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Posted On: 09/25/18 7:00 PM
The Eagles went 23-9 last season, earning a trip to the state tournament. With four starters back, expectations should be sky high for them this winter. Here’s what you need to know:
Must be Replaced: Kyler Kluge, DJ Johnson
For all the Eagles talent, they weren’t a particularly deep team. With six fixtures in the rotation, Eden Prairie relied on four sophomores and two seniors. Kyler Kluge was a multi-year starter and blossomed as a utility guy. He was the team’s top defender and his playmaking allowed for the young crop of Eagles to emerge offensively. He only averaged 8.5 points per game, but his contributions to winning will be missed in a big way. DJ Johnson was a quality backup who brought a lot of energy particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
Returning Starters: Drake Dobbs, Austin Andrews, Connor Christensen, John Henry
The quartet of talented now-juniors is the reason the Eagles can stake a claim for the top spot in any ranking heading into the winter. Dobbs has evolved from a sharpshooter into a terrific overall player on both ends and he’ll take on more ball handling and playmaking responsibility — which he seems to be ready for given his play over the summer with D1 Minnesota. He averaged 17 points per game a season ago after averaging 11 as a freshman. Andrews is an inside-outside matchup nightmare in the frontcourt and averaged better than 18 points per game as a sophomore. Christensen (11.6 ppg) is another outstanding perimeter shooter and has guard skills at 6-foot-6 while Henry (12.3 ppg) is a do-it-all contributor who excels playing off the ball and on the defensive end of the floor.
Stepping into Bigger Roles: Lukas Dunford, Michael Schreiber, Ariel Bland, Carson Sievers
The Eagles are well set at four spots but there will be minutes available for a fifth starter and rotation roles. Dunford and Bland — a transfer from South Carolina — will give the Eagles more size up front while Schreiber and Sievers give the Eagles a couple more ball handlers in the backcourt.
The Future: Current Core
The Eagles have something of a two-year window here where they can legitimately contend for state titles. Beyond that is unknown but with this current crop of juniors, Eden Prairie’s future is now. There’s talent in the long range pipeline but in all likelihood, it will be allowed to bake for a while as this team looks well set for a while.
Eden Prairie has all the component of a state title-winning club. The Eagles have got two bonafide go-to scorers in Andrews and Dobbs, quality role-players, strong defenders, size and a lot of experience. They play in a very tough conference and play a very competitive schedule out of conference so they’ll inevitably take a few losses over the course of the season. But they should expect to contend for a Lake Conference title and a Section title. Section 2AAAA may be the best in the state so getting through to the state tournament isn’t a given, but they’ve got the pieces to do it and win the whole thing. They should be on the short list of favorites.