North, Tartan basketball begin season with great expectations

There are two local high school basketball teams that will look to their upperclassmen to help stay relevant throughout the year and for a shot at the state tournament. 

The Tartan boys basketball team will have a strong core of experienced seniors to rely on. North has only three seniors on its roster, but will have plenty of juniors to help lead the way this season. 

 

High caliber players

Tartan will have Idaho State-commit Antwan Kimmons to lead the Titans while on the floor. Tartan’s head coach Mark Klingsporn compared him to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook of the NBA.

“He has another gear that most players just don’t have,” Klingsporn said. “He plays as hard as anyone, he leads by example and has high energy on the court.” 

North may have a future Division I-commit on its hands, according to Polars head coach Damian Johnson. Junior Brenden Lankford-Johnson will be the coach on the floor this season. 

Last season the 6-foot-3-inch guard played in 18 regular season games and averaged 6.2 points per game. In the two section tournament games last year he averaged 7.5 points. He was only one of four underclassmen on the varsity roster last year. 

Guard Dajuan Carter is one of the three seniors on the squad this season and coach Johnson said that he’s a fearless leader when on the court. He averaged almost 12 points per game in 12 games last season. 

“Dajuan is our emotional leader and players feed off of his energy,” the coach said.

 

High standards

Both teams understand the level of competition within the area and both understand that playing at a higher level will better each team and help them be prepared come tournament time.

“There’s a so many talented basketball programs over in this area, so the competition is always high,” Klingsporn said. 

“We look at it as an opportunity to learn and improve. We will find out where we compare to the best teams in the state and build for March, when it’s win or go home,” Johnson said of North’s early contests against top-ranked opponents. “The goal is to improve and be a consistent contender.”

North has a difficult schedule early in the season, with the Polars facing East Ridge and Cretin-Derham Hall. Both teams were in the section championship game and Cretin won the Class AAAA championship last season against Apple Valley, 79-78. 

North dropped its first game of the season to East Ridge on Dec. 5. The Polars lost 97-59 in the away game played in Woodbury. North faces Cretin on Dec. 11, at Cretin. 

Tartan won its first game of the season against Richfield 82-45 on Dec. 4 at home.

The Titans and Polars will tip off against each other on Jan. 11 at Tartan, and then at North on Feb. 12. Last season the teams split their regular-season series. 

 

–Lucas Ailport can be reached at roseville@lillienews.com.

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