A new era in Nicolet boys basketball got off on the right foot when new coach Allan Hanson's youthful Knights won their debut, 54-45, over Slinger on Nov. 26.
"I was proud of the guys," Hanson said. "They played with a lot of energy and intensity. This is definitely encouraging. Slinger is a nice team with a strong guy in the middle, and they presented a lot of challenges for us."
Hanson, a former Tosa East basketball star and a veteran of the strong UW-Milwaukee Rob Jeter coaching tree, will be working with a 13-player roster this winter that is long on enthusiasm but short on experience. Longtime Knight coach Paul Hepp led a senior-dominated squad to a 12-12 mark in his 21st and final campaign last season.
Holdovers from that squad include 5-9 senior guard Dakari Williams, who is coming off a strong football campaign, and 6-4 senior forward Isaiah Glidden.
The pair will serve as co-captains this winter. Others who Hanson has been impressed with so far include 6-3 senior forward Jayden Hardy, 6-4 junior forward Jack Brahm and 6-8 freshman center Jamari Sibley.
Hanson will look to bring a clear philosophy over to the team.
"We're about where we thought we could be," he said. "We're looking to change the culture, change the habits, bring a big-time defensive attitude to the team."
Hanson said there are many players fighting for positions right now.
"I thought we played well against Slinger, and a big reason for that was our very young bench," he said. "Those kids really brought a defensive intensity in the second half for us."
Nicolet was up 22-14 at the break against Slinger as Williams hit a big 3-pointer at the buzzer to boost the lead. The second half remained a 4- to 6-point game throughout, Hanson said.
Hardy led the way with 19 points, and Sibley had 18.
The Knights have a chaotic schedule, taking on Hartford on Nov. 29 and Pewaukee on Nov. 30. They will visit defending North Shore Conference champion Germantown on Friday, Dec. 2.
"The guys are still all ears," Hanson said. "They've really been learning on the fly this first week and a half."