Napoleon emerged as a prime contender for the District 6 and Region 3 boys basketball championships last season, but fell short in both tournaments.
However, the Imperials again will be a team to reckon with in 2011-12.
Napoleon returns four full-time starters and one part-time regular from last season's 19-5 team. The Imperials took second in the district tournament and third in the region.
"We have a very solid team," Napoleon coach Caleb Ketterling said. "We have been knocked out of the region two straight years in the semifinal game and are hungry to prove that we belong in the state tournament."
Topping the list of returning starters are seniors Jonah Schwartzenberger and Wade Rath-Wald. Schwartzenberger, who has started since his freshman year, averaged 14.5 points, five rebounds,
4.7 assists and two steals per game, while Rath-Wald, a
6-foot-4 post, sported averages of 16.5 points,
12.1 rebounds and 4.5 blocks.
"We have a great guard-post combination in Jonah and Wade," Ketterling said. "I wouldn't trade those two for anybody in the state. They've had great chemistry since fifth-grade basketball."
Grant Weigel, a junior forward, averaged 9.2 points,
4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He led the Imperials with 38
3-pointers. Elijah Hilzendeger and Trent Fettig also started, and junior Dylan Bitz was the sixth man.
"Grant and Trent are two of the more underrated players in the state. They are young, but have good varsity experience," Ketterling said. "Eli and Dylan have been working hard and will fill roles, but can also score if called upon."
Defending district and region champion Linton-HMB lost four starters from last season, and will be without Tanner Purintun (15.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg) for the first month because of a knee injury suffered in the football playoffs.
The Lions will rely heavily on seniors Ryan Dralle
(4.2 ppg) and Nathan Weiser (3.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg), who played well off the bench last season. Nolan Meidinger and Travis Baumiller also saw considerable time as reserves.
South Border returns a strong nucleus of players, led by Michael Jacobson
(14.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg). Philip Wanner (8.7 ppg, 3 rpg) and Adam Jacobson (7.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
Kidder County has just three players with extensive varsity experience - Luke Benz (8 ppg, 3 rpg), Jordan Leier (8 ppg) and Ben Stroh
Strasburg-Zeeland posted a 7-15 record last season, but several returning starters and top reserves give the Clippers reason to be optimistic this winter. The returners include starters Chance Kurle (10 ppg, 5 rpg), Ryan Miller (5 ppg), Corey Eberle (5 ppg), Kyle Nieuwsma (6 ppg) and Mason Kramer (4 ppg).
Last season's District 5 champion, LaMoure, took second in the region for the second year in a row, and looks to be in the running again.
Returners include Tyler Thielges (13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Zachary Stemen (7.5 ppg,
7.4 rpg) and Skylar Shockman (4.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
Central Prairie returns three starters - seniors Eric Knodel (15.9 ppg, 8 rpg), Nathan Denning (7 ppg) and Thaddaeus Owen (3 ppg).
Edgeley-Kulm returns all of its starters from last season's
9-13 team. Three averaged double-figure points - Beau Biegel 13.3, Nathan Elhard 11.5 and Logan Hanson 10.5.
Litchville-Marion-Montpelier has two starters back from a 2010-11 team that went
11-11 - seniors Garrett Van Asperen (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg,
3 apg) and Dylan Thompson
(7 ppg, 4 rpg).
Senior Cody Christ is in his fourth season as a starter for the Barnes County North Bison. He averaged 10.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game last season. There are seven other returning letterwinners, including juniors Jacoby Kramlich
(7.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and Brad Clemens (5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
Ellendale, 15-8 in 2010-11, was hit hard by graduation. The only returner with considerable varsity experience is Brad Enge (2.8 ppg, 2 rpg).
Pingree-Buchanan-Kensal continues the rebuilding process. There is just one senior on the roster - Jesse Deal.