Brand new conference, brand new rivalries.
The new North Eastern Conference will begin its inaugural basketball season in just a few days, and with the teams that will be vying for the conference title are looking forward to starting new rivalries and rekindling old ones.
The 10-team conference boasts a great mixture of bigger schools and smaller schools, and it will allow certain rivalries to be renewed, such as the Freedom vs Wrightstown battles from the old Olympian Conference. The new conference also will allow teams to face new opponents and new challenges for the 2015-2016.
Here is how the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook predicts the season will go.
The Tigers, the only team in the conference to be ranked in the preseason top ten (#6), bring a history of success over from the now-defunct Olympian Conference. Coach Cory Haese has four starters returning from a squad that posted a 14-11 record last season. 6’3 senior Zac Haese (coach Haese’s son) led the Tigers in scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounds (5.0 rpg). Teamed with other returning players Stephen DeCramer, Nate Kola and Austin DeCleene, the Tigers are poised to make a serious run for the conference title and deep playoff run.
Coming over from the Bay Conference, the Spartans return three starters from an 18-6 club last season. Two double figure scorers, seniors Jake Zeitler and Spencer Kanz, the Spartans have enough firepower to be competitive in the new conference. The 6’5 Zeitler poured in a team high 17.6 ppg a game last season, while Kanz 10.2 a game and a team high 7.3 rpg.
Coming to the new conference from the very competitive Eastern Valley Conference, the Irish racked up 21 victories last season, good for third in the conference. It will be bit of a rebuilding season for Head Coach John Van Rossum, as he will have eight seniors that saw limited playing time last season. Noah Brickner and Avery Van Stralen will be counted on by Van Rossum to lead the Irish this season.
4. LITTLE CHUTE
The Mustangs return just one starter from last year’s 14-10 squad, senior Parker Gloudemans. The 6’2 Gloudemans led the Mustangs in both scoring (10.4 ppg) and rebounding (5.5 rpg), earning him a spot on the All-Conference second team. He will be the obvious leader for head coach Mickey Martin, who will be looking for some underclassmen to step up. Senior Chase Janssen, along with juniors Noah Kundsen and Devin Plate saw limited action last season and will battle for starting positions with newcomers from a very talented 16-6 JV team.
A 9-15 season in head coach Cody Stelmach first year notwithstanding, the Vikings will welcome back three key players to should lead them in to an improved showing in the 2015-16 season. Seniors Nathan Rabas and Derrick Umentum and junior Blake Derricks will take the experience of competing in the tough Bay Conference last season into this new conference.
6. FOX VALLEY LUTHERAN
The Foxes are looking to be a sleeper in the new conference this year. Senior Alex Gerhardt and junior Jared Kratfzenk are returning starters from a 6-17 squad from a year ago. Seniors Ethan Eisenmann and Jared Laabs got valuable minutes last season and should be major factors in the improvement of the Foxes. They should also get some help from JV and freshmen squads that went a combined 32-11 last season.
Senior Anthony Blackwell is the lone returning starter for head coach Ron Weber’s Comets. Seniors Breon Sease and Micah Bomtrager saw significant time last season and should give Weber a solid nucleus for the guard oriented Comets.
The Marines could be the surprise of the conference, with four returning starters and four reserves that saw quality minutes last season. The 3-20 squad from a year ago will also be welcoming a pair of talented freshmen in Jake Poetzl and Jordan Wendt. Fourth-year head coach Nick Semenas should see an improvement from his squad.
Three returning starters and some returning reserves gives the Truckers more experience returning then they have had in years. Tyler Peterson will be leading the way for head coach Shawn Howe, as Peterson lead the Truckers in scoring (13.0 ppg) as a sophomore. His play earned him second team conference honors in the Eastern Valley Conference.
10. OCONTO FALLS
The Panthers are hoping for better luck with their move from the Bay Conference to the NEC, with three returning starters from last year’s squad. Tyler Hagemeier finished second on the squad in scoring last season, chipping in 10.2 ppg. Kirk Hirst, Samuel Fletcher, Wesley Brabant, and Austin Kowalozyk, all seniors, also return for head coach Kirk Hirst.
The season gets underway for members of the conference on November 30th, with Wrightstown welcoming former Olympian Conference foe Chilton and the Marines of Marinette traveling to Peshtigo for a non-conference clash. December 1 will see Little Chute welcoming non-conference foe Notre Dame Academy, Clintonville on the road against Menasha, Oconto Falls at home against Coleman, and Waupaca at home against Winneconne. All games are scheduled to start at 7:15pm.