FASTBREAK: New coach takes over motivated Oakes
Rod Kramer coached Sargent Central boys basketball for 10 years, but that doesn't mean he won't be experiencing a few butterflies this winter while heading up a varsity program for the first time since 2013.
Kramer's new job teaching first grade in Oakes also had "head boys basketball coach" written into the contract. The former Litchville-Marion-Montpelier all-state basketball player replaces former coach Nolen Peterson, who directed the Tornadoes to a 16-9 record and a third-place finish at the Region 3 tournament in Jamestown last March.
But that appeared to be only the beginning. Oakes is returning all its meaningful talent -- 11 letter winners all told -- and are favored by some to represent Region 3 at this year's state Class B tournament scheduled for March 18-20 in Minot.
"To be honest, I've never had this kinda talent to come (into a season with)," Kramer said. "So I'm a little bit nervous myself, but I'm excited at the same time."
Oakes will arguably be taking the court a little disgruntled as well, having to end its 11-man football season by forfeiting a Class A quarterfinal playoff game to eventual state champion Langdon/Edmore/Munich due to COVID-19 in October. The Tornadoes were 7-1 and ranked fourth in the state.
First-team all-state senior quarterback Garret Meehl (16.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 109 assists), first-team all-state senior defensive lineman Ashton Biesterfeld (9.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and second-team all-state junior linebacker David Schmitz (2.9 ppg, 1.2 rpg) are probably looking forward to rubbing shoulders on the hardcourt. They'll be joined by seniors Steele Hansen (18.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg), Dalton Schmit (5.2 ppg) and the 6-4 Alex Muggli (3.2 ppg, 2 rpg).
The athletic Tornadoes possess terrific team speed, something Kramer is well aware of even with all the limitations COVID-19 has presented in acquainting himself with his new team.
"It's a senior-led team, that's for sure, and the speed of the team is going to be amazing," Kramer said. "Making good decisions while fast-breaking, that's the key. But I think we can compete with anybody, really.
"I can tell you they're hungry right now, that's for sure."
Fun fact: Kramer ended his high school career at LMM by falling to Oakes in the fifth-place game of the 1995 state Class B tournament. That was the last game Oakes has played at the state B.
Kramer most recently instructed junior high boys basketball under LaMoure/Litchville-Marion coach Darren Thielges, one of many formidable programs Kramer's Tornadoes will be up against this winter.
"It's gonna be a race in regions, I'll tell ya that," Kramer said. "Even to get out of districts might be tough. There's always that surprise team that shows up.
"One bad game and your season's over. You gotta coach up to that point and get them to play their best ball come tournament time."