With four starters returning from last season, Faribault boys basketball coach Eric Hildebrandt feels his squad has the potential to take a step forward from last season.
That returning group is headlined by senior guard John Palmer, who led the Falcons in scoring last year with 15.7 points a game while drilling 42.6% of his 3-point attempts. He's joined by senior forward Nick Ehlers, senior guard Alex Gardner and junior forward Hunter Nelson as returners from last year's starting lineup.
"I'm really looking forward to hopefully getting on the court with this group," Hildebrandt said. "We have really good balance throughout the grades right now. We have six seniors and a number of juniors and some sophomores that are pretty good. It's just a really fun group to coach. The time we could be in the gym this summer, we had some good runs in the summer and good time on the court in July and August. That was really good and I'm looking forward to the group we have coming back. We have some size and some guards, so we're pretty balanced."
The Falcons do graduate a talented quintet of seniors from the 2019-20 season, but Hildebrandt said he feels there's enough talent graduating from the junior varsity squad to effectively fill out the rest of the varsity rotation.
"I think we're pretty deep and have a lot of guys that can get an opportunity, contribute and play well," Hildebrandt said.
In the backcourt, which includes juniors AJ Worrall and Jordan Klecker, and sophomore Ian Ehlers, who all spent the majority of the year last year playing JV games, Hildebrandt believes they can seamlessly step onto a varsity court and produce alongside senior Alex Sullivan, who was a consistent contributor off the bench last season.
In the frontcourt, senior Alex Leet and junior Devin Lockerby (both starting lineman for the Faribault football team) aim to create plenty of space in the paint to score and snag rebounds.
"Alex Leet is coming back from some injuries and played a lot of JV minutes last year and we're looking from him to contribute a lot on the varsity as well," Hildebrandt said. "Devin Lockerby played a little bit of varsity last year, but a lot of JV minutes as well."
Last year, Faribault finished with a 4-22 overall record and a 3-19 mark in the Big 9 Conference, with its conference wins coming against Red Wing, Winona and Mankato West. The Falcons suffered single-digit defeats against Northfield, Rochester John Marshall and Byron.
"I expect as normal for the conference to be pretty tough, I just hope we get a chance to compete and compete at a high level this year," Hildebrandt said.