The Tomah High School boys basketball team is a long-haul proposition.

One year after losing five senior starters from a team that produced the school’s first winning record − both overall and in the Mississippi Valley Conference − since 2004-05, Tomah coach Brad Plueger starts over with a team that has just one senior on the varsity roster. The lack of seniors stands in stark contrast to the three sophomores and one freshman who have been promoted to the varsity.

“We are young,” Plueger said. “As a coaching staff, we have to keep telling ourselves to be patient. We’re still teaching things.”

On the plus side, Plueger has a lot of athletic material to work with. He described the group as well-rounded athletes with shooting and jumping abilities. The team is led by senior Mason Gerke, the only rotation player back from last season, when his main role was perimeter shooting off the bench. Obviously, more is expected of Gerke this season.

“He’s the guy who has the most experience from last season,” Plueger said. “He’s always been a lead-by-example guy, but he’s going to have to get out of his comfort box and lead verbally.”

On the court, Plueger described Gerke as a “solid player, and he’s getting better defensively. His biggest asset is his stand-still jump shot.”

Competition for playing time after Gerke is intense. Plueger said the remaining 10 players have similar skill sets that are adaptable to “positionless” basketball.

“We’re balanced,” Plueger said. “From our front five to our second five, it’s really competitive. If there’s a player who can’t fulfill their role, we have guys who can step in and fulfill that role.”

The rest of the roster consists of:

  • Juniors—Charlie Ella, Tyler Torkelson, Isaiah Nick, Ayvon Adams, Jalen Figgins and Keivon Alicea.
  • Sophomores—Justin Gerke, Kade Gnewikow and Carson Lindauer.
  • Freshman—Dusty Derousseau.

Also on the roster is player/manager Team Swannatrai, a foreign exchange student.

Of that group, only Nick and Gnewikow had any crunch-time varsity minutes last season.

Plueger is impressed with how the team has shot during preseason practice.

“We’ve got some decent shooters,” Plueger said. “It’s good to see the 3-ball going through the net.”

There isn’t, however, nearly as much size as last season, when the Timberwolves started three players 6-foot-3 or taller.

“We’re not tall or thick,” Plueger said. “We have a new offensive scheme this year because we don’t have a dominant player.”

While La Crosse Central is a heavy favorite to win the MVC, Plueger said it’s a realistic goal to finish in the top four of the MVC. He said after Central, Onalaska and Holmen, it’s a wide-open race.

He hopes to build off last season to create long-term success for the program.

“We want to continue building a successful program at every level,” Plueger said.

Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

MVC BOYS BASKETBALL

Final 2017-18 standings

Central;11-1 24-3

Onalaska 10-2 20-4

Tomah 7-5 14-9

Logan 7-5 11-13

Holmen 4-8 10-14

Aquinas 3-9 13-13

Sparta 0-12 5-18

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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