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Posted On: 06/7/18 7:51 AM
Malik Willingham led the Jays to a 26-win season (the second most wins in Waseca history) while averaging 21.6 points, five boards, and 6.1 assists per game. Malik had a tremendous NHR State Tournament and expectations are that the next 10 months should be outstanding.
Looking back at the 2017-18 Breakdown season preview the Waseca expectations were to finish third in the section (Mankato East and Marshall) plus they were the preseason ranked 12th team in Class AAA. The Jays performed above that beating Marshall to reach the section finals and at 26-4 they earned a final rank of 8th in the state. A very good year playing a bit above expectations.
Expectations will be higher for the 2018-19 season. First off, Malik is a top 25 player in the state that could score 25+ a game. From there, the Jays also return starters Matt Olsem (a 9p/5rb guy who will be a senior) and 2021 standout Ryan Dufault who scored 10 a game this winter making nearly half of his threes. In addition, standout freshmen Kyreese Willingham and Andrew Morgan have a great chance to move from the bench to starting roles.
“We have a lot of people returning which is really good for us but we’ll also be missing Adam Schumacher and Jack Vetsch,” Malik said. “The expectations are super high for us. We felt like last year people didn’t believe in us and we had to go out and prove to the state we could compete with anyone. Next year will be a fun one for us so we’ll see what happens.”
There will be no surprising anybody next year as Waseca will be a highly ranked Class AAA team in the preseason. Knowing this and knowing that expectations will be high for him, Malik has things he wants to do better before his senior year tips-off.
“I would want to improve everything but mostly quickness, defense, and driving,” Malik said. “I know teams know I can shoot, so I want to be able to work on my driving skills, more so the defenders will have to be honest on defense.”
The high school season, it’s a half a year away. The 17u season is what is important right now and Malik is once again playing with Minnesota Select. When you play with Select you take on a difficult schedule that typically includes the SPTS and NY2LA Basketball weekends of play plus NHR state, the Comets events, and the annual trip to Las Vegas.
Select has already played 31 games this year and Malik is coming off a first team all tournament performance at NHR State.
“Some top moments for me has been probably getting in my zone during games and just do me,” Willingham said. “I just try to have fun with it and make things happen. My teammates help a lot also.
“We just hope, as AAU is coming to an end here, that we learn a lot from this and that it’ll help us become better players and leaders for next year.”
Another thing that Malik has been looking at is playing college basketball. A nice list of schools are showing interest in Malik at the next level.
“I’ve heard from North Dakota State, Southwest Minnesota State, Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Crookston, Concordia-St. Paul, Winona State, and Sioux Falls,” Malik said. “I plan on going on visits soon and plan on attending the camps.”