WORTHINGTON -- It’s here. The Minnesota high school basketball season, with its mask mandate and its late start, is almost ready to go public.
The Worthington High School boys basketball team will open the 2021 season Thursday in Marshall, and the girls team will host Marshall on Friday. Here’s a rundown on the Trojan squads:
Two high-profile players return to the team.
Terbuto Ochothow, a 6-0 senior guard, is one of the best players in southwest Minnesota and is demonstrating real leadership in practice. He averaged more than 20 points per game last season with around five assists and five rebounds per game. A great passer, he can score in just about every way.
Brock Bruns, a 6-6 senior forward, is a double-digit scorer who also rebounds well, despite the fact that he spends much of his time away from the basket because he’s an outstanding long-range shooter.
With enough other experienced players returning, WHS figures to be one of the more interesting teams to watch.
“I think if we play together, play collectively out on the floor … and buy into the defense, we’ve got a lot of wins on the schedule,” said head coach Clint Meyer, who also said, “Our quickness and our ball-handling is going to be two of our biggest assets on the offensive end, so we want to attack the basket and to get to the foul line more this year.”
Other Trojans who will be key contributors are 6-2 guard-forward Marenono Opiew, 5-10 guard Danny Pavelko, 5-10 guard Joe Boever, 6-2 center Godmar Gach, 6-6 center Jeikgoy Wiel and 5-9 guard Mikele Walu. Abagotte Opiew, a 6-2 forward, will also get playing time.
Merenono Opiew is recovering from an ACL injury and may not be able to play. Pavelko, a tough competitor and a hard worker, is being groomed for a larger scoring role.
If there’s a concern in the preseason, it’s rebounding. Team height is not a strength for the 2021 Trojans.
Like the boys, the girls return key players.
They include senior guard Stephanie Bauman, senior center Sophie Wietzema, junior guard Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor, junior forward Olivia Hayenga, sophomore forward Tarryn Spartz, and sophomore center Ellie Weg.
Bauman, an off-guard, is characterized most by her consistency. She’ll be challenged to score more from the outside this year. Wietzema nearly averaged a double-double in scoring and rebounding last season. Scheitel-Taylor will serve as point guard in 2021. She’s quick, can shoot, and will be matched up with rival ball-handlers. Hayenga is an athletic player who can shoot and drive. Spartz is a fine all-around player. Weg will be active in the lane.
“I think our strengths are going to be pressuring people. We’re going to be more physical, and if we decide to play zone I think we’re going to be tight in our coverage. What last year was an open three, I think this year will be a contested three,” said head coach Eric Lindner.
As always, the Trojans will be a team oriented toward pressure defense and up-tempo offense.
“I don’t think we’re built for the slow game,” Lindner said.
Wearing masks won’t make it easy, however, leading Lindner to wonder how many breaks his players will need in the course of a game.
“These kids really play hard. I just think the questions we all have now is the fatigue factor. We’ve gotta find out what we can do with masks,” said the coach.