Hopes are high for the Cherokee Braves basketball squad this season, with the return of three senior varsity regulars and three more senior leaders who will impact the team significantly this year.
Leading that senior nucleus will be Brock Dagel, a 6-7 post player and three-year varsity starter; Seth Mahnke, a 6-5 wing who started 14 of 20 varsity games last seaaon; and Jakob Hummel, a 6-1 guard who saw a lot of varsity action coming off the bench last year.
In addition to that talented trio, coach Bob Lee greeted seniors Kristian Freed, Curtis Ege, and Alex Struck, who must step forward to fill the holes left by last year's graduating seniors. Freed and Ege will probably man wing positions and Struck will play at guard.
Three juniors also will see varsity action, including guards Jake Spindler and Adam Pitts, and wing Matt Enderlin.
Dagel is the most decorated returnee as a second team All-Lakes Conference pick the last two seasons. He is the school leader and among the State leaders in career blocked shots with 183.
"We return three guys with quite a bit of varsity minutes," noted second-year Braves varsity coach Lee. "We will definitely look to these guys to be our leaders this season." Lee also likes his overall team speed as a major strength.
"Outside of our three returning lettermen, we don't have anyone with many varsity minutes," added Lee. "We have a lot of roles to be filled and it will be interesting to see who steps up to fill them. This is a competitive group of young men and we really feel good about their potential.
"Our goal is to go out and play as hard as we can each night and to hopefully put ourselves in a position to be a factor in the tough Lakes Conference."
The Braves were 12-8 last season and 8-6 in the Lakes, finishing third in the conference team standings.
Lee is assisted by JV coach Mike Nixon, and freshman coach Chad Osler.
First-year varsity coach Heath Hagberg greeted seven varsity letter winners this season who will carry much of the load for the 2010-2011 Cherokee Washington High girls basketball team.
Just two seniors are among those letter winners, including Liz Dawson and Danielle Hansen. Returning junior letter winners with varsity experience include Shanon Shaefer, Jackie Wilson, Taylor Woods, and Katie Sambrano; and sophomore letter winner Megan Hummel.
Among the promising newcomers impacting varsity are sophomore Megan Carlson, who saw limited varsity duties as a freshman, and juniors Katy Hart, Clare Tuttle, and Whitney Webb.
Hummel was a second team All-Lakes Conference selection, and Shaefer was All-Lakes Honorable Mention, to lead the decorated WHS gals this season.
Hagberg will be assisted this season by second-year JV coach Jim Leonard.
In addition, Wood and assistant coach Ted Reis have high hopes for 10 promising newcomers who have the ability to impact the varsity squad right away. Barring injuries and other developments that could precipitate absences, the Braves will boast a roster of 24 grapplers, including eight freshmen and just four seniors.
Leading the returning lettermen is junior Jack Letsche (140), a district qualifier last year and a team captain this season. He is joined by fellow captains and lettermen junior Rick Weaver (145), junior Zac Anderson (152), junior Gabe Conley (160), junior Miah Back (285), and senior Manny Bustos (189).
The remaining lettermen who must step up for the Braves this season are junior Tyler McLaughlin (171), junior Trevor Devitt (215), junior Josh Peterson (215), and senior Matt Sparks (130).
Juniors Randy Olson (103) and Tyson English (160); and seniors Alanzo Ruble (215) and Peter Cosgrove (285) also return with some varsity experience.
Among those promising newcomers are juniors Markus West (285) and Austin Winchell (135); and freshmen Austin Agnitsch (103), Nate Laursen (119), Cody Johnson (119), Alex Mauerer (145), Blake Booth (145), Dallas Boger (152), Mason Hatch (171), and Michael Rosewall (215).
Among team strengths, according to coach Wood, are the numbers of talented wrestlers out which will bring some good competition to the wrestling room at practice. A team shortcoming will be filling several weight classes with underclassmen. "They will have to fight hard," said Wood.