GWINN - This is the year for the Gwinn boys basketball team to cash in on the experience its players have earned in the past.
But the best part is this isn't the only year the Modeltowners can make those withdrawals.
That's what GHS coach Darren Sinnaeve says.
"A lot of times you just have one good year, but with this group, I think we can be good for a couple years," he said. "That makes it more fun for everyone."
The coach's optimism stems from several things. One is the return of eight of the 10 players from last year's team, including All-Mid-Peninsula Conference Second Team pick Owen DeVooght, who is only a junior this season.
The second was a streak of five wins in Gwinn's final six regular-season games last year to boost the Modeltowners' final mark to 7-14 overall and 5-7 in the M-PC.
"We ran in nine or 10 kids every ballgame, so it kept our kids more involved in practice," Sinnaeve said. "And I think this year we'll be as well balanced as that offensively, with eight or nine kids who can score consistently.
"We have a lot of length and a lot of athletic ability. I've always been more of a half-court, patient offense guy, but now we're using a lot more motion sets, and we'll be working to score on the transition this season.
"We're looking to win the conference as much as Negaunee, Ishpeming and some other teams."
DeVooght makes the most of his 6-foot stature as a guard-forward.
"He's a workhorse," Sinnaeve said. "Owen's not blessed with a lot of height, but he's very strong and physical and he's able to get the ball to the hole."
That also gets him to the free-throw line, where he's turned a past liability into a big asset. In the midst of the last season's win streak, he made 28 free throws in consecutive games, 25 of them coming in the second half.
The returning point guard will be 6-2 junior Luke Sinnaeve, one of Gwinn's best defenders who often guarded the top players in the M-PC.
"He can handle the ball well and shoot, but he looks to pass it first," his father said.
At the other guard is 6-4 senior Derek Reetz, who Sinnaeve hopes can exploit defenders' weaknesses.
At a guard-forward spot is 6-4 junior Justin Nyquist, who will often be the team's No. 1 offensive threat.
And at center will be 6-2 junior Kylor Skinner, an energy player.
Among top reserves are 6-foot junior shooting guard Alex Morse, who can hit 3-pointers; 6-2 senior wing Mark Boettcher, a smooth, smart and calming influence who shoots well; and 6-1 sophomore center Justin Beauchamp, a high-energy, athletic player.
There's also 6-foot senior guard-forward Donald Hutchens, 5-8 junior guard Anthony Bodenus, 5-4 junior guard Justin Mottes and 6-foot senior forward Aapo Hakkinen, an exchange student from Finland.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.