Scott Kramer doesn’t need to say much to motivate the Nevis boys basketball team this season.
All the motivation the Tigers need is to remember back to how last season ended.
The Tigers were set to play Hinckley-Finlayson for the Section 5A title and a trip to state when the Minnesota State High School League canceled that game and the state tournament because of COVID-19.
With four starters returning from a squad that posted a 24-4 overall record, the Tigers are considered one of the top Class A teams in the state. Nevis was rated No. 1 in the preseason poll in two basketball publications (The Breakdown and Prep Hoops), making the Tigers a solid contender to capture conference and section titles this season.
“We will start the season with a target on our backs,” said Kramer.
The one key player the Tigers have to replace is Luke DeWulf.
DeWulf concluded his senior season by averaging 13.3 points and a team-leading 5.8 rebounds a game. In 26 starts, DeWulf made 53.5% of his shots (137 for 256, including going 24 for 59 on 3-pointers) and 52.2% of his free throws (47 for 90) in scoring 345 points to surpass 1,000 points in his career. DeWulf led the Tigers with 151 rebounds and 27 blocked shots while adding 43 steals and 42 assists.
Replacing what DeWulf brought to the court is going to be a challenge. However, Kramer is confident the Tigers have the talent to return to the section title game as seniors Derek Lindow and Jack McNamee and juniors Eddie Kramer and Ty Warrington return to the starting lineup.
Kramer led the Tigers in scoring at 17.3 points a game while shooting 47.3% from the field (151 for 319, including a team leading 127 for 266 on 3-pointers) and 87.1% on free throws (54 for 62) in scoring 483 points. In 28 games, Kramer chipped in 42 rebounds, 42 assists and 31 steals.
Warrington was second on the team in scoring at 14.1 points a game and led the Tigers with 76 steals. Warrington started all 28 games and shot 50% from the floor (133 for 266, including going 40 for 111 on 3-pointers) and 68.2% at the free throw line (90 for 132) in scoring 396 points. Warrington also had 95 assists and 94 rebounds.
Lindow also started all 28 games and averaged 13.9 points a game while leading the team with 121 assists. Lindow shot 44.4% from the field (140 for 315, including 49 for 122 on 3-pointers) and 74.1% at the line (60 for 81) for 389 points while also contributing 124 rebounds and 60 steals.
McNamee played in 27 games and averaged 4.9 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. McNamee shot 50% from the field (55 for 11) and 51.3% at the line (20 for 39) in scoring 131 points. McNamee had 141 rebounds, 56 steals, 37 assists and 19 blocks.
Also returning with plenty of varsity experience are juniors Cain Mitchell and Ian Ahrendt and freshmen JP Benson and Joe Houchin. Junior guards Tyler Lindow and Ethan Lewis will provide depth. Senior Dan Aman returns after sitting out with a knee injury last season.
Mitchell played in all 28 games, averaging 2.8 points a game by shooting 39.7% from the field (29 for 73) and 77.3% at the line (17 for 22) for 78 points. Mitchell also had 68 rebounds, 33 steals and 18 assists.
Houchin played in 27 games, averaging 2.6 points a game while shooting 46.9% from the floor (23 for 49) and 64.3% from the line (18 for 28) for 70 points. Houchin also had 43 rebounds, 26 steals and 20 assists.
Ahrendt (23 points, 15 rebounds in 14 games), Benson (17 points in eight games), Lewis (16 points in eight games) and Tyler Lindow (11 points in 10 games) also helped the Tigers share the Northland Conference title with Cass Lake-Bena with an 11-3 record. Nevis averaged 70.3 points a game while allowing 51.5 points a game last season. The 51.5 points allowed ranked 12th among Class A teams while the 18.8 differential in points ranked 11th among Class A teams. As a team, Nevis shot 48% from the field (696 for 1,449) and 66.8% at the free throw line (318 for 476) while shooting 41.2% on 3-pointers (258 for 626). The Tigers only turned the ball over an average of 6.6 times a game while averaging 12.4 steals a game.
DeWulf, Derek Lindow, Kramer and Warrington received all-conference honors while McNamee and Mitchell earned all-conference honorable mention consideration.
Kramer once again expects the Tigers to battle Cass Lake-Bena and Red Lake for the conference title and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa for the top spot in the section.
“The strength of our team is our guard play and our ability to score,” said Kramer. “Our goal is to defend our conference title and get back to the section championship game. In conference play, Cass Lake and Red Lake will both be competing for the title. In section play, I think it will come down to Nevis and B-B-E competing for a section title. We were able to edge them last year in the playoffs, but they had a young team like us and will be very good again this season.”
Nevis had the talent to advance to the state tournament last season. Kramer believes the Tigers not only have the talent to earn a state berth again this season, but have the ability to contend for a state title.
“Our goal is simple. We think we can win on any given night, so our goal is to work hard and be prepared to do that,” said Kramer. “We know that we have the potential to have a great season, and our guys are motivated to make up for the trip to state that was canceled last year.”