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Minot High basketball looks for another strong run in ‘22

As the defending WDA regular season and tournament champions look to take the court Tuesday in Williston, the Minot High boys basketball team is hungry to embark on another successful campaign this winter.

Minot ended the 2020-21 season with an overall mark of 23-2 and placed second in the Class A State Tournament following a 65-60 defeat at the hands of West Fargo in the championship round. At the conclusion of the season, Magicians head coach Dean Winczewski was named the WDA Coach of the Year.

Heading into the new season, Winczewski says he feels good about what he has seen in training camp from the Magi thus far.

“I really like our attitude and our effort level so far,” Winczewski tells The Minot Daily News. “Being that it is so early, it’s hard to tell what the talent level of our team is, but I think we are going to be able to compete with anybody as long as we do the little things correctly.”

When asked to evaluate the rest of the teams in the WDA, Winczewski does not view his club as the distinguished favorite in the conference. Instead, he sees a very balanced field with a host of teams ready to contend with the Magi.

“There are going to be teams out there with more experience than us, and there won’t be any easy games in our league. The main goal is to continue to grow as a team and develop into a club that nobody wants to play,” the Minot coach adds.

One of the biggest questions facing Minot this year is finding a way to replace the production of 2021 graduate Deonte’ Martinez, who committed to Bismarck State during the offseason. In his final season with the Magi, Martinez led Minot in points per game (21.6), assists per game (3.9), steals per game (1.9) and free throw percentage (76 percent). In response, coach Winczewski stresses the importance of playing a team-oriented game rather than relying on a single player to duplicate the production of Minot’s former point guard.

“It would be great to have more kids like Deonte’ because you don’t just replace players like that,” Winczewski states. “We have a group of kids that have skills and abilities unique to them and coaching is all about finding a way to help those players maximize those talents. I think our kids understand the team concept and that the name on the front of the jersey is far more important than the name on the back of the jersey.”

This year’s Minot High squad features a total of three seniors. Among them, six-foot-three guard Eric Wentz played a key role last year with a 14.6 points per game average, tied for second on the team. Winczewski believes Wentz has improved his overall physical strength, as well as his shooting ability in the offseason. As a result, the Minot basketball mentor envisions an expanded role for Wentz on this year’s club.

“I think he will have opportunities to become even more of a playmaker than he was last year. Eric will definitely be relied upon to make good decisions as a facilitator for our team,” Winczewski continues.

Another key returning player is six-foot-four junior Darik Dissette. Like Wentz, Dissette posted a 14.6 points per game average a year ago for the Magi. Defensively, Dissette recorded 30 steals which was second on the team and also blocked a club-best 27 shots. Junior guards Morgan Nygaard and Jaeger Gunville, as well as senior forward Owen Iverson also figure to have expanded roles on this year’s Magicians team.

As far as their first game on Tuesday is concerned, Winczewski and the Magi will face a Williston Coyotes team that finished last year with a 2-19 overall mark. Despite Williston’s recent struggles, Winczewski believes his team will have to match the Coyotes’ high intensity with plenty energy of their own in order to come away with a victory on the road.

“They have a ton of experienced players returning and I know coach (Daved) Lundeen is very excited about his junior class in particular. We will have to guard the ball and rebound consistently. If we can do those two things well, I think we will be successful,” Winczewski says.

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