Season preview: Boys basketball

Nathan Brinkman, Staff Writer

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In 2013, following a trip to the state championship game, the Austin Packer boys basketball team lost a great senior class. In that class was the Packers’ all-time leading scorer, forward Joe Aase, who graduated and left a hole at his position.

Following the 2014 season, the AHS boys basketball team will face a strikingly similar challenge in matching last season’s success. The Packers, who haven’t lost a conference game in three seasons, are without five key players who graduated this past spring, three of which are playing basketball at the college level. The impact of losing these players could have a great effect on the packers this season.

Key Subtractions:              

G Zach Wessels

G Bret Lukes

G/F Ajuda Nywesh

F Jacob Kempen

F/C Curtis Oberbroeckling

The only returning starter for the Packers this season  is 6’4” senior Gach Gach. Gach played a pivotal role in the team’s success last year, averaging 6.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. Gach’s successful season was punctuated with a huge dunk in the state semifinal against Holy Family.

Projected Starters:

G Levi Vierkandt

G Nik Gasner

G/F Gach Gach

F Taylor Peck

F/C Noah Brehmer

Other key varsity returners include seniors, center Noah Brehmer and guard Nik Gasner  as well as a  junior guard Zach Coffey. These players foresee themselves having a much greater role on the team this year in the wake of losing  such valuable players. As the roster may look drastically different this season as noted, the Packers will remain anchored by head coach Kris Fadness.

Out of the positions being filled by new faces this season, point guard will likely be the hardest to replace. Wessels, who now plays Division  II basketball at the University of Sioux Falls, was a four-year varsity starter at point guard. In his senior season, Wessels surpassed former teammate Joe Aase as the Packers’ all-time leading scorer in a January game against long time rival Albert Lea.  Wessels was a staple at the point for the Packers and his presence and production will be greatly missed.

Former Packers Bret Lukes and Ajuda Nywesh are also playing at the college level. Shooting guard Lukes is playing for Division III Hamline University, and guard/forward Nywesh is now  playing for Division I JUCO Lake Region State College. These three players combined for 126 out of the Packers’ 171 points at the state tournament last season.

All in all, the Packers are facing an uphill battle coming into this season. Recovering from losing some of the best players to ever put on an Austin uniform won’t be easy, but as shown in the recent past, it’s doable. If the new faces in the starting lineup and on the varsity roster are able to step up and fill those voids, the Packers should be poised for yet another great season, and hopefully, another run at a state championship.


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