Posted On: 10/2/18 11:00 AM
The Central Minnesota Conference is one of the most competitive, close-to-the-chest leagues in the state. Three teams won at least 20 games last year. How will things shake out this winter? Here’s what you need to know:
Favorite: Eden Valley-Watkins
Eden Valley-Watkins won 26 games a year ago and reached the Section 6AA Final before losing in nip-and-tuck fashion to St. Cloud Cathedral. The Eagles won with staunch defense and had solid scoring balance. With three starters back, expectations should be fairly high. Luke Jansen averaged 10 points per game as a sophomore and emerged as one of the better guards in the league. Josh Streit is a player to watch for the next three years as he was productive as a freshman and Justin Streit is a difference-maker on both ends of the floor. Kobe Beattie is also back.
In the Mix: Kimball, Maple Lake
Maple Lake won the conference last season and returns two of its best players in Mitch Hoistad and Joseph Stokman. The two combined to averaged roughly 25 points per game as both guys are capable of getting to the rim, scoring from the midrange and creating their own offense. Ben Reilly is also back after averaging six points a night as a rotation sophomore.
Kimball returns the conference player of the year in Drew Gustafson along with starting wing Noah Jurek. Gustafson is a terrific two-way player and can do a little bit of everything. He was excellent over the summer with Comets and will need to provide a little more scoring this year as the Cubs lose three all-conference guys to graduation.
Should Compete: Howard Lake/Waverly/Winsted, Pierz
Howard Lake/Waverly/Winsted won just seven games a year ago but returns several key players including starting big man Brock Bangasser and guard TJ Kittock. Bangasser averaged 13 points per game and will be one of the top bigs in the league. Kittock, Brandon Karels and sophomore guard Noah Bush should provide steady production on the perimeter.
Pierz is another team that looks poised to improve drastically after a four-win campaign. Returning on the top players in the conference in junior guard Peter Schommer is a good start. Schommer averaged better than 15 points per game as a sophomore and is joined by Brandon Stuckmayer and Jonah Prokott.
Rebuilding: Paynesville, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Holdingford
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa brings back all-conference guard Evan Wiener who averaged 14 points per game last season along with Dylan Meyer. A big key for the Jaguars will be finding a way to average more than 50 points per game. The defense should be solid.
Paynesville really struggled offensively, averaging just 49 points per game. Some of that is pace of play but the Bulldogs also simply lacked shot-makers. Eli Blast, Caden Spanier and Brendan Uhlencamp make up a nice looking now-junior class and all three guys were regulars a year ago. If they can make a typical sophomore-to-junior jump, things could look better.
Holdingford lost a big senior class from a year ago, so it’s hard to know what this season brings for the Huskers. Tyson Patrick is the lone returner with meaningful varsity minutes.
18-19 Conference Predictions
CMC All Conference
Drew Gustafson, Sr., Kimball (POY)
Mitch Hoistad, Sr., Maple Lake
Luke Jansen, Jr., Eden Valley-Watkins
Josh Streit, Soph., Eden Valley-Watkins
Peter Schommer, Jr., Pierz
Joseph Stokman, Sr., Maple Lake
Noah Jurek, Sr., Kimball
Brock Bangasser, Sr., HLWW
Evan Wiener, Sr., BBE
Justin Streit, Sr., Eden Valley-Watkins