Fairmont to tip off year in BSC tilt

Fairmont travels to Marshall to face Luverne

TIPOFF TIME — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals boys basketball team tipping off the season against Luverne at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Big South Conference Showcase in Marshall include, front row (l-r): Kordell Rogge, Luis de Jesus Reyes, Pete Ortega, Caden Baarts, Carson Toomer, Dalen Keltgen and Tony Ortega. Back row: Dan Betts, Caleb Snelson, Wyatt Frank, Nick Eversman, Dustin Schultz, Jack Hested, Joey Flohrs, Zach Jorgensen and Lucas Denney. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Some teams might see graduating close to 90 percent of their statistical production as a bad thing. The Fairmont Cardinals boys basketball team sees it as an opportunity.

Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson said his players look at their revamped lineup and see a lot of playing time to earn.

“We graduated nearly 90 percent of every statistical category,” Thompson said. “You could look at that a lot of different ways, but I think our guys look at it as an opportunity, there’s a lot out there to be had. We’ll miss those seniors like crazy, but we’ve got some guys who are hungry and love the game.”

Last season, seniors Brady Allen, Sam Schwieger, Derek Missling, Nate Kallenbach and Wyatt Quiring helped lead the Cardinals to a 19-4 season and a second-round exit in the sectional playoffs.

This season, senior co-captains Dustin Schultz and Nick Eversman lead a group of seniors, juniors and one freshman as the team prepares for its season-opening game Saturday, Dec. 8, in the Big South Conference Crossover Showcase in Marshall where Fairmont will face Luverne.

Thompson said after not playing Luverne last season, he’s not sure what to expect from the matchup.

“We’ll play Luverne for our first game of the season and then it’s really full steam ahead after that,” Thompson said. “We don’t know a lot about Luverne, last year was the first year we didn’t play them so I’m gonna try to get a chance to watch them at some point in the week before we play them. That’s the one benefit of having some time with no games right now, hopefully I can go see some teams play.

“I know Luverne played really well toward the end of last year and they were young. We’re anticipating a tough challenge on Dec. 8.”

The showcase became Fairmont’s season debut because two games were postponed to get players who were on the state runner-up football team more time on the court.

Because this is Thompson’s ninth year in charge of the Fairmont boys, he was coaching the last time the situation arose in 2011.

“We have had to adjust, we had to do this seven years ago in a very similar situation,” Thompson said. “It’s not new to us. It’s kind of just getting everybody to the same point, we’ve got some guys who have been practicing for weeks already, so they’re a little ahead of the guys coming in from football.

“It’s just a matter of getting everybody up to the same speed and getting rest for some guys who need a physical or mental break as well, just making sure each kid is getting what they need.”

That rest will help for players coming into the season with injuries. Thompson said freshman Zach Jorgensen is coming off a finger surgery and might miss a few games because of it, and junior Dan Betts will miss the season with a torn ACL from football, but the rest of the team will be ready to go in Game 1.

Even with a largely healthy team, Thompson said Fairmont is one of the more inexperienced teams in the area.

“Dustin Schultz and Nick Eversman got a lot of minutes last year, Lucas Denney got a lot of minutes as a sophomore two years ago so we’re not totally inexperienced,” Thompson said. “But if you compare us to other teams in the area, we probably have the most inexperience.

“I can’t think of another team, outside maybe Windom, that graduated as many guys as we did, but it’s an opportunity for these guys and it gives us a chance early in the year to play a lot of guys and see who’s really ready for that varsity challenge.”

Thompson said he picked Schultz and Eversman as his captains because they lead by example. He said they work hard and they focus on the team more than their stats.

“They’ll be the hardest-working kids in the gym all the time and that’s a good thing to have in your leaders,” Thompson said. “They’re about the team, they don’t get concerned with statistics as much as they do about just bringing everybody along and keeping everyone on the same page of trying to play our best basketball.”

Thompson said he expects big things from multiple juniors such as Wyatt Frank and Joey Flohrs, while some such as Jack Hested and Caden Baarts have had varsity playing time in the past and are set up for success.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for these guys to show early in the year that they can make the rotation as the year goes on,” Thompson said.

Johnny Olson returns to serve as a varsity assistant, while Tyler Brackey will coach the B-squad, Brian Wille handles the C-squad and Dave Shoen has come on as a volunteer.

After Fairmont plays Luverne in the crossover showcase, it is on the road for a matchup with St. James Area on Dec. 11 before playing its home opener against Blue Earth Area on Dec. 13.