BOYS BASKETBALL: Trojans hit hardwoodSeniors Traylor, Vorwald back to lead Worthington on state tournament quest
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Fresh off another 20-win year and a Section 3AA championship in 2011-2012, the Worthington Trojans boys basketball team has been gearing up for tonight’s season-opening game against Fairmont with a couple of solid weeks of practice.
The Trojans, who welcome the Cardinals to the storied WHS gym tonight and then travel to play Windom on Friday, went 21-7 a year ago and reached the state tournament for the first time since 1998. Worthington’s season came to an end in the Class AA quarterfinals at Target Center, falling to Perham by a final score of 51-47.
“We had a great season and won four playoff games to reach the state tournament,” said veteran Trojans’ head coach Ron Vorwald, who is leading WHS for the 24th year. “We lost five good seniors to graduation and will need to fill a few voids, but we are again looking forward to a fun season. We have a bunch of great kids who like to compete on our 15-man roster.”
Worthington notched 20-plus wins for the third time in the last four seasons — the other year in that span was a 19-win campaign (2009-2010) — thanks in large part to a senior class that included Mitch Weg, Lucas Henning, Dan Wetering, Jon Reller and Tyler Verdoorn.
Weg and Henning were both All-Southwest Conference performers and were the Trojans’ top two scorers — combining to average about 36 points per game last season.
“One area of concern we have early-on is finding people who can put the ball in the hole for us,” Vorwald said. “We return four of our top eight guys from last year’s team. So, we do have some experience returning. Our seniors will certainly have to step up and provide leadership, as well as solid and consistent performances.”
Seniors Morgan Traylor (6-foot-6, post) and Jon Vorwald (6-3, guard) have both been regulars on the Trojans’ varsity team since they were sophomores. Traylor was an all-conference honorable mention selection last year.
“We’re looking for big things out of those two guys,” Coach Vorwald said. “They have been great leaders by example so far in practice, showing outstanding effort and work habits. They are both veterans who have been a part of some good teams for us recently.”
Juniors Marcus Potter (6-0, guard) and Spencer Grafing (6-2, forward) were two of Worthington’s top reserves last year and are expected to see major minutes again. Potter will run things from the point-guard position, while Grafing provides versatility on the wing.
Senior Josh Vander Veen (6-0, guard) and junior Will Dudley (6-2, guard) are both in the mix to start some games for the Trojans. Seniors Dylan Gravenhof (6-2 forward) and Jake Woll (6-4 post), junior Carter Lindner (6-4 forward) and sophomore Will Mulder (6-4 post) are also projected to be in the regular rotation for Worthington.
“We should have pretty decent depth with guys who can do a variety of different things,” Coach Vorwald said. “We also have good size overall, but we don’t have a true second “big man” to go along with Morgan like we have had in the past.”
Senior Randy Traylor (6-1, forward) and juniors Brandon Gray (6-1, forward), Ethan Miller (5-8 guard), Jesse Guerra (5-11 guard) and Jake Weg (6-4 forward) round out the Trojans’ roster and provide additional competition in practices.
Worthington’s primary focus, as always, is on defense and rebounding — the two aspects of the game that the Trojans take great pride in.
“Halfcourt man-to-man defensive intensity has been and will continue to be our trademark,” Coach Vorwald said. “We may have the ability to do some different things in terms of fullcourt pressure as the season progresses, as we do have pretty good all-around athleticism.”
Vorwald, who is assisted by coaches Clint Meyer, Zach Dingmann and Joe Krivarchka, said his team is ready to go and begin the chase for conference and section title contention.
“Our kids are anxious to lace the shoes up and get after someone other than ourselves in practice,” Vorwald said. “We will have our hands full with Fairmont, as they are very athletic and well-coached. It will certainly be a good test to start the season for us.
Southwest Conference play awaits Worthington.
“We then jump right into some big conference games,” Vorwald said. “We’ll have to be ready to play every night, as the Southwest Conference should be solid with several very good teams once again.”
Coach: Ron Vorwald
Experience: 24th season
2011-12 Record: 21-7 overall; 8-4 Southwest Conference (third place); 10-2 Section 3AA
2012 Postseason: Lost to Perham in Class AA state tournament quarterfinals
Players Graduated: Mitch Weg, Lucas Henning, Dan Wetering, Jon Reller, Tyler Verdoorn.
Players Returning: Morgan Traylor, Jon Vorwald, Marcus Potter, Spencer Grafing, Josh Vander Veen, Dylan Gravenhof, Jake Woll, Will Dudley.
New Players: Randy Traylor, Brandon Gray, Ethan Miller, Jesse Guerra, Jake Weg, Carter Lindner, Will Mulder.
Strengths: Worthington returns four of its top eight players from last year’s state-tournament team. Seniors Morgan Traylor and Jon Vorwald provide solid senior leadership, and the Trojans should be a deep and balanced squad this year. Worthington prides itself on defense and rebounding.
Weaknesses: Finding consistent scoring production to make up for the graduation losses of Mitch Weg and Lucas Henning is a concern. Taking care of the ball is also something to watch throughout the season.
Outlook: The Trojans figure to contend in both the Southwest Conference and Section 3AA title chases. There is good competition among their 15-man roster.
Dec. 4: Fairmont
Dec. 7: at Windom
Dec. 11: Luverne
Dec. 14: Marshall
Dec. 20: at Pipestone Area
Dec. 27: Worthington tournament
Dec. 28: Worthington tournament
Jan. 3: at Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
Jan. 5: at Dawson-Boyd
Jan. 8: Jackson County Central
Jan. 11: Redwood Valley
Jan. 14: Fulda
Jan. 18: Windom
Jan. 25: at Redwood Valley
Jan. 28: Ellsworth
Feb. 1: Pipestone Area
Feb. 5: at Luverne
Feb. 8: Maple River
Feb. 9: at Southwest Christian
Feb. 12: at Jackson County Central
Feb. 15: at Marshall
Feb. 19: at Martin County West
Feb. 22: at Cedar Mountain/Comfrey