Indee boys return experienced players, look to gain confidence

The Independence boys basketball team is coming of a tough season, but many of their players are returning and second-year coach Brett Brandenburg is hoping they can improve on their record.

“My expectations are that we gain confidence as a team throughout the season and learn how to win games as a team,” Brandenburg said. “We need to believe we can win games in basketball and not get down on ourselves.”

The Indees went 1-20 last season and 0-14 in Dairyland Conference play, but they were competitive in several games before struggling in crunch time. That experience should help as the Indees graduated just two players. 

Returning are the team’s top two scorers from last year Tyler Kingsbury (12.5 points per game) and Ben Pyka (11.3 PPG). They also led the team in rebounding as Pyka pulled down 7.6 per game and Kingsbury 5.1 and assists with Kingsbury averaging 2.7 and Pyka two per game. Both will be entering their fourth seasons as starters for the team. 

Brandenburg said he also expects junior Brandon Sylla and sophomore Nathan Pyka to make big jumps for the team this year. He said several of the other players should benefit from the experience last year and some younger players could step up. 

“It should be exciting to see them grow throughout the season and hopefully we can be the surprise of the conference this year,” Brandenburg said.

Another boost comes from the coaching staff where Steve Christiansen will be the junior varsity coach. Brandenburg said Chirstiansen coached at the junior high level previously. He played collegiately at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“(He) brings a ton of basketball knowledge to our group,” Brandenburg said. 

Brandenburg expects the DC-Small Division to be wide open. He said he assumes Alma/Pepin will have a solid team and that Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran “always finds a way to compete for the conference.” In all, he thinks the DC will be a good conference, but he expects his team to compete on a 

“We will compete as a team and play hard for each other. We expect to win games this year that people might count us out on,” Brandenburg said. “Our expectations are higher this year and we believe we can win and compete in many games on our schedule.”

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