Posted On: 09/2/18 9:09 PM

We’ve looked at five teams we think will outperform expectations in 2018-19. Now, let’s examine five teams who will make a big jump, continuing with Neenah…


2017-18 Rewind

Overall Record: 12-12

Conference Record (Fox Valley Association):  8-10 (T-5th)

WIAA State Tournament Finish: Lost 63-55 to Kimberly in  the Division 1 Regional Final

Key Losses: Chance Pronschinske (10.3 ppg), Matthew Pavletich (8.3 ppg), Matthew Pavletich (8.3 ppg),  Royce Prosser (7.6 ppg)


Projected Starters

G Jake Hablewitz – Sr. (4.2 ppg)

G Max Klesmit – Jr. (14.1 ppg)

F Ethan Parker – Sr. (2.7 ppg)

F Grant Flory – So. (10.7 ppg)

F Logan Morrow – Sr. (7.6 ppg)


Why Neenah?

The Rockets lost four key scoring options, which won’t necessarily be easy to replace, but  that could allow junior guard Max Klesmit   to emerge. Coming off a very good summer on the AAU circuit, Klesmit looks primed to be one the stars in the Fox Valley Conference this season. 

Neenah has its top two leading scorers and rebounders back, which includes sophomore forward Grant Flory.  As a freshman, Flory averaged 11 points and five rebounds per game.

The Rockets may have been under .500 in conference play last season, but an 8-10 record in the Fox Valley Association is nothing to scoff at. The conference produced two state championship ball clubs in 2017-18.

Neenah should enter this season with a some good confidence. After Jan. 26, the Rockets weren’t beaten by anybody except Kaukauna, Oshkosh North, and Kimberly — the top three teams in the  FVA.


Biggest Question

Who will make up the supporting cast and can Neenah get the depth required to sustain a full season in the Fox Valley Association?

The conference is about as tough as it gets night in and night out most seasons. Seven of the 10 teams won at least seven conference games, which is even more impressive considering that both Oshkosh North and Kaukauna won state titles.  That said, there are very few nights off.

On paper, there appears to be about six teams capable of winning the conference this season. Neenah looks good at the top of their roster with a few proven commodities, but will need the depth to catch up to some of the other programs after losing four seniors,  who were among the top seven on the team in scoring last season.


Final Word

Neenah hasn’t been to sectionals since 2014-15 when Matt Heldt (Marquette) was patrolling the paint. With Oshkosh North and Stevens Point no longer commanding favorites in Sectional 1 — at least going into this season — things open up and should provide a much more competitive field.

That has a chance to change in 2018-19. 

The Fox Valley Association, while still one of the state’s toughest conferences, will be much more manageable this season. There will be less separation at the top as Kaukauna and Oshkosh North both lose a good chunk of talent. Neenah, Appleton West, Oshkosh West, and Kimberly should all be fighting for top spots  and one of those four could end up in Madison in  March as well.

The road certainly won’t be easy, especially in their own conference, but 10+ wins and/or a top five finish in the FVA would set the Rockets up well in tournament play.

Klesmit appears poised to be a top five player in the conference this season. If Flory makes significant jumps as well and the supporting cast comes along, this is a team capable of doing damage and March and certainly beating anybody in the FVA on any given night.