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Boys Basketball: Getting healthy, getting ready

Red Wing boys basketball head coach Doug Toivonen talks with his players during practice Monday at Red Wing High School. The Wingers open the season Friday at home against Faribault.1 / 2
Red Wing sophomore Ty Buck posts up during practice on Monday. Buck returns after averaging 9.3 points per game in 2011-12.2 / 2

Red Wing boys basketball coach Doug Toivonen thought he had several players last season who were capable of carrying the Wingers' offense. The problem: injuries took their toll.

Republican Eagle All-Area Player of the Year Joel Newman kept Red Wing afloat, averaging 17.9 points per game and shooting 46.4 percent from the field. But the Wingers struggled to find a second scorer as the rest of the team shot 38.8 percent.

"We had a couple kids that were capable last year in Ty Buck and Ryan Boldt, but each one of them were injured during the year so we were never able to get that kind of flow that we needed to where we had all five guys healthy," Toivonen said.

Looking to improve from an 11-16 mark in 2011-12, Red Wing hopes its mix of athletic outside shooters can bring on better things in 2012-13. The Wingers open the season Friday against Faribault as part of a two-day, four-team tournament.

"We got a lot of hard-working guys who know each other pretty well," said Boldt, who averaged 8.9 points per game last season. "We got a little bit of experience coming back but there are a lot of new guys who need to get used to the speed of varsity."

Injuries have already stricken Red Wing early on, as Isaac Toivonen will miss time with a shoulder injury suffered during football season. Isaac is the Wingers' top returning scorer after averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2011-12.

"He's getting better each week, that's the good news," said Doug Toivonen, Isaac's father. "One of the timeframes the physical therapist said is right around Christmas. ... If he's able to come back and play like he did last year, he grew a couple inches from last year, I think he's going to add a lot."

While their top returning scorer is out, it hasn't stopped the Wingers from making strides in preparation for Faribault.

"I think we've all picked up the intensity, especially in practice," senior guard Luke Bryant said. "We feel pretty good and we've been working on a lot of new things."

Bryant, along with junior forward Jon Sevlie, has been two of the players Doug Toivonen has seen make an impact in Isaac Toivonen's absence.

"Jon played some for us last season and he's had a good start so far," Doug Toivonen said. "I'm real happy with Luke. He was probably an eighth or ninth guy last year who's had a real great start to the season, and we're really happy with the leadership he's shown."

More known for their ability on the baseball diamond, Boldt and Buck could big bring thins as they start the season healthy. Buck, a sophomore, was third on the Wingers' list last season with 9.3 points per game.

Recovered from a broken fibula, Boldt said he has no reservations getting back on the court.

"I just got to stay healthy and pick my spots on driving the lane and when to pull back," Boldt said. "Just trying to stay healthy is the big thing."

With the bulk of its players in the 6-foot-3 range, Red Wing finds itself at a size disadvantage again this season, putting the emphasis back on the outside shot. The key for the Wingers is working the inside-out game and finding the quality shot.

"We've done a better job (in practice) of being patient instead of shooting the three right away," Bryant said.

Doug Toivonen added, "Three-pointers are great when they go in, but you can't live and die by the three. We do have a lot of kids that shoot the three well, but we have to be selective on when we do that."

It may take a little patience, but Doug Toivonen is optimistic about what the Wingers can do this season.

"We've seen a lot of really good things and I think the kids are real excited about the year," he said. "I don't know if we'll be good right away, but as long as we play together as the season goes on, we'll keep getting better and better."

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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