De Pere Redbirds preseason-ranked No. 1
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – Every year, writer/editor Mark Miller releases Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook, which dives into the season ahead for high school boys’ basketball in the state.
Miller releases preseason top-10 rankings for every division.
To no one’s surprise, De Pere made the list in Division 1.
But where the Redbirds fell in the rankings might have surprised a few southern Wisconsin hoops followers.
De Pere was ranked No. 1 following a solid 2020-21 campaign where it fell short of state by one game.
It returns a ton of talent and depth along with two Division I recruits.
Led by junior John Kinziger, the Redbirds could be in store for a storybook season.
“It puts more pressure on our team, which is good because it makes you want to hold that number 1,” Kinziger said. “To us, it doesn’t mean much, except the fact we have to hold it now.”
De Pere Head Coach Brian Winchester, in his 15th season, joked that getting top ranking means nothing.
“We’ve barely talked about it,” he said. “Somebody thought highly of you, and they paid you a nice compliment, but outside of that, it doesn’t mean anything in terms of our season. It’s a nice compliment, but that’s it.”
The Redbird players are a close-knit group who are competitive with high basketball IQs, said Winchester.
“The chemistry on this team is amazing,” Kinziger said. “All of us are great friends outside of the game, so we’re able to talk about different situations, about practice and what coach is looking for.
De Pere is coming off a 22-4 season where it lost at River Falls 53-52 in a sectional final.
Two starters graduated from that team: Will Dehn (11.2 points per game) and Maddax Shinners (7.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists).
The Redbirds will also be without another starter for the season, Max Donaldson (8.3 points), who tore his ACL during the offseason.
Kinziger was named first-team Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) for the second straight year and led his team in scoring at 22.5 points per game as a sophomore.
The point guard knocked down 73 3-pointers and also averaged 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals in each contest.
Kinziger said he became a better player over the summer, upping his game in several areas.
“My ball-handling improved, and I’ve been working on more combo moves, defense and getting quicker and stronger,” he said.
The other starter back is second-team all-conference guard Jack Jorgensen.
As a junior, he was third on the team in scoring at 10.8 points per game.
He led the team in rebounding (5.3) and was second in assists (2.7).
“(Jorgensen) is going to be more offensively aggressive this year,” Winchester said. “Like (Kinziger), he’s an efficient scorer. He’ll not necessarily have to have a large volume of shots to be productive for us offensively, but his shot numbers will probably go up.”
Junior Gabe Herman came off the bench last year and chipped in 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Known as the team’s primary defensive stopper, he slides into the starting lineup and will be more of an offensive threat this season.
Winchester said he talked to Herman about him “probably being guarded by a lesser defender from many teams.”
“Teams are going to pay attention to (Kinziger), Will Hornseth and Jorgensen,” he said.
De Pere averaged 70.8 points per game a season ago, but what it didn’t have in that high-potent offense was a true post player.
Cue Will Hornseth.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore, who’s already receiving Division I offers, is strong in the post, but can also shoot from the outside and handle the ball well.
“He’s talented, but we’re going to make sure we put him in positions to be successful,” Winchester said. “We’re excited about him like we’re excited about all our guys. We have lots of depth, and we’re looking for him to help us on both ends of the floor.”
Over the summer, Kinziger and Hornseth played together for the first time.
“The pick-and-roll between us is working well,” Kinziger said. “He knows I’m not going to be selfish, and he also isn’t going to be selfish. We’re going to give the ball to each other and make sure we move the ball and get the win.”
Winchester said his team is in a great position with all the talented players returning.
“In addition to everyone I’ve mentioned, we add some good pieces from our junior varsity team,” he said. “Zach Kinziger is a freshman coming in. We’ve got to bring this team together. Last year’s team gelled well toward the end of the year – this team has to do the same thing.”
Winchester’s fifth starter could be senior forward Cal Matzke.
He played 7.8 minutes per game but shot only 10 times in 2021-22.
De Pere’s depth off the bench could provide instant offense.
Besides Zach Kinziger, Noah Gehin, a junior, is a strong, physical player who should help on the inside.
Junior guard Hogan Demovsky provides the Redbirds with a reliable guard who can spell John Kinziger when he needs a breather.
Winchester said 6-foot-7 sophomore Ben Willingham will provide more length.
Juniors Grant Hohol, Ethan Ramos, Caleb Dietsche, Zach Kane and Trey Plos are all in the mix to get playing time this season.
Using a run-and-gun type of offense, Winchester said he’s expecting his guys to be aggressive on offense, move the ball and be unselfish.
“Hopefully, we’re fun to watch,” he said. “You’re going to see a team that gets after it.”
After not having a conference schedule last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FRCC should be highly competitive this year.
Most likely, De Pere will battle with Bay Port, Ashwaubenon and Notre Dame Academy for the top spot.
“Our goal conference-wise is to win it,” John Kinziger said. “We have a good chance of winning it this year, but we have to be able to come out, play hard, move the ball and play good defense. Going forward from conference, our goal is to make it to state. We have a good sectional, but I think we can push through that. I’m not trying to look too far forward but I’m excited.”
2021-22 De Pere boys’ basketball regular-season schedule
12/10 – Pulaski
12/14 – @ Green Bay Preble
12/17 – Manitowoc Lincoln
12/21 – Kimberly
12/28, 29 – Concordia University Tournament – TBD
1/4 – @ Bay Port
1/7 – Sheboygan South
1/11 – @ Notre Dame Academy
1/14 – @ Ashwaubenon
1/21 – Sheboygan North
1/22 – Escanaba – 6 p.m.
1/25 – @ Pulaski
1/28 – @ Manitowoc Lincoln
1/29 – @ Pewaukee
2/1 – Green Bay Preble
2/8 – Bay Port
2/11 – Ashwaubenon
2/15 – Notre Dame Academy – 6 p.m.
2/18 – @ Green Bay Southwest
2/24 – @ Sheboygan North
Sports editor’s note: All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.