Minnetonka Boys Basketball: Dunking Into The New Season

Scott Sorensen, Staff Writer

With the 2019-2020 season just underway, spirits are high for Boy’s Varsity Basketball this year. In order to improve on their 66th place state ranking with a record of 13-14 last year, the Skippers have to reflect on the history of their program. After dominating between 2011-2015, when they won 70% of the games they played, Tonka has barely been staying in the mix. Since 2015, they’ve hovered around .500, alternating between winning and losing seasons each year. Last year was one of their losing seasons, as they fell a game short of .500. Unfortunately, though, their luck was even worse against local teams, especially their rivals. They went 0-8 against Lake Conference teams last season, placing them dead last against their competitors. Although this alone is discouraging, the more dire problem for brand new head coach Bryce Tesdahl is the rapidly changing layout of the varsity starters. Tesdahl, another exciting change to the Tonka program, coached a couple of record-breaking years at East Ridge High School and placed fourth in the state last year. Ted Schultz, Minnetonka’s Activities Director, is excited as well, saying that “[Coach Tesdahl] understands how to work with players to bring out their best, and he inspires them to excel—both as individuals and contributors to a strong team.” Tesdahl, however strong of a coach he is, still has his work cut out for him. Lyric Radford, Gavin Patton, and Marvin Lee, who scored a collective 823 points last season, all graduated in 2019, meaning three of Tonka’s top five scorers will not return to the court this season. Luckily, power forward Cameron Steele, the team’s leading scorer with 453 points last season, will be returning this year as a senior. Alongside him will be Riley O’Connor, ‘20, the only other returning player with more than a hundred points last season. Despite the loss of talent, the Skippers have no lack of young prospects. Of the 43 boys who were listed on 2018-2019’s roster, only 16 played in more than one game. This shows that there is a large contingent of athletes with varsity skills who have not yet been tested. Sam McMillan, a basketball player and sophomore at Minnetonka, notes that underclassmen like “Jalen Cain and Cohen Kellogg […] will get a lot of playing time and will have a big impact on the team.” Replacing varsity starters isn’t the only thing that Minnetonka will be working on to improve their record. Looking at the scoring trends from 2018, the Skippers have a lot of room for improvement in the second half. After the first half, Tonka trailed by an average of three points per game. In the second half their scoring average more than doubled from 22 points in the first half to 48 afterwards. While this pattern is shared with their opponents, who also increase their output in the second half, Minnetonka consistently outscored their opposition after trailing in the first. This means that if they continue their late-game energy, picking up a bit of the slack earlier on could lead to enormous improvements. While talking about strategy is one thing, employing it is an entirely different one. It’ll be interesting to watch the season play out, and all students are encouraged to come and see it firsthand. After a quick break for the holidays, the Skippers’ season will resume on December 27th as they take on Northfield in the Granite City Classic tournament at St. John’s University. With four more months to play, the Skippers are looking to build up some momentum- -so make sure to get out and support them this year.