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Pirates have the players to make a deep run

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

SUAMICO – The Bay Port Pirates boys’ basketball team doesn’t rebuild – they simply reload.

Using that same philosophy, the Pirates return plenty of talent from a team that finished 15-7 during the 2020-21 COVID-19 season.

“We always seem to have enough bodies and athletes to be competitive every year,” Bay Port Head Coach Nate Rykal said. “You always worry about what you’ve lost, but then you look at your roster and know you’ll be okay. It’s an advantage to having a large school with good athletes and interest at the lower level. The guys who didn’t play as much during the previous year are one year older and have seen their bodies mature.”

The Pirates lost three solid scorers in Gunnar DeCleene (13.7 points per game), Isiah Harris (10.1) and Brock Freeman (6.8) to graduation.

“Those guys scored at a good clip and will be hard to replace,” Rykal said. “But, we have lots of guys who didn’t get lots of playing time last year because they were behind our seniors. This year, I’m confident they’ll step up their games.”

Rykal said he’s “very excited for this season.”

“We have a few guys who work solely on the game of basketball,” he said. “It’s fun when we have guys like that. I’m all for having my athletes playing multiple sports – and many do – but it’s nice to have a few guys who focus only on basketball. If you’re going to be a great team, you have to have a team made up of guys like that and other athletes who fill in.”

Rykal mentioned senior Nate Forystek, a North Dakota State University football commit, who averaged 13.5 points per game last season.

“(Forystek) has the potential to be even better this year, if he does things the right way,” Rykal said.

Juniors AJ Lieuwen (10.5 points per game) and Vince Vandervest (5.5) will also see increased minutes this season.

Rykal said the Fox River Classic Conference has traditionally been a “very difficult league, and this year will be no different.”

“De Pere will be exceptional, and rightfully so,” he said. “They have most everybody returning. It’s exciting to have such a good team in the league. Ashwaubenon and Notre Dame Academy will also be good – right there with us. I’m looking forward to the challenges. If we can do well in our league, I like our chances to go deep into the playoffs and maybe make it to state.”

Rykal said last year was tough for his Pirates and dealing with the restrictions of COVID-19.

“It’s so nice to be somewhat back to normal,” he said. “Our coaching staff is back, the way I’m used to having it. Last year, if you agreed with the restrictions or not, it was tough. Instead of worrying only about basketball, there were so many other distractions – keeping your distance and looking to see if the kids had their masks on properly. It was frustrating because we couldn’t just think about basketball – we had to think about so many other things.”

To read the preview for the Bay Port girls, CLICK HERE.

2021-22 Bay Port boys’ basketball regular-season schedule

12/10 – @ Sheboygan North

12/14 – @ Manitowoc Lincoln

12/17 – Ashwaubenon

12/21 – Appleton East

12/23 – Fond du Lac

1/4 – De Pere

1/7 – @ Notre Dame Academy

1/11 – Green Bay Southwest

1/14 – @ Pulaski

1/15 – @ West De Pere – 2 p.m.

1/18 – @ Green Bay Preble

1/21 – @ Sheboygan South

1/25 – Sheboygan North

1/28 – @ Ashwaubenon

2/1 – Manitowoc Lincoln

2/4 – Notre Dame Academy

2/8 – @ De Pere

2/11 – Pulaski

2/12 – @ Eau Claire North

2/15 – @ Green Bay Southwest

2/18 – Green Bay Preble

2/24 – Sheboygan South

Sports editor’s note: All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

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