Arcadia boys hoops program hopes for more wins despite little experience

It has only been one week of practices, but Arcadia High School boys basketball coach Ryan Sonnentag likes what he has seen from his team in that time.

The roster boasts varsity experience, but not much of it. Most of the players set to lead the Raiders in playing time this winter only played a handful of minutes here or a substitute there a season ago.

With Sonnentag and the Raiders set to open play next Tuesday, the coach acknowledged last week that the focus will be on developing as a team.

“It’s really cool to see them in practice competing because they know that they need to push each other. And if everybody gets just a little bit better each day in practice, they know that that is going to make the team better,” Sonnentag said.

Arcadia graduated four of its top five scorers from a year ago, with Connor Weltzien the lone returner this season for a team that ended with a 4-20 record and finished last in the Coulee Conference.

The six-foot-three senior averaged 6.5 points per game in 2021-22 and will play a big role in the offense at forward this year.

“He’s really improved his game. Really good driver, a good finisher around the rim,” Sonnentag said of Weltzien. “He’s become a lot more physical since last year and also improved his outside jump shot.”

Helping Weltzien will be junior point guard Prestin Scow, who saw time off the bench last season and is the team’s top shooter, Sonnentag said. Maverick Drazkowski is a big player who dominated the JV level and has added aggression under the rim. Devon Baier returns for the team as well and will bring a strong defensive presence and reliable passing.

The team will run two forwards with three guards this year as opposed to having a traditional center position in order to balance the roster and get more time in open court.

Last year there were a lot of times when players tried to do too much on their own and didn’t focus on team basketball, Sonnentag said, but this year he thinks the offense should improve with more of a team approach.

“We’re gonna be a lot better offensively this year just because I have a very good group that plays together.”

The Coulee looks strong again with preseason top 10 state-ranked teams in West Salem and Luther. There will be a tough nonconference schedule for Arcadia, too, as they play some of the best area teams such as Tomah, Aquinas, Regis and Durand.

“You go up and down our conference, there’s dynamic scorers and really solid teams. Every night in the Coulee is a challenge, but I like where are boys are at,” Sonnentag said.

Rebounding and physicality is one concern the team may have to overcome, but a benefit of playing such a strong schedule is that it may force the team to improve quickly.

Arcadia wants to be competitive, and they don’t plan to roll over and let teams beat them. They hope to fight to be in the middle of the conference standings, according to Sonnentag.

“We’ve always talked about there’s a difference between losing and getting beat. We don’t want to beat ourselves, we want to come out every night and give our utmost effort.”

“We’re excited to get the season kicked off, and we’re excited to compete.”

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