BOYS BASKETBALL: Titans open season this Friday
By Anne Homan
Last year the Tea Area High School boys’ basketball team finished 16-7, falling to Sioux Falls Christian in the SoDak 16. The team will look to push their success further into the postseason this year as they bring back five returning letter winners in Reis Kirschenman, Jonah Kocer, Blake Thompson, Jackson Smythe, and Sam Almas.
The team will be absent nine letter winners, including two All-Staters, Cael Lundin and Jeff Worth, who graduated last spring.
Kirschenman, a senior, is a three-year letter winner and brings a physical, athletic play to the post position.
Noted as “one of the best rebounders in school history,” by head coach Drew Weber, Kirschenman (pictured at left) earned the Defensive Most Valuable Player honor for the team last season. His athleticism extends beyond the basketball court as he has been recruited to play football at South Dakota State University.
Kocer, a senior and starting point guard last season, will return to the team and brings strong perimeter defending. Coach Weber refers to him as a “steady player who does a little bit of everything”.
Thompson, another senior, was unable to play last season due to Lisfranc surgery. Thompson was a letterwinner as a sophomore and is deemed one of the quickest guards in South Dakota.
“He has the ability to score 25+ points on any given night,” said Weber.
Smythe, also a senior, was also unable to play last season due to a leg injury. His presence will make a difference for the team as he is a strong defender and steady, physical guard.
“He can stretch the floor and create for others,” said Weber.
Almas, a junior guard, had some big games last season off the bench and Weber will look for his explosive plays again this season. Almas is coming off an off-season foot surgery but Weber has high expectations for growth this season.
“He has the ability to score at all three levels offensively,” added Weber.
Newcomers Weber is excited to see action from this season include juniors Jessen Wiebenga, Garrett Wiebenga, Boston Willemssen, and Keeton Newborg along with sophomore Emerson Otten.
J. Wiebenga is a strong perimeter shooter and rebounder. Weber noted he will be asked to do a little bit of everything. G. Wiebenga is what Weber refers to as a “Jack-of-all-trades” player. He is able to score at all three levels and he also will be asked to do a little of everything.
The tallest player on the team at 6’6”, Willemssen is a long, defensive-first post player. Newborg is a steady guard that can play on or off ball. Weber is expecting both to take a big step up from last season.
Otten, Weber believes, has the tools to earn varsity minutes. He is looking for him to continue to get strong and comfortable at the varsity level.
The Titans begin their 2022-23 season this Friday, Dec. 9 in double-header action with the Titan girls at home against Dakota Valley. The varsity girls are scheduled to tip-off at 6:30 p.m. and the boys at 8 p.m.
Weber believes they will be tested right out of the gate as he looks for Dakota Valley to be among the top teams in Class A, along with Sioux Valley, Dell Rapids, Sioux Falls Christian and Lennox.
However with their athleticism, team-first mentality and ability to play multiple styles, the Titans should be right there among the best of them.
“We are competitive and know what it takes to win,” said Weber.
Following their game against Dakota Valley, the Titans will travel to Tri-Valley on Monday, Dec. 12 and will host Dell Rapids on Dec. 16 in another double header match-up with the Titan girls.