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Posted On: 10/6/18 2:00 PM
The Wright County East was one of the best conferences in the state last year — evidenced by Delano, the state champions, going 5-5 in league play — but with top-notch talent off to the college ranks, the league has a number of teams staring down the barrel of a rebuild. Here’s what you need to know:
The Wildcats will have to replace several key starters but return arguably the best player in the league in PJ Hayes. Hayes averaged 15 points per game last season and heads into his third years as a starter and still is just a junior. He’s a player-of-the-year candidate. Sam Nelson and Alec Olson are both back after earning big minutes off the bench and a player to watch going forward is Conner Schwob. Waconia won 14 games last year and always plays a tough schedule, but in a league without a clear frontrunner, their consistency and returning talent make them a good bet.
Should Compete: New Prague, Orono, Delano
The Trojans were inexperienced last year with a new coach and a whole new crop of varsity regulars but still managed to go 12-14 in a tough league. New Prague struggled to score consistently without much outside shooting. They do return four starters though including Tyler Kemp and Nathan Brusseau. Kemp is one of the best all-around players in the conference and Brusseau is the anchor to what was one of the league’s best defenses. Parker Johnson was solid as a sophomore and could be one of the league’s best guards if he takes a typical sophomore-to-junior jump.
Delano relied on Calvin Wishart as much as any team relied on any one player over the course of the last two seasons. With him gone, the Tigers will need to find a new identity. They’ve got starters back in Derek Techam and Trey Longstreet. Techam has been a varsity starter for three years and is one of the top marksmen in the state. Longstreet started as a freshman and could be the go-to guy this winter. Max Otto is an intriguing young talent as well.
The Spartans aren’t silly loaded like they’ve been the last two years but they’ll be competitive again with four guys with some varsity experience returning. Blake O’Connor was a rotation guy last year and returns in the frontcourt. Simon Rice is an intriguing talent who could be a breakout candidate. Nick Prentice and Eli Sustacek both saw fringe backcourt minutes and should get first crack as starters.
Rebuilding: Holy Family Catholic, Hutchinson
Holy Family was one of the better Class AA teams last season, winning 17 games and earning solid wins all year in and out of conference. The Fire face a rebuilding season though as their top three scorers are gone to graduation. Nick Hendler is back after starting as a sophomore and should help ease that transition.
The Tigers won just two games last year but they could take a step forward this year if junior forward Russell Corrigan can get some help. As a sophomore, Corrigan averaged better than 17 points per game.
18-19 Conference Predictions
Holy Family Catholic
Wright County East All Conference
PJ Hayes, Jr., Waconia (POY)
Derek Techam, Sr., Delano
Tyler Kemp, Sr., New Prague
Trey Longstreet, Soph, Delano
Nathan Brusseau, Sr., New Prague
Blake O’Connor, Sr., Orono
Russell Corrigan, Jr., Hutchinson
Sam Nelson, Sr., Waconia
Nick Hendler, Jr., Holy Family
Simon Rice, Sr., Orono
Parker Johnson, Jr., New Prague
Max Otto, Jr., Delano