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Posted On: 09/26/18 2:30 PM
The Winona Winhawks won just eight games a season ago despite entering the year with expectations to compete for a section title. A combination of chemistry issues and seniors quitting lead to a lot of roster transition — which allowed opportunity to less experienced players. With that turmoil in the rearview, Winona can look ahead and with a lot of returning talent, a much better season is expected this winter.
Must be Replaced: Dakota Matthees
Matthees went into last year as one of Winona’s top returning players and was solid until leaving the team in February. His outside shooting was certainly missed late in the year and his ability to rebound and defend up or down the opposing lineups is something the Winhawks will have to replace.
Top Returning Starters: Jake Reeck, Brad Winter
While the Winhawks overall season was a disappointment, there were some positives to be found. Jake Reeck emerged as an All-Conference caliber wing player and delivered as a go-to scorer. Reeck knocked down better than 40 percent of his 3-pointers last year while averaging 16.2 points, three rebounds and two assists. He’s one of the best players in the conference. He’s got a good running mate as Brad Winter developed into a capable two-way interior presence. Winter averaged 12 points per game and impacts the game defensively thanks to his length, mobility and hustle. Both guys had strong summers playing with Minnesota Select.
Stepping into Bigger Roles: Jackson Nibbelink, Ethan Prodzinski, Matt Rinehart, Brody Bittle
Nibbelink and Prodzinski were both starters last year and had good moments. Nibbelink is a strong perimeter shooter and a good athlete on the wing while Prodzinski is a big, strong, interior presence. Both guys will be expected to play more consistently this year. Nibbelink in particular, should be capable of giving the Winhawks 10-15 points per game. Rinehart and Bittle were both regular rotation guys as well and give the team length on the perimeter.
The Winhawks won’t be favored to win the Big 9 or Section 1AAA but a reasonable expectation on a win total for them should be right around 13-15. They’ve got a new coaching staff led by Kyle Martin (assistant in girl’s program for last five years) which will foster an aggressive, intense style of play. If things break right, they could find themselves competing for a Section title. The Big 9 shouldn’t be as tough as it was a year ago though it’ll never be a cakewalk of a league. They’ve got the talent to compete for a top-half finish in conference. Section 1AAA should be competitive (though that was the feeling last year after Both Gach transferred out too) and the Winhawks have a chance to earn homecourt advantage and make noise.
He said that:
“I have a very good feeling about this high school season. We have a new coaching staff in place and our team is now more experienced. We have a lot of juniors and seniors that gained experience playing AAU this summer. This is a group that has played together since fifth grade. I expect us to compete for conference and section title.” — Jake Reeck