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Preview: Sense of team strong among Pirate boys

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Bigger, stronger, veterans...

The De Soto boys basketball team is reloading for the 2013 season with a group of players that have experience and talent.

De Soto finished the 2012-13 campaign placing third overall in the Ridge and Valley Conference. The Pirates had a league record of 8-6 to go with an overall mark of 10-12.

Many of the players on last year’s squad are back on the court this season. It’s a good thing De Soto has some experience, as they have to replace last season’s second-leading scorer, Kody Larson, who graduated after putting up 8.8 points per game during his senior season.

Replacing Larson will be a difficult task, but coach John Cina sees it more like a challenge to his roster for 2013-14.

“I believe we should be able to compete near the top of the conference and finish in the top half,” Cina said.

There are several reasons for the optimistic outlook. On the top of the list is the fact that De Soto returns last season’s top scorer, Tanner Johnson. Johnson is bigger and stronger this year and coming off a fantastic fall as a member of the Pirate football team.

Johnson scored 11.8 points per game last year and was a first-team, all-conference player.

Two other players  return to the Pirate line up after receiving all-conference honorable mention honors a year ago.

Senior Cameron Clements scored 7.1 points per game last year and junior Alex Stevenson scored 8.4 points per game last year. With Johnson, Clements and Stevenson, the Pirates have a trio of players who have the potential to have double-digit nights.

De Soto also returns seniors Mike Bohland, Eric Fladhammer, Tanner Helgeson and David Manders, as well as sophomores Jeff Alton, Nick Malin and Troy Paulsrud.

Cina said overall team depth and an uncanny cohesiveness among the players are a strength for the Pirates.

“We have 10 players that played varsity minutes last season and only have to replace one person,” Cina said. “Our biggest weakness will be playing quick perimeter teams that can exploit our lack of guard depth.”

The Ridge and Valley Conference should be interesting in that Seneca did not have a varsity football season due to lack of players, so there will be a number of athletes from that program itching to  play ball.

“I think the top teams in conference should be La Farge, Seneca and North Crawford,” Cina said. “The top players are Tanner Heisel and Carver Philips of La Farge, Killian Boland of Seneca and Cody Herschberger of North Crawford.

Cina is quick to add that  Tanner Johnson is on that list.

“I'm looking forward to this season because this has been one of our most successful groups and they have a unique relationship with each other that makes them fun to watch and fun to be around,” Cina said.

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