Mitchell boys tip off tonight against Pierre

The Mitchell High boys' basketball team will open its 2007-08 campaign tonight at the Corn Palace with what is expected to be the Kernels' best team since their 2005 state championship squad.

The Mitchell High boys' basketball team will open its 2007-08 campaign tonight at the Corn Palace with what is expected to be the Kernels' best team since their 2005 state championship squad.

After a pair of 9-16 finishes in 2006 and 2007, the Kernels' first losing seasons since 1982, Mitchell will begin its quest for its sixth-straight state tournament appearance when it hosts Pierre at 7:30 p.m.

The Kernels enter the season ranked No. 4 in Class AA according to the South Dakota Newspaper Association preseason poll.

"Our biggest goal is always to get to the state tournament," Mitchell head coach Gary Munsen said. "That's our number one goal, to play hard and get better as the year goes on, and get back to state tournament."

A state tournament appearance this year would be the Kernels' 24th in the last 25 years, but they will have to do it without eight graduated seniors from last season. That group includes several key players, including guard Justin Brown, a secondteam All-State selection who scored 16.7 points per game, as well as forward Adam Fossnes and guard Chase Olson.


However, the Kernels have plenty of talent returning as well, led by versatile 6-foot-3 guard Jordan Miller, who came on strong late last year after earning a starting spot midway through the season.

"He's a great ball handler and great passer," Munsen said. "He sees the floor really well. We can play him at different positions and things like that. But we'll have to have other kids step up besides him."

This season, Mitchell should have plenty of options. While Munsen said earlier in the week that he has yet to determine a starting lineup, the Kernels have a number of upperclassmen ready to step in.

In addition to Miller, senior center Jordan Long, senior forward Stephen Peschong and junior guard Brett Young are expected to be key contributors for the Kernels, and are all strong candidates to start.

Senior forward Jason Schmidt also gained experience last year, and senior guard Eric Hieb and senior forward Randy Kiewell could see key minutes for Mitchell. But the list of potential contributors doesn't end there, illustrating the kind of depth the Kernels should have this season, no matter which players end up starting.

"We should have some depth I think," Munsen said. "We have a good senior group to start with ... it's going to be a combination of three or four guys."

Junior forwards Travis Salmonson and Jordan Piper should play important minutes off the bench for the Kernels, who also have a number of new players ready to step up. Tanner and Turner Volesky, both sophomores, could be important links in the Kernels' rotation, as could senior guard Alex Smith and sophomore center Brett Victor, the Kernels tallest player at 6-foot-5.

Other players on the Kernels varsity roster this season are juniors Issac Harrington and Sean DeVries.


Having a number of players to turn to will be important for the Kernels this year, a team that likes to run whenever possible.

"We want to play up-tempo," Munsen said, adding that it may not always be possible. "In some situations we're going to set it up or run a spread. We're not on a shot clock this year like we will be next year. Hopefully we can run the floor and do some things there, but hopefully we can set it up too."

Fans will get their first look at the new Kernels tonight, as Mitchell faces a tough test against No. 8 Pierre. However, the Governors will no longer have 6-foot-8 center Sam Willard, who is now playing for Division I Pacific. Still, Munsen said he expects an exciting game.

"They're like us," he said. "They have four or five kids back, and their strength are their guards. They've got (Kyle) Cichos and (Michael) Gardener and (Matt) Tetzlaff. They'll be tough. They're quick, and it should be quite a battle."

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