Menahga boys looking for defensive play to play key role in success
After graduating one of the top scorers in the state, the Menahga boys basketball team will focus on defense to produce a winning season.
Tanner Schwartz led the Braves last season with 648 points (24.9 per game), 243 rebounds (9.3 per game), 63 steals and 29 blocked shots as Menahga compiled an 8-4 record for third place in the Park Region Conference and a 14-12 overall record. Also graduating from last year’s team that was the No. 7 seed for the Section 5A West playoffs were Stetson Burkman (6.4 points, 6.2 rebounds per game), Brandon Junes (2.9 points, 2.7 rebounds per game) and Jeff Johnson (1.8 points, 1.3 rebounds per game).
Being counted on to lead the Braves this season are the six returning letterwinners: seniors Levi Schwartz and Bobby Lusti and juniors Austen Schwartz, Austin Rudquist, Jacob Kicker and Calvin Taylor.
Levi Schwartz returns to the starting lineup at forward after averaging 6.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. In 26 games, the 6-foot-1 forward scored 179 points and tallied 191 rebounds, 26 steals, 22 assists and 14 blocked shots.
Austen Schwartz, a 5-8 guard, returns as the starting point guard after averaging 8.7 points a game last season. In 26 games, Schwartz scored 227 points, led the team with 127 assists, was second on the team with 23 3-pointers, and had 41 rebounds and 35 steals.
Rudquist, a 6-3 forward, is the other returning starter who averaged 5.3 points and 6.0 rebounds a game last season. In 26 games, Rudquist scored 137 points and had 156 rebounds, 23 assists and 22 steals.
Lusti, a 5-10 forward, played in 24 games last season and averaged 4.4 points and 1.3 rebounds a game. Lusti scored 106 points and had 31 rebounds, 28 steals and 21 assists and was third on the team with 22 3-pointers.
Taylor (a 6-5 forward) played in 20 games and compiled 27 points, 48 rebounds and 13 blocks while Kicker (a 5-8 guard) played in 17 games and had 9 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
Looking to compete for starting spots and provide depth off the bench will be juniors Kyle Skoog (6-0 forward), Nick Meyer (6-0 forward), DJ Paulson (5-9 guard) and Blake Hillukka (5-9 guard) and sophomores Aaron Hrdlicka (6-1 forward) and Aaron Rudquist (5-9 guard).
“We graduated some talented guys, but it’s a great opportunity now for these young guys to step up and become leaders for us,” said Menahga head coach Jeremy Nordick. “We’ll have 10 or 12 guys that should see some varsity minutes this season. We’re fairly young, but they’re all working well together. I think the key to this season will be to redefine our identity on the defensive end. Our focus will be to find that defensive intensity and stay balanced on the offensive end. We feel we’ve got a number of guys that are capable of putting the ball in the hole. It will just be a matter of matchups and who is playing well on a given night. I’m excited to work with this bunch as they all have a positive attitude and love the game. I think we’ve got the makings of a good team as long as we stay healthy and stay together. It should be a fun year.”