After a year of his players learning his system, head coach Tim Wurdock is looking for the Menahga boys basketball team to put another competitive unit on the floor this season.

The Braves return five key players from last year’s team that went 5-6 in Park Region Conference play and 6-9 overall in Wurdock’s first season as head coach.

Being counted on to lead Menahga this season are seniors Nick Wurdock, Christian Johnson, Alec Aho and Connor Korvela along with junior Ryan Tolkkinen.

Wurdock averaged 11.0 points and led the team with 105 rebounds in 14 games. Wurdock scored 154 points and had 32 assists and 28 steals while making 26 3-pointers.

Johnson also played in 14 games and scored 77 points (5.5 per game) while adding 29 rebounds, 14 steals, 12 assists and 11 3-pointers.

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Alec Aho led the team with 35 blocked shots while contributing 70 points (5.4 per game), 95 rebounds, 20 assists and 14 steals in 13 games.

Ryan Tolkkinen scored 53 points (3.5 per game) and had 51 rebounds, 16 assists and 11 steals in 15 games.

Korvela played in 13 games and had 34 points (2.6 per game) and 31 rebounds.

Looking to fill in for last year’s senior starting trio of Charlie Hodge (12.8 points per game), Andreas Aho (10.8 ppg) and Jared Tolkkinen (6.5 ppg) will be senior Danny Noland, junior Isaiah Usher, and sophomores Bodie Berttunen and Knaylor Howard.

“I expect that we will continue what we started last year. An overused phrase is ‘culture change,’ but it’s the most important issue for me as a coach. I need players that are good students and good people. They need to support each other. Parents need to let the coaches coach, the players play and the referees do their job,” said Wurdock. “This year I have five great leaders at the top that not only believe in my plays and defensive concepts, but also in maintaining the change in culture from last year. The rest of the players need to push the top players, and they've done that so far.”

Last season, the Braves averaged 53.1 points a game while allowing 59.1 points a night. Menahga shot 34.8% from the field (282 for 810, including going 113 for 401 on 3-pointers) and 66.3% at the free throw line (120 for 181) while averaging 14.9 turnovers a night. The opposition shot 38.7% from the field (323 for 834, including going 89 for 320 on 3-pointers) and 61.5% at the line (152 for 247) while averaging 16.5 turnovers a game.

A year ago, Menahga received the No. 8 seed in the South for the Section 8AA playoffs and opened with a 70-51 loss to No. 9 Staples-Motley. Wurdock is looking for his team to improve in conference play and receive a higher seed for the playoffs this season.

“We expect to be well prepared for every team we play,” said Wurdock, who will be assisted by Nick Jasmer and Luke Wurdock. “I expect our players never to give up. If we find ourselves down by 20, we need to play like it's 0-0. After only three practices, I am impressed with what I see in terms of work ethic. They come ready to work and do whatever I ask with a smile.”

Dec. 2 - Northland, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 - at West Central Area, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9 - at Bertha-Hewitt, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 - New York Mills, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 - at Verndale, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 4 - at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 6 - Wadena-Deer Creek, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 - Browerville-Eagle Valley, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 - Sebeka, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 - at Staples-Motley, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 - at Pillager, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 - at Park Rapids, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 - at Henning, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 - Bertha-Hewitt, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 - Parkers Prairie, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 - New York Mills, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 - Verndale, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 - at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 - at Sebeka, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 - at Wadena-Deer Creek, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 - at Lake Park-Audubon, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 - Pillager, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 - Henning, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 - Frazee, 7 p.m.
March 3 - at Aitkin, 7:15 p.m.