Three tips: what Four Winds/Minnewaukan BBB must do to succeed this season

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FORT TOTTEN/MINNEWAUKAN – When a bad year for the Four Winds/Minnewaukan Boys Basketball team is getting 15 wins, you know the program is in a very, very good spot. The team’s position in the region hierarchy looks even brighter once you realize they have failed to crack the 20-win mark only once, dating back to the 2013-14 season (The Indians went 15-9 during the 2017-18 season). 

A 24-3 record during the 2020-21 season could not accurately depict how fun Four Winds/Minnewaukan had it. While they eventually succumbed to the Kindred Vikings in the Class B State Tournament on Mar. 19, they had an arsenal of weapons. The notable star came in their tower of a big in Bronson Walter, a 1,000-point club member (among other accomplishments). The offense revolved around Walters, and why would it not? He was a 6’10” inside presence who could penetrate the paint and crowd the glass at will. 

However, a new season brings a different look for the Indians as Walters and seven other players depart (graduation). It will now be up to 2020-21 District 7 and Region 4 Coach of the Year Rick Smith to formulate a new winning strategy. Here are three tips for the Indians as they begin their season. 

1. Jayden Yankton – time to take the next step 

The loss of Walters and Shaw will sting from a scoring perspective – both players averaged 13.8 and 13.3 points per game (PPG) last year, respectively. However, Yankton returns to the fold as a capable scorer in his own right. The 6’1” senior not only averaged 15.7 PPG last season but additionally shot 36% from beyond the arc (54-149). 

The adjustment in offensive style (more on that below) will be one of many storylines through the early portion of the season in more ways than one. Another storyline will be how Yankton adjusts to the newfound leadership role.

“This year, these are his guys now, so he [Yankton] is going to have to be patient because he doesn’t have a Bronson Walter or Shaw there anymore to lean on,” Four Winds/Minnewaukan head coach Rick Smith said. “He is going to be the guy, and leadership is very crucial for him. Hopefully, he can step up to that role, not only being our leading scorer, but he is going to have to be the facilitator at times. He is going to have to be the calming influence at times. He is going to have to be a lot of things, so it is going to be new for him also, so hopefully, he is ready to step up and take on that challenge.” 

2. Pass, push and play to the perimeter 

With Walter at the helm, the Indians had the liberty of slowing the pace down. This was by design as this kept Walter fresh and durable enough throughout the game’s duration. 

With more youth and no Walter, the Indians will need to utilize their size differently. 

“As much as we are known for a fast-paced group, we couldn’t forget about our big guy [Walter] in the middle last year,” Smith said. “We ran as much as we could, but we also had to revolve our offense around the big guy. This year, it is going to be five guys that can handle a basketball. It is going to be a little different than at least four guys that can score any place on the court, which is going to be different also because they can all shoot the basketball from inside out.”

A quicker pace on the offensive end will also translate to the defensive side, where the Indians will look to mix up man-to-man and zone schemes. 

“We are basically a man-to-man oriented defensive team, but that will give us the opportunity to switch some things around with our length,” Smith said. “Maybe some zones and zone presses, and because with our length and athleticism, we can cover a lot of ground which makes up for the big guy in the middle.” 

3. Give it time 

If you wish to derail a team, don’t push it. Instead, rush it. Patience will be the Indians’ x-factor through the early portion of the season. In other words, do not speed up the process more than it should. 

The talent, size and capabilities are there. Now, it is about seasoning all of the ingredients properly.