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Men’s Basketball: After a year off, CLC men’s basketball is ready for 2021-22

The 2021-22 Central Lakes College Men's Basketball Preview

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Central Lakes College basketball coach Jim Russell coaches his team Monday, Nov. 8., 2021, at the college. Russell is entering his 24th year of coaching basketball at CLC. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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After taking the 2020-21 season off, Central Lakes College men’s basketball is back for the 2021-22 season.

Jim Russell enters his 24th season as the head coach of the Raiders. He said this year features all new players, with only two sophomores and no holdovers from the 2019-20 season.

“It’s been challenging,” Russell said. “I’ve noticed I keep going back to my notes. Back to when I was just starting this program and I keep going back to my drills every day and repeating it and repeating it. We are not as advanced as we would be in the past for our first game, so we are still kind of working on the basic understanding of what Central Lakes College basketball is about and what Coach Russell is about. They are learning from me and I’m learning from them.”

TJ Kornbaum from Little Falls is listed as a returning player, but did not see action in 2019-20. He also suffered an injury in preseason practice and Russell said it is undetermined when he will return.

The last season the Raiders were in action they went 16-0 in MCAC Northern Division play and 24-5 overall. Eventually, CLC was bounced in the Region 13 Semifinals by Rochester CTC.

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“I think this year is going to be an interesting year,” Russell said. “The reason I say that is because I saw it on the football field and our squad. We have a lot of Minnesota kids on our roster. Where a lot of other teams have a lot of out-of-state kids. So I think there are going to be some pretty darn good athletes in the league.”

Russell said he’s excited for the upcoming season and missed coaching last season.

“I’m very thankful that the administration is allowing us to have a season,” he said. “I’m thankful that these kids are here and that we can have a season. It’s a great opportunity and it’s great to get back on the court.”

In the backcourt, freshmen Jalen Dearring and Josh Lewis are two players with college basketball experience who Russell is excited about.

Dearring played last season at Williston State in North Dakota and started 12 games for the Tetons. He averaged 8.7 points per game in 18 games and shot 42.9% (27-63) from 3-point. He also registered 44 assists to 17 turnovers which were good enough for a 2.6 assist to turnover ratio.

Lewis played last year at Bryant and Stratton College in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He played in 14 games for the Bobcats including two starts. He averaged 1.6 points per game and shot 38% from the field.

Both Dearring and Lewis still have two years of eligibility at CLC.

“Those two guys got a chance to play a little bit so they understand the physicality and quickness of the game,” Russell said. “So that has helped with both of those guys.”

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Quamar Gresham, who is a freshman from St. Cloud Apollo, is another guard Russell likes.

“He’s done very well for us and is very athletic,” he said. “He makes everyone play downhill, so he has huge potential and has really stepped it up and has taken one of those spots in the backcourt.”

On the wing, Russell said his Raiders have decent size in their forwards.

Derek Aeilts is an Albuquerque, New Mexico native and stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 220 pounds as a freshman.

“He’s a left-handed kid who is a little older,” Russell said. “He will give us a lot of scoring power. He shoots the ball very well and moves very well for a big guy.”

Another forward Russell mentioned is Rodney Oliver. The 6-6, 210-pound freshman is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“He’s also a little older,” Russell said. “He’s a pretty athletic kid and strong. He’ll help us out.”

David Felix from Atlanta, Georgia, stands 6-6, 210.

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“He gives us a little beef inside,” Russell said. “And some of his athletic ability will be good.”

Zaa Buffalo from Duluth East High School is a forward Russell is also excited about.

“(Duluth East) went to state last year and he was one of the key guys that brought them to state,” Russell said. “He will probably be doing the same thing for us. He plays his role really well. He handles the ball. He passes the ball really well and he shoots the ball really well. So he does a little bit of everything for us and has a great basketball IQ. He was coached in high school by a McDonald (Rhett McDonald) and that name is a big name in the state for basketball. So he’s learned how to play the game in the right way.”

Don’t expect to see the Raiders playing with a traditional big. In 2019-20, Tyree’on Johnson was the leading scorer for the Raiders at 17.1 points per game and played mostly inside for Russell.

