GRANTSBURG – To draw a parallel to football, the Grantsburg boys basketball team would have depth in the backfield but would be thin on the line.
Coach Nick Hallberg said the 2019-2020 version of the Pirates’ basketball roster has fewer of the bulky bodies than those in the recent years.
“We lost the big lumbering bodies we’ve had in the past,” Hallberg said. “John and Leo (Chenal) are gone. We are a guard-dominant team. We’ll be looking to set the tempo and pressure the ball.”
The Pirates also will be light on experience in addition to size. After finishing last season with a 10-12 overall record and five seniors on the roster, they start this season with just two seniors.
“We have a few returners that have played significant minutes but basically the rest of them have little or no varsity experience,” Hallberg said. “We have good athletes but a lack of experience.”
Among the few returners are seniors Austin Wedin and Jacob Phillips. Wedin averaged nearly 10 points a game in his junior season while Phillips had limited playing time behind the final-year players on last year’s roster.
Juniors comprise the largest group this year, accounting for five of the roster spots for Grantsburg. Jared VanWatermeulen leads those players after scoring more than 12 points per game last season. Gus Bergman, Derek Lee, Sterling McKinley and Bruce Lindau complete the Pirates’ junior class.
Second-year players include Carson Knutson, Zach Miller, Chase Doornink and Carter Johnson.
“About 80 percent of our players are juniors and sophomores,” Hallberg said. “We have some talented juniors and sophomores, though.”
The Pirates were 5-7 in the Lakeland West last season and finished fifth in the conference standings. The challenges facing them are obvious, with teams that finished ahead of them last season returning more starters and seniors.
“Most of the other (Lakeland West) teams have quite a few seniors,” Hallberg said. “Unity, Luck, St. Croix Falls all have more seniors coming back. That counts for something.”
“But overall it’s a pretty balanced league this year. I can’t identify a favorite.”
Hallberg hopes his team’s speed and endurance will count for something this season. He said the Pirates will rely on high-paced games and have been planning accordingly.
“We spent a lot of time in the gym during the offseason,” he said. “We need to be built to run and obviously we need to be in shape to do that. If we want to be in the mix, we need a good start.”
Hallberg said this opening week with games against Prairie Farm and Amery will reveal the effectiveness of offseason conditioning; they also will help getting the newer players up to pace.
“We need to see how we show up on the first opportunities to play,” he said. “It will be different for some of those guys with inexperience, getting thrown in the fire early.”