By William / www.mcpherson-county-ks.com

LINDSBORG – The Smoky Valley boys basketball team will need to replace four starters but are hoping to build around all-league big man, Haven Lysell-Stewart, with a team solid enough to break the three-year drought of a winning record.

For the third season in a row the Vikings stumbled to a less than .500 overall mark at 7-13 in 2020-21 and have not had a winning season since 2017-18 when they finished 14-8.

Viking head coach Doug Schneider begins his eleventh season at the helm of the boys program and knows the job ahead.

“We graduated four starters from last season but do return second-team all-league and honorable mention all-state forward Haven Lysell-Stewart,” noted Coach Schneider when asked to reflect on the upcoming season. “Lysell-Stewart had a breakout season in 2020-21 and we will look to him for senior leadership on the court and his size in the middle under the basket.”

Other notable returnees according to the coach included junior guard Karson Pihl who sat out last season due to an injury after getting significant varsity time as a true freshman, as well as senior Lukas Apel and Trayton Miller plus juniors Kade Blanchat and Vincent Pickering.

While the team will need contribution from some underclassmen, the team has played together enough to build some cohesiveness which the coaches are hoping will turn into success on the court and scoreboard.

According to Coach Schneider, the group of kids he will have on the court have the potential to shoot the ball really well from beyond the arc which they are hoping will open up getting the ball to Lysell-Stewart and Blanchat inside under the basket.

Coach Schneider concluded his preseason reflections by saying, “Overall, our team defense will be important as we work on developing an ‘attitude’ defensively while trying to find our defensive identity.”

As for the schedule, the Vikings have the unfortunate circumstance of being in the Central Kansas League where both the 2020-21 Class 2A and Class 3A state champions reside as well in Hillsboro and Hesston.

Here is a complete summary of the upcoming 2021-22 season for the Smoky Valley Vikings:

SMOKY VALLEY VIKINGS OPENING MONTH OF THE 2021-22 SEASON =

Friday, December 3 = At Abilene, 7:30 pm

Tuesday, December 7 = Host Southeast of Saline, 7:30 pm

Friday, December 10 = At Concordia, 7:30 pm

Tuesday, December 14 = Host Hesston, 7:30 pm

Friday, December 17 = At Halstead, 7:30 pm

WHAT YOU GET WITH VIKING HEAD COACH DOUG SCHNEIDER =

  • Head Coach Doug Schneider will be in his 11th season leading the Viking boys.
  • His overall record at Smoky Valley is 85-131
  • Coach Schneider spent two seasons at Marion High School where he was 7-35
  • In 2020-21, Coach Schneider led the Vikings to a 7-13 overall mark and 4-5 with a sixth-place finish in the Central Kansas League.
  • Closed out the 2020-21 season with a loss to Haven in the first round of Class 3A sub-state playoffs.

VIKING PLAYERS WHO GRADUATED/TRANSFERRED =

  • The Vikings graduated four starters.
  • Brandt Heble
  • Ryan Heline
  • Jake Lucas
  • Jalen Elseth

KEY RETURNING VIKING PLAYERS FOR 2021-22 =

  • Haven Lysell-Stewart = a 6’3” senior forward; returning starter; averaged 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists per game in 2020-21; named second-team all-Central Kansas League; earned honorable mention All-State honors.
  • Lukas Apel = a 5’9” senior guard; averaged 1.9 points, .9 rebounds, .7 assists per game in 2020-21.
  • Trayton Miller = a 6’1” senior guard; averaged 1.7 points, .3 rebounds, l3 assists per game in 2020-21.
  • Kade Blanchat = a 6’3” junior forward; averaged 4.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists per game in 2020-21.
  • Vincent Pickering = a 6’0” junior guard; averaged 1.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, .3 assists per game in 2020-21.
  • Karson Pihl = a 5’11” junior guard who did not play in 2020-21 due to an injury; as a freshman in 2019-20 averaged 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game.

INCOMING PLAYERS TO PAY ATTENTION TO =

  • None listed.

WHAT COACH SCHNEIDER HAS TO SAY =

On Haven Lysell-Stewart = “We return second team all-league and honorable mention all-state forward Haven Lysell-Stewart who averaged 11.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for us last season. He had a breakout season last year and we are looking for his senior leadership and size in the paint to lead our team.”

On Karson Pihl = “Karson had to sit out last season due to a knee injury but is returning to help direct the offense from the guard spot. As a true freshman he averaged 3.0 points and 1.3 assists per game while getting some significant playing time.

On Team Leadership = “We will be looking for our seniors, Haven Lysell-Stewart, Lukas Apel, and Trayton Miller to give the team leadership as seniors should do.”

The strengths of the 2021-22 team = “The strength of this team in 2021-22 will have to be our overall cohesiveness as most of them have played together for several seasons now and have had enough varsity experience to be blending together. This group of kids have the potential to really shoot the ball well from beyond the arc which should open up getting the ball to our athletic big men in the paint. Hoping to have the ability to open up the floor a bit with different lineups that could make us hard to guard.”

The weakness of the 2021-22 team = “Our interior defense may be a question mark this season as once you get beyond Lysell-Stewart, the Vikings will be smaller compared to a number of teams inside the paint. Overall, our team defense will also be important as they work on developing an ‘attitude’ defensively while be look for our defensive identity.”

How does the Central Kansas League and Class 3A look for 2021-22 = “The top teams in our league without much doubt will likely be Hesston and Hillsboro as Hesston is the reigning league champion as well as Class 3A State Champion and Hillsboro was crowned Class 2A State Champion last season as well. Beyond Hesston, Wichita Collegiate should be a power in Class 3A.”

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