Posted On: 09/25/18 12:24 PM

Last year we picked Willmar to finish seventh out of nine.  What happened?  Willmar ran away with the league.  What happens this year?

2017-18.  Order of Finish 


  1. Willmar (7)
  2. Fergus Falls (2)
  3. St. Cloud Tech (1)
  4. Sauk Rapids-Rice (4)
  5. Alexandria (5)
  6. Brainerd (3)
  7. St. Cloud Apollo (9)
  8. Rocori (6)
  9. Sartell (8)


Conference Commentary

Top Ten in State: Willmar

Four of the top five contributors from Willmar’s 18-19 team are now seniors and that’s 6-foot-3 forwards Jake Evans, Drey Dirksen, and Ryan Slette plus guard Ty Roelofs returns as well. Losing a player the caliber of Noah Slagter is big and will sting but the Cards have the pieces to recover, and be the section favorite.  Again, Noah is good but this was a 26-3 team that brings everything else back.  Willmar won’t slip as far you think. 

Potential Top Ten: Fergus Falls, St. Cloud Apollo

The Otters only bring back two of their rotation players from a year ago but one of those guys is U of Mary committed Matthew Johnson.  Johnson is one of the top competitors in the state with his skilled, highly consistent, and steady approach.  He and Nic Pearson are the only returning players but Fergus Falls teaches kids well. 

Apollo has the talent to be really, really good.  Their junior class has a guard that we are very high on in Michael Gravelle, a worker in Logan Johnson, Nasrudin Mohamed was fantastic at the Expo at 6-foot-7, and Deng Diew has big potential.  Chang Hoth is pretty good as well as is senior Clifton Paterson.  So what’s with our hesitation?  As high as their potential is this team went 12-16 last year so it’s hard to give them the big boost until they put together some wins. 

Compete with Most: Alexandria, Brainerd, Sauk Rapids-Rice

Alexandria was a senior dominated team last year, but those seniors barely got the team over .500.  Now we look at top 100 guard Trey Hoepner and his 15 points per game as well as Treyton Thompson, a nationally ranked big in the 2021 class that wasn’t even listed on the Alexandria JV last year.  I have no idea what that is about but I do know that Thompson is very talented and should make a great inside-out combo with Hoepner. 

As far as Brainerd goes we know they got a head coach ready to work in Charlie Schoeck.  Are we biased?  Of course we are but that doesn’t mean we are wrong.  At 13.2 points per game Joey Sauer is the main player back along with Mason Malone and Ben Staehling.  Any time a new coach has half of the six top guys back it’s a good thing. Sauk Rapids-Rice lost their top scorer before the season ended, and went on to make a run to state!  Players like Josh Schloe, Kobe Lee, Cade Milton-Baumgardner, and Braden Tretter all picked up valuable experience bridging into this season. 

Rebuilding: St. Cloud Tech, Rocori, Sartell

We really aren’t sure what to expect from St. Cloud Tech this year.  The Tigers lost five of their top seven players and nearly all of those graduated talents went on to college athletics.  Nate Trewick and Odier Olange are the returning players and both are juniors.  Rocori lost nearly everything from a six win team leaving Corbyn Alexander with little and then at Sartell, Thomas Gieske is certainly one of the league’s best players, there just isn’t much else around him. 

18-19 Conference Predictions

1. Willmar

2. Fergus Falls

3. St. Cloud Apollo

4. Alexandria

5. Sauk Rapids-Rice

6. Brainerd

7. St. Cloud Tech

8. Sartell

9. Rocori


Preseason All Central Lakes Conference

First Team

Matthew Johnson of Fergus Falls (12)

Deng Diew of St. Cloud Apollo (11)

Treyton Thompson of Alexandria (10)

Trey Hoepner of Alexandria (12)

Thomas Gieske of Sartell (12)

Second Team

Drey Dirksen of Willmar (12)

Ty Roelofs of Willmar (12)

Ryan Slette of Willmar (12)

Joey Sauer of Brainerd (12)

Michael Gravelle of St. Cloud Apollo (11)

Third Team

Corbyn Alexander of Rocori (12)

Nic Pearson of Fergus Falls (12)

Braden Tretter of Sauk Rapids- Rice (12)

Joshua Scholoe of Sauk Rapids-Rice (11)

Nate Trewick of St. Cloud Tech (11)