Boys basketball team has high hopes — if they have a season

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Logan Raffel will be one of the top players for Middleton’s boys basketball team — if the Cardinals eventually have a season./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

One contact day.

One marvelous, glorious, socially distanced contact day.

That’s what Middleton’s boys basketball team experienced last month before Public Health Madison & Dane County issued Emergency Order #10, which has prohibited indoor gatherings of any size.

In that short amount of time, Cardinals coach Kevin Bavery saw what he anticipated all summer — he has a team that could surprise.

Now, if Middleton can get clearance to have some type of season, Bavery and the Cardinals believe big things could await.

“The biggest challenge of course is not seeing any of these players since last March,” Bavery said. “The brief glimpse we had with one contact day before we paused as a district showed us that a lot of players have changed physically.

“Several were taller and almost everyone appeared to be thicker and stronger. To be determined, of course, is who changed their game and improved their overall skill sets on both ends of the court.”

The Cardinals went 9-14 overall last year and 7-11 in the Big Eight Conference.

Middleton graduated four starters from that team, including center Parker Van Buren and wing Cole Deptula, who were both named second-team all-league.

There’s a gifted group of youngsters in the program, though, that Bavery and his coaching staff are awfully excited about.

Leading the way will be junior guards Logan Raffel and TJ Bauer.

Raffel averaged 7.0 points per game last year and had many of his best games in the second half of the season. Bauer averaged 6.0 points per game and was consistently getting better before being slowed by a mid-season ankle injury.

“TJ Bauer and Logan Raffel have both added muscle and give us combo guards who can shoot and handle,” Bavery said.

Sophomore Kaden Fosdick was named Middleton’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ last season. Fosdick averaged 3.3 points per game, as well as 4.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals per contest. Fosdick was also the ‘chaser’ when Middleton played a box-and-one defense, meaning he was asked to defend the opponent’s top perimeter player.

Junior Tanner Ballweg, who joined the varsity at mid-season last year, also provided an immediate spark with his aggressive and physical play.

Senior forward David Meier is a non-stop, hustle and energy player. Senior guard George Finch has gotten stronger and improved his shooting range. And senior forward Hayden Statz saw his playing time rise last year and is a sneaky scorer.

“Those returning with varsity experience, we think they can all contribute,” Bavery said.

In addition, Bavery expects a lot of help from a junior varsity team that went 20-2 last year and a pair of freshmen teams that combined to go 35-2.

“Our JV’s, led by coach Antonio Hoye, had a great season and have several potential contributors,” Bavery said. “It’s a great mix of size, speed, quickness, and skill. They are a solid on ball defensive group, a quality that will be key in our overall team defense and approach.”  

While the Cardinals don’t have a proven standout or any returning all-conference players, Bavery thinks his team will be deep, versatile and defensive-minded. And that could go a long way in a league that saw most of its top players graduate and figures to be wide open.

“We will have depth,” Bavery said. “We’ll have the ability to play the type of system game that we had gotten away from as we tried to fit schemes that best fit our personnel. We’ll be able to extend defensively and run the court with a lot of interchangeable pieces.

“We will have a lot of players who can shoot, but hopefully a few shooters will emerge, and there is a difference. We’ll find out how much time players have put into their shot development once we get back on the court. We believe it’s a pretty instinctive group, so our plan is to open up things even more offensively. Defensively we want to make things happen as much as possible.”

Bavery knows the next few months could be filled with euphoric highs and painful lows.

Many teams across the state started practicing Nov. 23, held their first games Tuesday night and are finding ways to make things work in this COVID-19 world. Things are far more restrictive in Dane County, which could lead to a bevy of emotions as teams do everything possible to have some type of season.

“We all need to stay the course mentally and emotionally,” Bavery said. “It’s going to be difficult as we see other teams playing. Whatever plays out I want it to be meaningful and I want it to be safe. So I’m hopeful that people continue to mask up and socially distance, and for an effective vaccine to come out.

“I don’t want anyone to get sick and have any serious complications of lingering effects. That goes for our players and coaches as well as all their families and extended connections, as well as everyone who will be involved with our team and game day in any way. Our athletic department team of Jamie Sims, Ben White, and Mindy Ripp have been incredible. We all want the same thing, but we want it to happen in the right way.”

Dane County’s Emergency Order #10 is currently scheduled to end on Dec. 16. At that time, the Cardinals are hoping to begin practices in small groups.

Middleton doesn't have a schedule yet, and is unsure if and when it might be able to play. So Bavery will stress controlling the controllables, then trying to become one of the Big Eight’s surprise teams if games eventually take place.

“We’re still in ‘control what we can’ mode while being patient,” Bavery said. “So I’m expecting that our players are working hard at home and will come in great shape ready to play when our time comes. We don’t have a schedule at this point, so we’ll have to be creative with other Dane County schools to maximize the window of opportunity when it comes. 

“I think we have a chance to do some really special things over the next two or three years as classes combine really well with talent and depth, and enough size. We expect our seniors to be great leaders by example, and we like our juniors, sophomores, and freshmen a lot.”


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