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Posted On: 08/14/18 5:44 PM
Looking ahead to the 2018-19 WIAA basketball campaign, Prep Hoops Wisconsin examines 10 teams who will be better than expected this season, beginning with the reigning Division 2 state champion Kaukauna Ghosts.
Overall Record: 25-3
Conference Record (Fox Valley Association): 16-2 (2nd Place)
WIAA State Tournament Finish: Beat Milwaukee Washington 76-74 in the Division 2 state championship
Key Losses: Jordan McCabe (26.7 ppg), Eric Carl (11.8 ppg), Dylan Kurey (12.6 ppg)
Projected Starting Lineup
G Keaton Ferris – Jr. (9.9 ppg)
G Brayden Ivory – Sr. (4.4 ppg)
F Logan Jedwabny – Jr. (5.4 ppg)
F Donovan Ivory – Sr. (7.6 ppg)
F Jacob Newhouse – Jr. (4.9 ppg)
The Ghosts lose their top three scorers, all double-digit performers, including West Virginia point guard Jordan McCabe. The reigning Mr. Basketball was the straw that stirred the drink averaging 27 points, eight assists, and six rebounds per game while leading Kaukauna to the Division 2 state championship.
But McCabe, Carl (Michigan Tech), and Kurey (Clarke) left the cupboard far from bare.
Kaukauna, who is coming off a 25-3 season, returns five players who played in 23 games or more in 2017-18, many of which, have proved over the summer that they’re ready to take on bigger roles.
“We’re real excited about our group coming back,” head coach Mike Schalow said. “Our group has a blue collar mentality. They want to get after it. They’ve experienced a lot of success and and expect it.
“They’ll be up to the task.”
The Ghosts have a number of players ready to step up, including Ferris, who hit some big shots in the state tournament and was one of the unsung heroes during that run. In fact, Ferris buried 60 triples last season, playing alongside two of the better sharpshooters in the state.
While he played primarily played off the ball last season, Ferris, a junior, will transition to point guard, where he had a near 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the summer, according to Schalow.
“I think Keaton is going to be huge for us this year,” Schalow said. “He’s a really good solid combo player. He’s expected to lead us like Jordan has done the previous four years.
“He’s a very capable scorer, but unselfish and he’s going to make the right play. This summer, I thought he was tremendous. We’re excited about what he’s capable of doing for us.”
Another rising star in the program, Ivory, remains one of the best hidden talents in the state of Wisconsin. A do-it-all combo forward, Ivory was second on the team in blocks, third in rebounding, fourth in steals, and sixth in assists.
Landing a handful of Division 2 scholarships over the summer, Ivory, who shot 62 percent from the field as a junior, has a chance to be the team’s leading scorer this season.
“Probably the most improved player that we’ve had in a long time,” Schalow said. “Probably one of those players that are one of the best kept secrets.
“He’s so versatile. His ability to play inside and out will create some tough matchups for our opponents. He’ll be the most versatile player we have, the most athletic player we have.”
Losing a player like McCabe, it’s hard, if not impossible to reload, but it does come with one advantage — the element of surprise. Last season, if opponents could slow down McCabe, they had a chance — although that was easier said than done.
In 2018-19, keying in on one player won’t be enough to beat the Ghosts.
“That’s what’s going to make us much more dangerous,” said Schalow. “I don’t see that anyone can take away one or two players from us. Our depth and our balance will be really good.
“We may not have the marquee player, but I believe we have a core of guys who understand what it takes, having played during the state run.”
Kaukauna didn’t get a single minute out of junior Seth Kamenick last season. Missing most of the year with an injury, Kamenick was able to appear in a few JV games, but never on the varsity.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound forward could be the x-factor and even catch Fox Valley Association programs by surprise.
“Nobody knows about him. He was injured last year and basically missed the whole season,” Schalow explained. “He’s been cleared this summer and we’re starting to see him getting his body in shape.
“Think he’s going to be a secret that people don’t realize that we have.”
Schalow said defensively is where his team may have the most ground to make up.
Last season, Kaukana gave up 70 or more points 13 times. However, it wasn’t as much of a concern as the Ghosts hit the 80-point mark a whopping 18 times, including six games in triple digits.
“We’re typically a team that plays very fast and plays well in space,” said Schalow. “With Jordan at the controls, sometimes we can give up some things defensively, because we were very explosive on the offensive end.
“I think we’re still going to have that mindset offensively, but we don’t believe yet defensively that we’re where we need to be. That’s probably an area we need to address early and hard.”
Kaukauna has built and established a winning culture. While one player may have been at the center of that, younger players have seen how it’s done and understand what it takes to win at a high level.
This is a program that hasn’t missed a sectional final in three seasons, including two trips to the state tournament. That DNA doesn’t just evaporate overnight, which is why Kaukauna will remain relevant in a Division 2 race with La Crosse Central, Milwaukee Washington, Nicolet, and others.
“With Jordan leaving, some people think they’ll take multiple steps back,” Schalow stated. “They have the mentality, ‘now it’s our time to step up and move the program forward.’ They’ll have that chip on their shoulder.
“I think they feel they don’t have the respect that they’ve earned. They have a lot they still want to prove.”
Nuts and Bolts
– Schalow believes Jedwabny will take over the leadership role vacated by McCabe.
“He played a ton of minutes for us,” he said. “I really like his progress. He’s got the work ethic that would probably be along the lines of Jordan McCabe. Now that Jordan is gone, I think Logan understands what it’s going to take. He’s taken on that leadership role. I think he’s going to make some big jumps for us.”
– Schalow does have questions about Kaukauna’s size in the front court and will rely heavily on Newhouse to give them an interior presence.
“Jacob is extremely athletic,” Schalow said. “He plays bigger than what he is. Gives us a player that can play multiple spots.”
– Senior forward Luke Eiting is penciled in as the team’s sixth man. Last season, Eiting played in 26 games, averaging 5.4 points per contest.
“He’s got great footwork and really good hands,” said Schalow. “He plays physical.”
– Brayden Ivory, the twin brother of Donovan, is expected to start alongside Ferris in the backcourt.
“He’s pound for pound one of our stronger players,” Schalow stated. “He defends really well. Somebody that’s very deserving of playing time, hard worker.”