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Warriors Athlete of Week: Hoelz holding court for undefeated Warriors

Eli Hoelz dropped 24 points on Rocori last week.

Athlete Eli Hoelz
Brainerd Warrior Eli Hoelz guards teammate Cayden Brown during practice Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD -- Eli Hoelz said it’s been a breeze to find his offense.

Despite having returning seniors Nick Evanson and Johnny Pecarich alongside him, Hoelz has been an offensive spark for the 7-0 Brainerd Warriors boys’ basketball team.

“I think it’s been pretty easy because we obviously played a lot last year,” Hoelz said. “They’re two guys who are really easy and fun to play with. They reward me with the ball when I’m open and I find them when they’re open. I think all three of us click together pretty well.

“A lot of my offense is just driving and attacking and then just finishing at the rim. This year, a big thing for me is just having more confidence in my play and my shot, especially from deep. I think that’s developed a lot as well. I spent a lot of time in the gym shooting and then over the summer during open gyms.”

In Brainerd’s first seven games, Hoelz is averaging 18 points a game on 55% shooting from the field, 76% shooting from the line and 32% shooting from 3-point.

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Guys in the locker room really respect and listen to him.
Charlie Schoeck

He’s also adding 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

“The thing that first pops out for anybody that has watched him play is just the speed,” Warrior head coach Charlie Schoeck said. “We like to get in situations where we can get him in the open court with a head of steam. It’s hard to stay in front of most guys when they have a head of steam coming toward you, but Eli especially. Most guys will lose a little speed with that ball in their hands, but I don’t know if he does. I’d be hard-pressed to find anybody conference-wise or section-wise who has the speed that he has. So that’s one area we look to use him.

“But then also, he has shown this year that he can shoot the 3 as well. So getting in scenarios where we have somebody else handling the ball and driving and kicking to him, he’s able to hurt defenses out there, too.”

Schoeck said Hoelz’s dribble penetration and ability to get to the rim has opened up shots for Brainerd’s perimeter shooters as well. He said if teams want to double Hoelz while he drives to the hoop that leaves someone open around the 3-point arch.

As a team, Brainerd is averaging 75.1 points per game while shooting 49% from the field and 33% from 3-point. Seven different Warriors have drained a 3-pointer.

Hoelz helped Brainerd hang on to defeat the Rocori Spartans 77-65 Jan. 5. He tallied 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He added four rebounds, four assists and three steals to help Brainerd improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Central Lakes Conference.

“The Rocori game, Rocori came out in a box-and-1 because they wanted to take Johnny away so that opened things up for other players,” Hoelz said. “Nick was in foul trouble so I knew I had to be more aggressive and just find my shots so we could stay in the game.”

His 24 points matched his season-high. The junior guard tallied 24 points in a season-opening victory over Rogers.

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He hit 20 points in a four-point win over Bemidji. He’s reached double figures in every game for Brainerd.

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3 area girls basketball teams were in action

Aside from his offensive statistics, Hoelz prides himself on the little things like hustling and giving his all. He considers himself a glue piece for the team and will do whatever he can to get the win.

“Typically, Nick (Evanson) is going to take on the toughest wing assignment, but Eli we like to put him on the guy who is going to have the ball in his hands the majority of the time,” Schoeck said. “He’s been really good at just badgering guys and taking a little time off that clock and making them work to get into their offense. That quickness, too, we see that if a guy is able to get a step on him, he’s able to recover and get back in front of them.”

That quickness also allows Hoelz to stay out of foul trouble and stay in the game, which is another key to the Warriors’ success.

“I think the strength of my game is my speed and always trying to stay a step ahead of my opponent,” Hoelz said “If I’m on defense I’m always trying to make sure there’s no place for my opponent to go.

“I feel like I have the ability to guard the other team’s point guard even if they are quick. I’m able to stay out of foul trouble and just be a floor general when I’m out on the court is a big thing, I think.”

As a sophomore, he averaged 4.7 points on 47% shooting from the field. He added 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

“He’s a junior captain,” Schoeck said. “Guys in the locker room really respect and listen to him. He leads by example and he’s a tremendous kid to have on your team.”

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JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Eli Hoelz

Eli Hoelz
Eli Hoelz

Sport: Boys’ basketball

Position: Guard

Year: Junior

Age: 16

Height: 6-foot-1

Career highlight: Clinching the Central Lakes Conference title last year at St. Cloud Tech with the game-winning steal

Other sports: Football, baseball

Grade-point average: 3.98

Favorite class: Entrepreneurship

Favorite food: Ice cream

Favorite movie: “Top Gun: Maverick”

Favorite TV show: “Criminal Minds”

Favorite musician: Lil Baby

Favorite restaurant: Buffalo Wild Wings

Future plans: Major in some kind of business or finance and play basketball

Favorite athlete: Justin Jefferson

Parents: Nick and Rachel Hoelz

Other notable performances

Kade Stengrim, boys’ hockey, finished with four goals and an assist against Sauk Rapids.

Parker Tatge, boys’ swimming and diving, won two individual events and helped two relays to first-place finishes against St. Cloud Apollo.

Cayden Sumption, boys’ swimming and diving, won two individual events and helped two relays to first-place finishes against St. Cloud Apollo.

Mason Kuepers, boys’ swimming and diving, won two individual events and helped two relays to first-place finishes against St. Cloud Apollo.

Josie Harguth, gymnastics, won the all-around with a 34.425 and placed first on beam against Alexandria.

Cade Ostrowski, wrestling, finished the week 4-0 with two pins.

Shane Carlson, wrestling, finished the week 4-0.

Isaiah Jillson, wrestling, finished the week 4-0.

Johnny Pecarich, boys’ basketball, finished with 24 points against Rocori.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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