Lions program features new coach
For the fist time in 35 seasons, Ron Carlson won’t be on the bench of a Minnewaukan-coached boys basketball team.
Carlson retired from coaching following the 2007-08 season, opening up a vacancy in the Minnewaukan-Leeds program.
Enter Mark Swanson, who although he is a first-year varsity coach, has the experience of other successful coaches to draw from.
“Over the years I’ve worked with some good ones, including Jay Frydenlund, Shawn Larson and Larry Moser,” Swanson said.
All helped build the Leeds basketball program into one of the best in state over the 18 years.
He takes over a program which has enjoyed its fair share of success recently, including four straight trips to the regional tournament.
Getting back there again will be a challenge.
The Lions lost a key player to graduation in all-stater Reid Haagenson, who carried much of the offensive load, averaging nearly 20 points per game.
However, Swanson said there are two returning starters and a few others who saw varsity time. Steve Hausmann was an all-district pick and averaged 13 points per game. “Steve’s a good post player, one of the best in region, and he gives us a steady scorer in the paint,” Swanson said.
Dustin Paulson, 6-2, was also a starter and provides a proven perimeter scorer who can also drive to the basket. Matt Swanson also provides good size and the ability to shoot jump shots and pound the ball inside. Both Paulson and Swanson will provide challenges for opposing defenses. Brad Nelson is another player who can score away from the basket.
“This season we don’t have that one guy teams will try to shut down,” he said. “We have several who can score, and we can score (in the post and on the perimeter).”
The question is whether the team can get consistent scoring from three or four players each game, and whether those making the transition from JV to varsity can be difference- makers.
Defense has been a hallmark of the Lions’ program,
and its good size in the post should help to win the rebounding battle and limit shots in the paint.
The team does have depth, and Swanson said he could play up to 10 players. The team rostered 11 seniors.
The Lions are picked to be in the middle of the pack in District 8 preseason polls. St. John and Munich-Starkweather are teams returning a lot of talent. The Lions will be in a group of three of four teams hoping to get into that top half of the district and again qualify for regionals.
Swanson believes this is one of the most balanced years in Region 4, noting there are 10 teams which have a realistic shot at a title.
And the Lions are among them; however, it may take some time for this team to reach full stride.
Seniors: Jason Vallier, Kyle Britsch, Steve Hausmann, Dallas Welch, Daniel Luhman, Cameron Leibfried, Dustin Paulson, Elliott Gunderson, Trevor Togerson, Kendall Youngbear, Mark Tregub; Juniors: Brad Nelson, Dave Quinones, Rafael Barragan; Sophomores: Blake Darling, Michael Urness, Matt Swanson, Jacob Cline; Freshmen: Darren Young, Thomas Urness, Kyle Jorgenson, Mitch Greene
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