having a bullseye on our back after building a championship tradition and we’re looking forward to this season, defending our titles and hopefully putting more hardware in the trophy case.”

Outlook: Hillman has been a model of consistency for nearly the past decade. Five district titles since 2009, consecutive 20-win seasons, add in a few regional championships and the expectations remain sky high for the 2017-2018 season. For the first time since 2007, the Tigers will not have an underclassman start the year on the varsity team, instead this year’s group will consist of seven seniors and six juniors who have been apart of a lot over the past few years. Seniors Brandon Banks, Jared Juergens, Nic Taratuta and Billy Kolcan will all look to make a big impact this season along with junior Kory Henigan. Hillman is deep, experienced and will continue to do what it does best by scoring points in bunches and making life difficult for its opponents with their press defense. The expectations are once again high as the Tigers look to defend the North Star League for the fifth year in a row along with making another deep postseason run as they come into the season ranked inside the top 10 in Class D.

Fairview

Last season: 13-8; lost to Hale in district quarterfinals.

Key Players: Tylor Ross, senior, point guard; Jay Cleeves, senior, point guard; Derek Nolan, senior, forward; Durius Oaks, senior, guard/forward; Jesse Yoder, junior.

Coach Troy Ross: “We’re low on numbers, but we’ve got five seniors coming back. I feel confident we can win the Little Dipper division. If we play together, we should do pretty well.”

Overview: The Eagles are low on numbers, but they’re hoping to make up for that with experience. Injuries and low numbers have the Eagles reeling to start the season, but Ross, a rookie head coach, is confident that his team can play well as many of the players have played together since elementary school. Tylor Ross, a first team all-North Star League pick a year ago is entering his fifth year as a varsity player and will likely be counted on to shoulder the bulk of the scoring load. Oaks, Cleeves and Nolan give Fairview depth, but the Eagles don’t have much size and will without Nolan to start the season. Fairview is hoping its lack of size and numbers won’t stop it from being a contender for a division title.

Atlanta

Last season: 4-17; lost to Au Gres in district semifinals.

Key Players: Austin Corbin, jr., Deven Davis, jr.

Coach Kevin Haren: “I have high hopes and high expectations for this team. We have experienced players returning and good numbers. There is a hunger here to get better and win. A lot of our kids are coming off of a winning season and they understand winning is contagious and we’re excited for about this year.”

Outlook: The expectations continue to grow for Atlanta’s sports teams and after a positive football season, many of the same athletes will lead the Huskies into the hardwood with the hope of similar success. Atlanta returns five seniors on a roster of 11 players and the Huskies will rely on captains Austin Corbin and Deven Davis not only for their senior leadership, but for their ability to make a difference at both ends of the court. Despite a couple of rough seasons and playing in a competitive North Star League, Atlanta has big expectations for this year’s group to compete and do well.

Alcona

Last season: 13-9; lost to Whittemore-Prescott in district final.

Key Players: Jordan Steiner, sr., Alex Stephenson, sr., Antavius Mikazes, jr.

Coach Ryan Bilbey: “One of our goals this year is to get back to district finals, but see a different outcome. There are some great teams in our league and we have some tough matchups, but we are focusing on improving each and every day with an emphasis on playing sound basketball on both ends of the court.”

Outlook: Alcona has expectations that are through the roof for the 2017-2018 season and rightfully so. The Tigers return nearly their entire team from a year ago when the team fell in the district finals to a strong Whittemore-Prescott team. One of the only new additions for this year’s team will be first-year head coach Ryan Bilbey. It should be an easy transition for Bilbey as he takes over an experienced Alcona team loaded with talent. The Tigers return six seniors and three juniors along with adding two other juniors and a senior to complete a team filled with upperclassmen. Alcona will rely on a talented backcourt led by seniors Jordan Steiner and Alex Stephenson. Junior center Antavius Mikazes will be a big part of the team’s success along with returners Devon Mills, Luke Loyer, Conner McCoy, Matt Krisan, Josh Kilbourn and Damion Stewart. The Tigers are geared up for what could be a special season.

Onaway

Last season: 10-11; lost to Hillman in district semifinals.

Key Players: Trevor Wregglesworth, jr., Lucas Tollini, sr., Nick Byrne, sr.

Coach Eddy Szymoniak: “We know we have our work cut out for us this year. We may not be the best team, but we’re going to be competitive and hopefully get better one game at a time.”

