By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Last year, Coach Carl Zuege put a young basketball team on the floor.
While that meant some growing pains in what turned out to be a 11-14 season, Zuege will put a far more experienced team on the floor this season.
While Zuege started just one senior last year, he will have a pair on the floor with Dan Sullivan and returning starter Justus Wallin.
In addition, he’ll have seniors Trey Milner and Kevin German ready for the rotation.
They will be joined on the floor by three more returning starters, juniors Jeff Dickey, Issac Sorenson and Kelton Fisher.
They will have even more depth with juniors Travis Luhrs and Ryan Moline, who also figure in on the rotation.
“We’re a solid 9-10 guys deep,” Zuege said this week, adding this is the deepest squad he’s coached at CCS.
In addition to his returning starters, all saw lots of varsity action last season which will be a plus this season.
Dickey led the team in scoring last year with a 10.8 average per game, followed by Fisher with a 9-point average.
Fisher led the rebounding with 100, followed by Wallin with 88, Dickey 82 and Sorenson 76.
Dickey was joined by Luhrs for the most three-pointers last year with 24 each.
Zuege said they enjoyed a good summer at camps and summer league play. He expects his team to bring that momentum into the season.
What impressed Zuege most during the summer came in the way his kids out-hustled and out-played their opponents. “We were really competitive.”
Zuege said his team worked hard during the off-season on improving their ball handling. That proved to be an area when the Longhorns struggled last season.
“We’re a year better,” he said, meaning the Longhorns should fare better against pressure coming up court.
Defensively, Zuege said his team will play a lot of man-to-man as well as their 1-3-1 zone to control the defensive end.
While his team is blessed with depth, he said they’re not long on speed and quickness. As a result, they’ll go to full-court pressure when they need to and run when they get the opportunity offensively.
On the offensive end, Zuege said he’s stressing good shot selection and patience, something they struggled with last season.
Zuege’s team got some game experience last week when they traveled to Hitchcock County for a Nebraska Hall of Fame exhibition game.
Zuege said all 14 players got playing time.
The Longhorns won the game 65-61 in overtime.
Pair of tough opening games
The Longhorns will open their season tonight (Thursday) on the road at Cozad.
Cozad just came off a state title run in football so Zuege knows they’re an athletic bunch. Plus, they bring back most of their squad from last year.
On Friday, the Longhorns will play host to the Class B McCook Bison.
While they lost some seniors from last year’s squad, Zuege said they always have ball players and knows they’ll be tough as well.
Action at Cozad starts with jayvee boys and girls at 4 p.m. MT, followed by girls and boys varsity games.
Action here against McCook begins with jayvee boys and girls at 4 p.m. MT, followed by the varsity games in the Longhorn gym.
Zuege has 23 players on this year’s roster. They include:
Seniors: Trey Milner, Calen Griffin, Justus Wallin, Kevin German and Dan Sullivan.
Juniors: Darin Knobbe, Travis Luhrs, Kelton Fisher, Isaac Sorensen, Jeff Dickey, Ryan Moline and Kevin Chavira.
Sophomores: Destyn Milner, Michael Musgrove and Jared Sharp.
Freshmen: Tagan Mays, Trace Helser, Nolan Spady, Trey Bahler, Isaac Maxwell, Dakota Wallin, Roper Cochran and Cody Williams.