Dean Winczewski isn't too high on the presumptuous chatter surrounding his program.
The fifth-year Minot High coach, while aware of why the Magicians are forecasted to contend for a West Region title, believes his senior-heavy club hasn't proven a thing.
"We're a fifth-place team until proven otherwise," Winczewski said. "If (the season) was done on paper we'd do pretty well, but we have to go out on the floor and perform."
Minot High coach Dean Winczewski gives instructions during a recent practice at Magic City Campus. The fifth-year coach returns three starters and seven lettermen from a year ago.
The lofty expectations cast by prep basketball pundits won't equate to success, but they are justified.
Minot, which finished fifth in the West Region, returns three starters and seven contributors from last season's state-qualifying team. Not just run-of-the-mill lettermen, either.
All-West Region selections Brandon VanDusen and Austin Frank will look to spearhead a deep and talented group that can score in a variety of ways.
Meet the Magicians
Seniors - Brandon VanDusen, Austin Frank, Caleb Albertson, Jesse Andrist, Brian Bloms, Kyle Gerding, Dylan Jechort
Juniors - Tre Kinchen, Cole Jones, Jordan Seideman, Zach Nyakoe, Marquise Johnson, Jacob Holmen, Colter Hustad
Sophomores - Dakota Halvorson, Noah Bosh
December - 8, vs. Fargo North, 4 p.m.; 13, at Bismarck, 7:45 p.m.; 18, vs. Jamestown, 7:30 p.m.; 22, at Dickinson, 6 p.m.; 28, at Grand Forks Central, 7:30 p.m.; 29, at Grand Forks Red River, 4 p.m.
January - 8, at Mandan, 7:30 p.m.; 15, vs. Turtle Mountain, 7:30 p.m.; 18, vs. Century, 7:30 p.m.; 24, at Williston, 7:45 p.m.; 26, at Jamestown, 7:30 p.m.; 29, vs. St. Mary's, 7:30 p.m.
February - 1, at Turtle Mountain, 7:30 p.m.; 5, vs. Bismarck, 7:30 p.m.; 9, vs. Dickinson, 7:30 p.m.; 14, at St. Mary's, 7:30 p.m.; 15, vs. Mandan, 7:30 p.m.; 22, at Century, 6 p.m.; 26, vs. Williston, 7:30 p.m.
March - 7-9, Regional tournament at Bismarck Civic Center, TBA; 14-16, state tournament at Bismarck Civic Center.
West Region preview
For a pair of teams whose rosters were littered with underclassmen a year ago, Minot and Bismarck St. Mary's were pests.
The Magicians and Saints didn't finish atop the West Region standings - Minot finished fifth while St. Mary's was third- but both gave the league favorites all they could handle before earning berths to the Class A state tournament.
This winter, however, they'll be the seasoned veterans boasting the league's most touted players.
St. Mary's returns a wealth of talent including fleet-footed guard Ben Weisbeck, an all-state selection. The Saints, coached by Minot High and Minot State alumnus Joe Mueller, have the West's attention.
"St. Mary's is a lot like us in they have a lot coming back," Minot coach Dean Winczewski said. "Bismarck should be good and Century is young but will be there by the end of the season."
Bismarck, last season's West Region champ, was hit hard by graduation but returns 6-foot-3 forward Tyler Clairmont. Clairmont was an all-West Region selection for the tradition-rich program that's expected to reload.
A three-team race for the West crown is expected, but the six other clubs in the nine-team division figure to shake up the standings.
Mandan, who finished second in the West last season, graduated a slew of seniors but returns all-West Region guard Erron Collins. The 5-11 senior helped the Braves finish third at state.
Always-capable Century doesn't return an all-league selection but is still expected to finish in the upper half of the region.
"The teams in this league always play good defense," Minot standout Brandon VanDusen said. "There are some good teams but our experience should really help us."
Jordan Krieg, Dickinson's impressive 6-4 post, will look to get the Midgets in the mix. Dickinson, Jamestown, Williston and Turtle Mountain all finished below .500 last season.
- Ryan Collingwood
Frank and versatile frontcourt players VanDusen and Kyle Gerding combined to average 35 points and 15 rebounds a year ago and the three returning starters will be asked to shoulder even more of the load.
Senior Caleb Albertson will start at point for the Magicians, who'll be looking to push the tempo but has the means to score in half-court sets.
"There's a lot of experience, so people know what they're doing," said VanDusen, a 6-foot-4 forward. "We're more run-and-gun style, so we have a little more freedom."
Junior Colter Hustad, a 6-5 post, will also bring length inside. With returning senior Dylan Jechort sidelined after dislocating his ankle during the first week of practice, Hustad and forward Jesse Andrist's roles could grow.
Six-foot gunner Brian Bloms is another guard who can fill it up for the Magicians, whose primary outside threat is Frank, a 41 percent shooter from 3-point range.
Winczewski has been impressed with the progress of sophomores Dakota Halvorson and Noah Bosh and believes the underclassmen could also vie for minutes.
"I like our athleticism and I like our ability to shoot," Winczewski said. "We're going to have more size than the majority of our league, but we're going to have to put it all together if we want to do well."
Last season Minot fielded one of the youngest teams in a senior-loaded Class A that also featured depth. The Magicians believe they have that luxury now.
"We should have one of the more deeper teams in the state," VanDusen said.
Minot opens its season against Fargo North at 4 p.m. Saturday at Magic City Campus.