KINGSFORD - Filling some key holes created by graduation will be the early focus for the Kingsford Flivvers boys basketball team.
"We had some key graduation losses from last year, and we are working at filling those spots," said Flivvers coach Dan Olkkonen, who was named the U.P. Class ABC Coach of the Year last season. "I think this year's team has a big learning curve, we see a lot of potential in some of our younger players."
Kingsford, 17-4 (7-1 Great Northern Conference), set a school record for regular-season wins last year and claimed its first league title since 1999. But three starters are gone from that group - none more important than All-U.P. Dream Team guard Jeff Gregory. Kevin Feira, Kyle Lefebrve and Jake Menard also graduated.
"Even though we have only two returning starters, I think we still have some veteran experience with the seniors that came off the bench last year," Olkkonen said.
Kingsford roster has seven seniors and four juniors. All seven seniors are returning letter winners. Guard Caleb Harrington, 6-1, and forward Aidan Weinke, 6-5, started last season. Weinke made the All-U.P. second team, while Harrington was a special mention. Junior guard Cole Tengesdahl, 6-1, is coming off of football season in which he earned All-U.P. honorable mention.
Olkkonen feels his seniors have the experience to succeed.
"I think they will give us leadership and understanding on how to play in tough games," he said. "We are working on improving communication skills, defense and understanding of how to play together."
Marquette and Menominee headline the league this season, according to Olkkonen.
"The GNC will be a tough conference again," he said. "If we can keep improving through the first of the year, I think we can put ourselves right in the conference race."
Kingsford's non-conference slate shows some key early games with Norway visiting to open the season Tuesday night and road tests at Westwood and Negaunee.
"This season's success will be based on the improvement and effort everyday we step on the court," Olkkonen said.
Assisting Olkkonen will by Ryan Grondin (assistant varsity), Jim Myllyla (jayvees) and Joe Kreigl (freshmen).
Varsity roster follows:
SENIORS - Caleb Harrington, Aidan Weinke, Nick Baldwin, Dalton Allen, Danny Olson, Tyler Schaut, Cole Michaud.
JUNIORS - Lucas Jennings, Jack Glodowski, Cole Tengesdahl, Josh Shields.