Posted On: 10/19/18 12:00 PM
The Granite Ridge Conference was down last year, with just two teams posting winning records. St. Cloud Cathedral’s been the class of the league for a few years now and despite graduating its two best players, the Crusaders figure to be the favorite again with some competition once again from Albany. Here’s what you need to know:
Favorite: St. Cloud Cathedral
The Crusaders graduate their two best — and biggest — players but expectations should be high again for Cathedral. Returning one of the top backcourts in the state is a good start as Jackson Jangula and Nick Schaefer are both back. Schaeffer is one of the top shooters in the state and improved as a slasher last summer. Jangula is one of the most dynamic point guards in Class AA and should be in for a huge year with more offensive responsibility. Jacob Stoltzenberg is back as well, giving the Crusaders quite the three-headed scoring attack. Sam Schneider and Andrew Weisser both return as well, giving the Crusaders a plethora of experienced and talented guards.
Albany was the only other team with a winning record in the conference last year and should be even better this winter as the Huskies return three starters and their top bench player. Jordan Schiffler is one of the best guards in the conference and could lead the league in assists. He’ll take on an even bigger scoring role this year with Ethan Hylla gone to graduation. Adam Winkels is one of the top big returning men in the conference and could see an increased production load. Isaac Nett and Deegan Findley join Schiffler on the perimeter. Albany averaged just 55 points per game last season, but won with staunch defense. If the offense comes along a little bit, the Huskies could push for 20 wins.
Should Compete: Becker, Foley
The Bulldogs went 11-15 last year and played an uptempo, offensive style that led to some high-scoring affairs. With several key guys back, there’s hope that this team can push for a .500 or better season. Brandon Gustafson is one of the best forwards in the conference and averaged better than 13 points per game as a junior. He’s also a top football prospect. Sam Ricker returns in the backcourt and Cade Callahan is a player to watch going forward after a promising sophomore season.
Foley returns four starters including all-conference guard Drew Beier and forward Ali Kourouma. Beier is one of the best guards in the league and could put up huge points as a senior.
Rebuilding: Mora, Little Falls, Milaca, Zimmerman
The Flyers won just nine games last year but Caleb Strack and Noah Nordlie give them two solid starters back in the fold. Mason Wickstrom showed flashes of potential inside as a sophomore and Alex Gwost is a player to watch going forward.
Milaca returns forward Cade Sorenson who was one of the best players in the conference last season. He’ll give them a go-to scorer. Jake Mach is back to provide some stability on the perimeter. Logan Molacek was solid as a sophomore and could see an increased role as an upperclassman.
Mora will have to overcome the loss of all-everything guard Cal Wright who averaged better than 25 points per game as a senior. Matt Venhuizen was a solid second-fiddle last year and he’ll be the go-to guy this season.
Zimmerman had losing streaks of four, four and seven games last season and lost 13 games by double-digit margins. Carter McEachern and Ian Carlin do return to give them a solid looking duo in the frontcourt though.
18-19 Conference Predictions
St. Cloud Cathedral
Granite Ridge All-Conference
Jackson Jangula, Sr., St. Cloud Cathedral (POY)
Nick Schaeffer, Sr., St. Cloud Cathedral
Jordan Schiffler, Sr., Albany
Drew Beier, Sr., Foley
Brandon Gustafson, Sr., Becker
Cade Sorenson, Sr., Milaca
Matt Venhuizen, Sr., Mora
Jacob Stoltzenberg, Jr., St. Cloud Cathedral
Adam Winkels, Sr., Albany
Ali Kourouma, Sr., Foley
Caleb Strack, Sr., Little Falls
Isaac Nett, Sr., Albany
Sam Schneider, Sr., St. Cloud Cathedral
Cade Callahan, Jr., Becker