“We really don’t have a big guy,” Russell said. “We don’t have anybody that is going to dominate inside. We are going to mainly be outside the perimeter and be cutting and moving inside-outside. Rodney Oliver and David Felix will both be guys that will take on that role that Tyree’on did.”

An under-the-radar player Russell likes is Aitkin native Hunter Nissen. The freshman came to practice late because he played football for CLC. Russell likes the energy he’s bought to practice since joining the team.

“Hunter has been a big surprise,” Russell said. “He shoots the ball very well. But his work ethic is unbelievable. He’s definitely a guy who is not afraid of physicality because he played linebacker on the football team, so we are looking for him to help us out.”

Carrson Jones from Alexandria and Traveon Jones from Fort Wayne, Indiana, are two other bench players Russell likes.

“Carrson is a gritty type of player who isn’t afraid to get his nose into areas that are tough areas especially for a little guy,” Russell said. “Treveon is a guy who I recruited because he was more of an energy guy. He’s always rebounding and running the lane and cutting to the basket. He does all the little things that kids can’t understand or don’t do.”

Nothing has changed in Russell’s philosophy. He still wants to press full court and play an up-tempo style in 2021-22.

“We are getting better at getting up and down the floor,” Russell said. “Once we understand the defensive concept of what we are trying to do. We will also be better at running the floor as well. Right now, we are trying to get them to understand the level of defense and the physicality and defense and the willingness to help the concept. Kids nowadays worry so much about the ball and how to guard the man with the ball instead of working on how to play better defense as a team.”

With a new roster, expect Russell to play 11 guys. He thinks he has the depth to do so.

“They are all learning from me for the first time, so I have to continue to try to figure out their game and how to be consistent in playing their role,” Russell said. “So from the beginning of the year to Christmas, we will probably go pretty deep.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

2021-22 Raider Men’s Basketball

Head coach: Jim Russell, 24th season

Career record: 468-184

Assistant coaches: Brandon Bell, George Washington II, Ben Aeilts

2019-20 record: 16-0 Northern Division, 24-5 overall, MCAC state/Region 13 semifinals

Returning players: TJ Kornbaum

Schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 10, hosts Leech Lake Tribal College 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 13, hosts Dakota County Technical College 3 p.m.

Nov. 18, at Minnesota State Community and Technical College 7 p.m.

Nov. 20, hosts Ridgewater College 3 p.m.

Nov. 24, at St. Cloud Technical and Community College 7 p.m.

Nov. 27, plays Western Technical College at Anoka-Ramsey 2 p.m.

Nov. 28, at Anoka-Ramsey Community College 4 p.m.

Dec. 3, at Riverland Community College 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 4, at Anoka-Ramsey Community College 3 p.m.

Dec. 10, hosts Gogebic Community College 7 p.m.

Dec. 11, hosts St. Cloud Technical Community College 3 p.m.

Dec. 17, hosts Minnesota State Community and Technical College 8 p.m.

Dec. 18, hosts Riverland Community College 6 p.m.

Jan. 5, hosts Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College 7 p.m.

Jan. 8, hosts Hibbing Community College 3 p.m.

Jan. 12, hosts Northland Community and Technical College 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 15, at Rainy River Community College 3 p.m.

Jan. 19, at Mesabi Range CTC 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 22, at Itasca Community College 3 p.m.

Jan. 26, hosts Vermilion Community College 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 29, at Hibbing Community College 3 p.m.

Feb. 2, at Northland Community and Technical College 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 5, hosts Itasca Community College 3 p.m.

Feb. 9, at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College 7 p.m.

Feb. 12, hosts Mesabi Range CTC 3 p.m.

Feb. 16, at Vermilion Community College 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 19, hosts Rainy River Community College 3 p.m.

Roster

Sophomore: TJ Kornbaum, Isaiah Williams

Freshman: Carrson Jones, Hunter Nissen, Jalen Dearring, Josh Lewis, Adrian Mogaka, Quamar Gresham, CJ Davenport, Traveon Jones, Evan Hoy, Zaa Buffalo, Derek Aeilts, Rodney Oliver, David Felix

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