The Storm Lake High boys basketball team lost its two top scorers from last year and 35 percent of its scoring, but the trademarks of this year's team is the same as the 2005-2006 squad.
We'll be quick and athletic again," second year coach Bob Grant said earlier this week. "But we won't have the experience we had last year, and our success depends on how fast our younger kids adjust to basketball at the varsity level."
Led by Logan Masters and post player Derrick Randall last year, the Tornadoes finished 11-12 after beating LeMars in the playoffs, then losing to Sioux City Heelan 57-50 in a tight semifinal game.
Masters averaged 20 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per contest, three steals per game and led the Tornadoes in three pointers with 47. Randall averaged 15.61 ppg. and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Returning starters include 6-foot-1 off-guard Alex Spielman and 6-5 senior Aaron Clausen.
In 2005-2006, Spielman averaged 13 ppg., 2.5 rebounds pg., a team-leading 3.2 assists per game and hit 30 three-point shots.
Spielman isn't quite at full strength after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. He played in last Saturday's Northwest Conference Jamboree, a 32-30 win over Aurelia in two eight-minute quarters.
Spielman will be a team leader this season, and along with Clausen, the focus of the Tornadoes' offense and defense.
"Alex can hurt teams in a lot of ways," Grant said. "He's a good outside shot, can slash to the basket and has sprinter's speed," the coach said. "
Grant started Spielman at the point in the Jamboree but expects the senior will play the two-guard for most of the season.
Last year, Clausen came on strong, averaging 8.3 ppg. and 5.69 rebounds per game, second only to Randall. He was co-leader with Masters for field goal percentage at 46 percent.
"We'll have some good, quality depth, which is a positive because kids will be competing for starting positions in practice," Grant said. "We want every one of our practices to be as intense as our games are."
Among the returning lettermen are 6-foot shooting guard Tyson Brandt and 5-10 guard A.J. Croker. Brandt averaged two points per game last year and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Taking on post positions are 6-3 junior Jesse Munger and 6-2 junior Jordan Carlson.
Expected to play significant minutes are 5-10 point guard Dak Ngut and 6-4 guard Matt Huseman. Ngut showed promise in the Jamboree last Saturday while according to Grant, Huseman has lots of potential. Also competing for playoff time is Sean McClatchy.
Grant says he hopes to maximize the Tornadoes' quickness and athleticism by playing an uptempo game. He wants to see the team run the break well and use full-court man and trap presses.
In the halfcourt, the coach said, "we'll go exclusively with man-to-man unless we have some matchup problems against a team with tall four and five kids."
He added that defense will be his team's foundation. He hopes consistency will be as well.
"It's a cliche that teams win with defense, but it's also very true," Grant said. "We want every one of our kids to play defense as hard as he can for as long as he's in the game."
Grant added that pressuring defenses can create some easy baskets via steals and layups off the fast break.
"We also want to be consistent with our effort in every game we play this season," he said.
"It's one thing to play well a game or two and then slack off. We want to play aggressively and with a strong effort night in and night out."