ELY — The Timberwolves will be facing a tall task heading into the 2020-21 boys’ basketball season.
Ely lost its two top scorers (Dylan Fenske 20 ppg and Eric Omersa 15 ppg) from 2019-20 when the team recorded a 23-6 record and reached the Section 7A semifinals.
“We’ve got some decent guys coming back,’’ but no starters are over 6 feet tall, said head coach Tom McDonald. “We’re smaller than I’ve ever been.’’
“We’re really going to have to scramble and rebound well with such a small team.’’ The coach added Fenske also led the team with 7.5 rebounds per contest.
The 16 players in grades 9-12 have looked good in practice during the first week, but McDonald says regular season games are a whole different challenge.
“It will be interesting to see what we can do against a team other than our own players.’’
Senior guards Brock Latourell, Will Davies and Emmett Faltesek will lead the charge for the Timberwolves, while junior guard Harry Simons and sophomore guard Joey Bianco will man the other two starting spots. Latourell, Davies and Faltesek all scored a little under 10 points per game, according to the coach, while Simons saw a lot of time in 2019-20 and Bianco was one of Ely’s key reserves last season.
Senior center Riley Bishop and junior forward Mason Davis will be the top two Timberwolves off the bench.
Without a true post player in the starting lineup, McDonald said his club will try to spread the floor as much as possible and shoot well. If that doesn’t happen, it could be a struggle, he added.
“We’ll have to pressure up the floor and make it a full court game as much as we can.’’
The roster also includes senior guard Caleb Janeksela, sophomore guard Jake Cochran, sophomore guard Jason Kerntz, sophomore forward Gunnar Hart and sophomore forward Erron Anderson.
Looking at the competition in Section 7A, McDonald feels like Nashwauk-Keewatin and North Woods are still the top two teams. The Grizzlies and Spartans were set to battle last March for the section title but the COVID-19 pandemic led to the game being canceled.
McDonald added Deer River is close to being at that level with their size and athleticism. Mountain Iron-Buhl is also “a year older and a year better.’’
Besides getting ready for the games themselves, the Timberwolves are getting used to wearing masks, which are now required due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Everybody’s in the same boat,’’ McDonald said. “What are you going to do? Hopefully they’ll get used to it.’’
Overall, wearing masks doesn’t worry the coach that much. “It’s just nice to have a season.’’
Ely opens their 18-game season Thursday at home against Mountain Iron-Buhl.