New-look Lakers boys’ basketball ready for next chapter

Under new leadership, a youthful Des Lacs-Burlington boys’ basketball team finds itself with the opportunity to re-invent its identity.

When the team takes the floor for its Dec. 10 season- and home-opener against Stanley High School, the Lakers will begin anew with head coach Christopher Brown’s first game at the helm and a roster bereft of senior presence.

Brown joins the program at Des Lacs-Burlington on the heels of eight seasons leading the Lewis & Clark Berthold Bombers and was thrown into the deep end almost immediately with the challenge of overcoming the loss of two key Lakers contributors a year ago, both now in their junior seasons.

“We have gone through a little bit of adversity already,” Brown said. “Will Mayo ended up transferring to Surrey, and then we had Carson Yale, he is out with an injury this season. He got hurt in football and (will be) probably out for the whole year.”

The two subtractions from the program this season also lopped off a combined 13 feet from the squad’s on-court existence, Brown noted, and a now-shorter team nine players deep has been toiling to re-work its in-game strategy to better match the remaining players on the floor.

“With losing a lot of our height, we’ve adapted,” the first-year Lakers head coach added. “We’re going to try to play fast and really lean on our defense, throw a little pressure, and then just work on taking good shots and make the other team play defense as well. Try not to turn the ball over a whole lot, take care of it and play fundamental basketball.”

Brown will look to his remaining three juniors, Rylan Olson, Jaylin Ross and Brenden Hedges, and a handful of standout underclassmen to step up in the absences of Yale and Mayo and lead the team back to the Region 6 tournament for the first time since the 2019 season.

Olson is an athletic 6’3″ guard who is most valuable on the defensive end of the floor, Brown said, due to his strong rebounding potential, and possesses the ability to efficiently get to the rim and hit an outside shot in a pinch.

Sophomore Ty Hughes makes up for what he lacks in his 5’11” stature with craftiness in the paint and around the rim. He “plays with his guts,” Brown said, and exemplifies a team-first attitude in doing whatever is asked of him.

Paxton Ystaas returns to the court following a football season during which he led the Lakers to a berth in the 11B state quarterfinals as the team’s starting quarterback, a fact Brown hopes will aid the sophomore on the hardwood this winter.

“I’m hoping that success breeds success and confidence,” Brown said of Ystaas. “I kind of see him carrying himself with a little more confidence as well. He’s a smart basketball player, gets everyone in the right spot when we need to, and doesn’t make many mistakes.”

Olson, Ystaas, Hughes and the rest of the team’s positive contributions will be vital for a Des Lacs-Burlington group hoping to remain competitive in a demanding District 12 and Region 6, a prospect the squad knows will be a nightly “dogfight.”

The relative youth of the team excites Brown as the new campaign approaches, as the opportunity to build a new culture and new tradition will present itself throughout the next few months while the team looks to inch back toward contention for a state tournament berth.

“Just like with any team I coach, I’m excited to see not only growth on but off the court into great human beings,” he said. “And just excited to compete. It’s fun to see how those kids respond and rise to the challenge.”


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