The Valentine Badgers open the basketball season with a Thursday, November 30 date with returning State Tournament opponent and Class C juggernaut O’Neill, led by standouts Justin Appleby and Alex Thramer, two of the best players they’ll face all season.

The Badgers, working to rebound from a 3-17 season are starting fresh under veteran coach Mark McLaughlin, and feature senior leaders Kooper Reece, a 6-6, 245 pound senior center, and 5-9 backup guard Trevor Ormesher, juniors Jaydon Owen, a 5-9 junior combo guard, Brayden Owen, a 6-3 junior forward, Turner Tinant, a 6-3 junior forward, Nate Flannery, a 6-1 junior guard, and sophomore point guard Jon Keller, a 5-9 athlete.

Early season workouts have centered on becoming tougher handling the ball against pressure, more aggressive offensively off the dribble and into the post, and developing a ball-hawking, help-oriented defensive system. The objective, according to McLaughlin, is to be solid in all phases, and nimble enough to adjust to opponents, and on the gly.

“The only thing that works against us is history, and a culture of the past that allowed for our team to be intimidated, out-skilled, and out-played.” McLaughlin said. “Those attributions to us are things we’re working every day to change.”

McLaughlin brings with him 20-years of varsity coaching experience, with squads in Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri and direction of two significant competitive travel basketball programs in Iowa and Missouri, which give McLaughlin another 19-years of experience and competing all over the U.S. and the world since 1998. At 58, McLaughlin says he is focused 100% on Badger basketball at all levels and to his athletes.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of this team, our school and this community.” McLaughlin said.”The boys I work with all the way down to the 3rd and 4th grade level have shown a lot of interest in getting better, worked with me all summer, and are sold out to getting better and being competitive within my interpretation of the game.”

Seniors Reece and Ormesher, juniors Owen, Tinant, ad Flannery, plus junior Brayden Fowler and sophomore Jon Keller give McLaughlin the “personnel” to play the game he likes to play, hard to the rim, tough around the basket defensively, and turning over opponents with traps and pressure.

“These guys are demonstrating to me that they like an up tempo style of basketball, that they’ll work at improving the skill things we need to do to play “my game”.McLaughlin said. “We have a great deal to do to get better, and a tough schedule, so we start out on paper climbing a hill most of the season.”

“My belief is we’ll make a lot of progress if we remain committed to our process, limit drama internally and from the fans, and keep laser-focused on our process, the outcomes we seek, and doing the work day to day.”

McLaughlin said that Reece and Owen are the inside-outside combination with which the team will build, but points to their teammates, and juniors Devon Osnes, and sophomores Grant Fischer and Jacob Dorian, as players who will play a significant role this year.

“These are capable guys I would have sought to play travel ball with me and play the circuit in the off-season.”McLaughlin said. “They can really play, and if we can get them the basketball in position to do what they do, we can start to see progress soon in the game”.

McLaughlin is assisted by third year assistant Levi Loofe, and first year assistant Ian Bish. Twenty-six players comprise the overall Badger boys basketball squad.