Entering his second year in charge, Northfield boys basketball coach Ryan Driscoll is hoping seeds laid last winter can blossom this season.
With a relatively young team in 2019-20, the Raiders finished with an 8-18 overall record and a 7-15 mark within the Big 9 Conference.
This year, however, with four senior starters returning and a group of younger players who started to receive key minutes down the stretch last season, Northfield is looking to take a step up the Big 9 standings.
“We’re definitely excited about the players we have coming back,” Driscoll said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that got a taste at least of varsity. We had some younger guys that played a lot more toward the end of the year, and then of course we have four returning starters. That was a big thing last year. It was hard when we didn’t have a lot of senior experience.”
With sweeps of Faribault, Red Wing and Mankato West last year, Northfield was solidly above the bottom tier of the conference, but picked up only one other win, against Rochester John Marshall.
The hope, Driscoll said, is this year the Raiders erase some of those single-digit losses against the middle tier of the conference and start to better compete against the top tier.
That is dependent on the four returning senior starting guards — Kip Schetnan, Karsten Clay, Thomas Roethler and Luke Labenski — all growing more comfortable with shouldering a heavy load. Last year, Schetnan led the Raiders with 16.6 points per game and 4.4 rebounds, was an all-conference honoree and is entering his third year as a starter.
Clay, meanwhile, averaged 16.0 points and 4.3 rebounds a contest, Labenski paired 6.6 points with 3.3 rebounds and Roethler mixed 4.0 points with 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks.
In the frontcourt, Northfield loses both of its seniors from last year in Daniel Monaghan and Nick Touchette.
Driscoll is eyeing a step forward from senior forward Anders Larson, who was typically the first player off the bench last season, and junior forward Alex Organ, who graduated from the junior varsity squad late last year to play in 11 games, average 5.7 points and shoot 57% from the field.
“We feel like he’s a guy, I think he’s going to take the biggest jump in terms of production,” Driscoll said of Organ. “There’s not too many guys we’re going to see that can play at his level in terms of strength and height, and our guards are starting to figure that out, too. One thing they learned over the summer is how to get him the ball at that height, because when he’s up there, there’s not too many guys that can stop him.”
Junior forward Tate Sand, who played in eight games last year, will also see an increase in minutes this year, while sophomore guard Soren Richardson will filter in off the bench in the backcourt after he played in eight games last season and shot 58% from the floor and 38% from behind the arc.
“I think the big thing is the jump for the guys that, like Soren who was playing last year as a freshman, got that taste and now you can tell in the summer workouts they act like they belong a lot more,” Driscoll said. “They expect to be there instead of feeling things out. They’re much more ready to take on that challenge.”