Outlook: Two years removed from a magical run that ended with the program’s first regional championship, Onaway is looking to take this season one game at a time with the goal of improving before postseason play. The Cardinals realize they will be challenged in a strong Ski-Valley Conference that will prepare them for an even tougher district. The Cardinals have the talent to put together another run as they return two three-year starters in seniors Trevor Wregglesworth and Lucas Tollini. Wregglesworth will likely be one of the areas top players due to his size, length and ability to play all over. He and Onaway’s other three seniors will play a key role for the Cardinals’ success in 2017-2018.

Oscoda

Last season: 8-13; lost to Alcona in district semifinals.

Key Players: Grant Huebel, sr., Braden Malak, so., Owen Franklin, fr.

Coach Seth Alda: “I think we’re going to be a very competitive team. We have a deep team with a mix of new players who want to get better and experienced players who know what it takes to be better. We want to improve as the year goes on and get better and better.”

Outlook: Depth will play a huge role for the Oscoda boys basketball team in 2017-2018. The Owls return several key pieces to a team that enjoyed success last season. This year Oscoda hopes its depth and leadership can propel it to the top of the North Star League and beyond. The Owls will be led by senior Grant Huebel, who was a first team all-NSL selection a year ago. Seniors Nathan Nagel and Travis Lamrock will be relied heavily upon along with sophomore Braden Malak who was an honorable mention last year and Oscoda also has high hopes for freshman Owen Franklin. The Owls return five starters from a season ago and pulled players up from a strong JV team and have big expectations for the upcoming season.

Mio

Last season: 3-18; lost to Hale in district semifinals.

Key Players: Andrew Hager, senior; Collin Spies, senior; Garrett Rhoads, senior; Ty Modgling, senior.

Overview: The Thunderbolts won just a few games last year, but with several players returning, Mio is hoping to turn things around this season. Doing so won’t be easy as Mio will contend with improved teams like Rogers City and Oscoda as well as Hillman in the North Star League’s Big Dipper division. Modgling gives the Thunderbolts some size up front and if one or two players can step up offensively, Mio should improve. The Thunderbolts are just three years removed from their last district title, but have struggled since the graduation of Ben Lubitz.

Rogers City

Last season: 16-7; lost to Hillman in district final.

Key Players: Phil Grambau, jr., Zane Grzesikowski, jr., Ethan Hincka, jr.

Coach Matt Ponik: “Our goal, like every year is to compete for a NSL title and be competitive each and every game in order to give ourselves a shot to win. We have a very tough schedule so we can’t afford to have off nights and we need to stay motivated all season, which will make this a fun season.”

Outlook: A year removed from falling in the district championship game and graduating several key pieces from last year’s team, Rogers City will look to remain near the top of the North Star League. Despite losing talent to graduation, the Hurons had plenty of options to reload with talent picking from a JV group that went 19-1 last season. The Hurons will feature an athletic group that knows what it takes to win, but may take some time to adjust to the North Star League’s fierce varsity competition. The Hurons will rely on a handful of juniors in Zane Grzesikowski, Phil Grambau, Ethan Hincka, Corey Sweeso and Christian Ryan. Rogers City will turn to its talented junior class and look for some underclassmen to step up in 2017-2018.

Posen

Last season: 3-17; lost to Hillman in district quarterfinals.

Key Players: Jared Sharpe, jr., Jeremy Misiak, jr., Dylan Schuch, sr.

Coach Chris Keller: “Our goal is to consistently get better. We had a good offseason, we focused on becoming more competitive. We haven’t took time off and we’re excited about this season. We want to make the NSL tougher and make every game as unpleasant as possible for our opponents.”

Outlook: The goal to consistently get better each and every game has not changed for Posen. After a few challenging seasons, the Vikings have improved at the end of each season over the past two years, but have lacked experience. That will not be the case this year as Posen returns seven starters, six of which played major minutes last season. The Vikings will be led by three-year starter Jared Sharpe who will once again be among the top shooters and three-point threats in the North Star League. Sharpe and Jeremy Misiak will both captain this year’s team as juniors. Posen has put in work during the offseason and along with the two junior captains, the Vikings will also rely on seniors Dylan Schuch, Avery Werth and Dru Hincka, along with two other juniors in Sam Brunett and Mark Wisniewski. Posen hopes to build off of last year’s late season improvement and take a big step forward this year.