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Men’s College Basketball: Raiders ready for postseason push finally

The Central Lakes College Raiders open the season on the road.

Cental Lakes College Athletics.
Little Falls native T.J. Kornbaum, right, guards a teammate during practice Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, at Central Lakes College.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — TJ Kornbaum is back.

The former Little Falls Flyer returns to the Central Lakes College Raiders roster after missing the 2020 season because of COVID-19 and the 2021 season while on a medical redshirt.

The 6-foot-6 guard is just one of two players returning to the Raiders, who finished 16-10 overall and 12-2 in the Northern Division, but missed the postseason because of an eligibility snafu.

“We had a couple of scrimmages and it’s good to have a couple of guys back in TJ Kornbaum and David Felix,” Raider head coach Jim Russell said. “Those two and Anthony (AJ) Burch are our captains. Those three are probably the hardest workers I’ve ever had. Anthony is a transfer. He’s coming in here a little older.“TJ hasn’t been in school, but now he’s back and he wants to give this another try. We’re just happy he’s back.”

David Felix played in 25 games last season and started 17. He averaged 7.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 51.4% from the field in 22.5 minutes per game.

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“He’s worked really hard. He’ll be one of our starters. He’ll make a big impact. He’s a huge presence inside for us.

“AJ will be our starting point guard. He’ll be a leader on the court for us and he’ll run most of the stuff we ask him to run. He’s very coachable and he’ll be able to do some scoring for us.”

Carrson Jones also returns. He played in 13 games last season. He averaged 4.0 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. He shot 42.2% from the field and 66.7% from the line.

“Carrson is going to give us energy,” Russell said. “He plays hard. Plays the game with his heart. He will give us a spark coming off the bench. He just gets after it.”

After that, it’s 11 new faces so finding an identity and a balance will be key to the Raiders' early success.

“It’s going to be tough right away,” Russell said. “The sooner we can come together the better we’ll be at the end. Right now, we feel like we’re doing pretty well. The kids are buying into the system and the leadership has really pushed that system and how to play.”

The majority of the freshmen are from St. Paul or Minneapolis, which includes Dallas Williams from North St. Paul High School, Drew White from Washington, Langston Binns from Tartan, Denzil Walker from Patrick Henry and David Hosea from Highland Park.

Broden Fleisher is a 6-foot-2 guard from Frazee while the remaining newcomers are from out of state.

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The Raiders’ roster is a little taller than in years past, too. Hosea is a 6-8 forward as is Michael Scott from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Joshua Polk is a 6-5 guard from College Park, Georgia, while Ike Ugonna is a 6-6 guard from Atlanta. White is also a 6-5 guard.

“We are a lot taller than the average team in the past,” Russell said. “Hopefully that will help defensively where we can be long and cover some space, but also the most important thing is probably rebounding. We want to rebound from every position and with our length hopefully, we can create that.”

Russell said a strength of this year’s team will be a balanced offensive attack. He said his team should be able to attack in the paint as well as the perimeter, but more important is the number of different player combinations he can attack defenses with.

“The biggest thing is our balance,” Russell said. “I can throw a lot of different lineups in there and a lot of different combinations in there and I feel we really don’t lose a beat. That part has been really good. I think the most important thing right now, and we’ll find out once we start playing games, is that we also feel like we’re already together. We’re playing together. We’re sharing the basketball. We’re teaching each other some accountability. All that is really good right now and we hope that continues throughout the year.”

The Raiders open at Dakota County Technical College 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 in Inver Grove Heights and will play an 11-game out-of-conference schedule before facing a Northern Divison schedule starting in January.

“There are three seasons,” Russell said. “There’s the preseason where we’re preparing the team how to play right. Then there is conference season and that’s when we need to play right and be at the top of our game. The postseason is all about the opportunity that we earned. We divide up three seasons and in each part of the season, we try to get better and better.

“For me, I’m excited to get back on track. I miss the big part of trying to get these guys to the postseason. I miss the challenge for me to get better and get these guys prepared for each game and most importantly preparing us for the postseason. That’s the biggest challenge of all. To be really honest with you, is coach Russell hungry? Yes. I have a lot of motivation behind a lot of things.”

Raider Men’s Basketball

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Cental Lakes College Athletics.
Jim Russell

Head coach: Jim Russell, 25th season

Career record: 484-194

Assistant coaches: George Washington II, Ben Aeilts, Malik Kelly, Darsean Woodson

2021-22 record: 12-2 Northern Division, 16-10 overall

Returning players: TJ Kornbaum, David Felix, Carrson Jones

Raiders roster

Sophomores: Carrson Jones (guard, Alexandria), Anthony Burch (guard, Annapolis, MD), TJ Kornbaum (forward, Little Falls), David Felix (forward, Atlanta)

Freshmen: Dallas Williams (guard, St. Paul), Drew White (guard, St. Paul), Langston Binis (guard, St. Paul), Denzil Walker (guard, Minneapolis), Joshua Polk (guard, College Park, GA), Davlon Jackson (forward, Houston), Broden Fleisher (guard, Frazee), David Hosea (forward, St. Paul), Ike Ugonna (guard, Atlanta), Michael Scott (forward, Fort Wayne, Ind.)

Raiders schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 9: at Dakota County Technical College 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 11: vs. St. Cloud Technical at Anoka-Ramsey 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 12: at Anoka-Ramsey 4 p.m.

Nov. 16: at Ridgewater 7 p.m.

Dec. 2: at Rochester Community and Technical 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 3: at Western Technical 3 p.m.

Dec. 9: vs. St. Cloud Technical 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10: vs. Minnesota State (Fergus Falls) 3 p.m.

Dec. 16: vs. Minnesota State (Fergus Falls) 8 p.m.

Dec. 17: vs. Riverland 6 p.m.

Dec. 31: vs. Ridgewater 4 p.m.

Jan. 6: at Hibbing 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 7: at Rainy River 3 p.m.

Jan. 11: vs. Fond du Lac 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 14: vs. Itasca 3 p.m.

Jan. 18: vs. Northland 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 21: at Mesabi Range 3 p.m.

Jan. 25: at Vermilion 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 28: at Itasca 3 p.m.

Feb. 3: vs. Hibbing 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 4: vs. Rainy River 3 p.m.Feb. 8: at Fond du Lac 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 11: at Northland 3 p.m.

Feb. 15: vs. Vermilion 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18: vs. Mesabi Range 3 p.m.

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