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Young Willmar Cardinals start fresh

With five new starters, Willmar prepares for the rugged Central Lakes

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Willmar's Jack Jeffords passes the ball around the perimeter during a game against Fergus Falls at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Willmar Cardinals are truly starting fresh in 2019-20.

Not a single starter returns from last season, when Willmar finished 9-7 in the rugged Central Lakes Conference and was 15-13 overall.

Gone are all-conference members Drey Dirksen, Ty Roelofs and Ryan Slette, among others. The trio were the Cardinals’ top three scorers. Dirksen averaged 16.1 points per game, Slette 13.5 and Roelofs 10.6

“Ninety-five percent of our scoring, rebounding and assists have graduated,” head coach Matt Williams said.

It means a lot of new faces will play key roles for the Cardinals.

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Three to watch are three 6-foot senior guards: Jack Jeffords, Sam Fraser and Zach Morrell. Junior forwards Dalton Ogdahl and Sam May are also noteworthy.

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Willmar's Dalton Ogdahl moves around the perimeter during a game against Southwest Christian at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“We are rebuilding,” Williams said. “There is talent in the gym.”

The key will be coming together and learning to play hard at the varsity level, Williams said.

Williams is in his fifth year as the Cardinals’ head coach. He has a 58-52 career record and knows what it’ll take to compete.

“We hope to improve,” he said.

He has a slew of assistants: Dale Becker, Jeff Holtkamp, David Runia, Mike Buer and Levi Gotto.

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Improvement will be measured incrementally. Last season, the Cardinals were in the middle of an extremely balanced conference. CLC co-champions Sartell and St. Cloud Apollo were 11-5, followed by Brainerd and Fergus Falls, who were each 10-6. Next came Alexandria and Willmar at 9-7. The key word here is balance.

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Players like junior forward Sam May (left) will look to fill the void on the Cardinals left by graduation. Head coach Matt Williams said 95 percent of the team's scoring from 2018-19 has departed. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

The Cardinals averaged 62.6 points per game, fourth best in the conference. They allowed 58.9, which was third best. No one in the CLC was far from those numbers.

Brainerd, at 69.5 ppg, was first in offense. Rocori was last at 55.0.

Fergus Falls, at 57.0 points allowed per game, was first in defense. Sauk Rapids allowed 72.4, which was last.

“We hope to improve,” Williams said.

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Willmar's Sam Fraser dribbles around a New London-Spicer defender at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Related Topics: BASKETBALLWILLMAR CARDINALS
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