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Knights return loaded lineup for boys’ basketball season

Aberdeen Christian boys basketball coach Matt Rohrbach, center, talks to some of his players during practice Tuesday at the Aberdeen Civic Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 12/6/2022

The head coach may be new, but the entire starting lineup and the expectations remain the same for the Aberdeen Christian boys’ basketball team this season.

Former Christian standout player Matt Rohrbach takes over the helm in his first-year as a head coach and inherits a squad that has veteran proven performers at every position.

“How many first-year coaches get a chance to command a group like this?” Rohrbach said. “They’re hard working. They bust their butt in practice, out of practice, just getting shots in. Definitely feel blessed to have this be my first opportunity.”

Rohrbach, the program’s all-time leading scorer, said it has felt a bit unique being the one in charge of practices so far this season.

“That first day when we were talking in the huddle, it felt pretty surreal,” Rohrbach said, “just never being on this side of it.”

The Knights, who have qualified for the past three state tournaments, feature a potent lineup with familiar names. Returning starters – all seniors – include Andrew Brennan, Malek Wieker, Jackson Isakson, Ethan Russell and Kaden Clark. Wieker was a first-team all-state selection and Russell a second-team pick last season.

Additional help comes in the form of senior Abe Holscher, along with Joey Johnson, Konnar Furman and Ellis Russell.

“We truly believe that we have nine players that could play varsity for most of the teams,” Rohrbach said. “We don’t know who’s night it is going to be. It might depend on matchups or who’s got the hot hand. We can play every type of game. We can play that quickness game. We can pound it inside, so that’s what really exciting. We don’t have to play one style.”

Rohrbach, who has worked with the majority of these players for the past six years during the summer months, said there is a good chemistry on the squad in addition to physical attributes.

“They’re all so coachable, too. You don’t have that haughtiness or that prideful, ‘I was a first-team all-stater’ or ‘I wasn’t and I’m upset,'” Rohrbach said. “They’re friends. They love each other and it just makes it so easy for me.”

Aberdeen Christian’s Malek Wieker, left, pushes the ball up the floor ahead of teammmates Ethan Russell, back left and Jackson Isakson, back center as Warner’s Hunter Cramer, right and Ashton Schuchhardt, far right, during a game last season at the Aberdeen Civic Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 12/14/2021

After a runner-up finish at state two years ago, the Knights finished seventh at state last year. That has only fueled their desire for this season.

“In some ways it almost makes it easier for me, because they come hungrier,” Rohrbach said. “You put in a little bit more work in the off season, maybe you lift a little bit more weights or you’re tougher on some of your teammates, because you know this is it. We’ve got six seniors and they want it now. There’s no next year.”

For sure the Knights, rated third in Class B in the preseason media poll, will have a target on their back and will get every opponent’s best effort each game.

It’s a position that the players relish, according to Rohrbach.

“We’re taking it a game at a time, a possession at a time, one practice at a time, because if we don’t get better every practice, every possession, every game, then we’re not going to be where we want to be at the end of the year,” Rohrbach said. “That expectation is great and all, and we love it and we cherish it, and we want everybody’s best, but when push comes to shove, we’re going to try to get better every single game.”

The Knights, who will play in numerous classics this season, open their campaign by hosting James Valley Christian on Saturday night at the Aberdeen Civic Arena.

While the current group of players have already recorded an impressive resume, they are not about to rest on their past accomplishments. Rohrbach is not about to let them, either.

“I need to be on top of my game,” Rohrbach said. “If I’m not the hardest worker in the gym, then the kids aren’t going to be working for me.”

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