ISHPEMING - John Tiziani has been unable to hold any practices for his Ishpeming High School boys varsity basketball team as of yet, but he's not complaining.
"All 11 of my players are on the football team," the head coach said, noting IHS will take on Pewamo-Westphalia at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the Superior Dome in a state Division 7 semifinal contest.
"I knew they were football players when we went to team camps this summer. I just love it. I love to have kids who play more than one sport.
Ishpeming’s Tyrus Millimaki converts a lay up against Gwinn during an MHSAA playoff game at Westwood High School last season. Below, All-U.P. (Journal file photo)
Class ABC second-teamer Alex Briones drives down the floor against Gwinn in the playoff game at Westwood. Millimaki will start at point guard again this season for the Hematites while Briones leads the team up front at forward. (Journal file photo)
"We're definitely a week behind right now and I hope Ishpeming wins the game in the Dome, even though we'd be two weeks behind," Tiziani added.
He said if the Hematites make the state finals, he'd likely open practice a couple or three days later and get a week of drills in before hosting Gladstone on Dec. 4 in the season-opener.
"It's a non-conference game, so it won't kill us. They already know what I do (coaching-wise) and what I want."
Dec. 4 - Gladstone, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 7 - At Westwood, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 10 - Norway, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 12 - Gwinn, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 18 - At Manistique, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 4 - L'Anse, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 9 - At Negaunee, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 11 - Westwood, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 15 - Marquette, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 17 - At Gwinn, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 - At Munising, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 - At Houghton, 7:20 p.m.
Feb. 1 - Iron Mountain, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 6 - Manistique, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 8 - Negaunee, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 12 - At Marquette, 7:20 p.m.
Feb. 18 - At Iron Mountain, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 20 - Munising, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 26 - At W. Iron County, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 28 - At Norway, 8 p.m.
Tiziani, who did not coach IHS last season due to health issues, has an experienced squad coming back from a 12-10 team that went 8-4 in Mid-Peninsula Conference play under Robert Salisbury.
In the backcourt will be three-year starter Tyrus Millimaki (5-6 junior) at point guard, Dylan Mackey (5-7 senior) and newcomer Bobby Zhulkie (5-9 junior).
"Millimaki handles the ball well and Zhulkie is court savvy and plays hard," Tiziani said.
Eric Dompierre (5-3 senior) will also be back at guard.
Up front, returnee Alex Briones (6-2 junior) will lead the way. An All-Upper Peninsula Class ABC Second Team pick in 2011-12, Briones averaged 19.4 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.
"He might be one of the best all-around athletes in the U.P.," Tiziani said. "He's a scorer, rebounds well and shoots well both inside and the 3."
Complementing Briones will be returnees Joey Lyle (6-1 senior), Cody Kugler (6-0 senior) and Cody Kulju (5-11 senior), as well as Tyler Windahl (6-0 junior), Mitch Laurin (6-1 junior) and Derek Decaire (6-0 junior) from the 2011-12 IHS junior varsity squad.
"Decaire is a great scorer and rebounder, and Laurin is a husky kid who I'm excited about," Tiziani said.
"We're very athletic as a team. Our athleticism matched bigger schools we played in summer camps. We beat Gaylord, Alpena and Traverse City Central and only lost to Petoskey."
Tiziani said Negaunee - with four starters returning - will be "the team to beat" this season. But he says the Hematites will be right in the mix.
"I'm very excited about the talent coming back," the coach said. "The only thing we're missing is someone who's 6-7. But I know all the kids will play hard for me."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.