By Bob San
“Repeat. That’s the only way to top it is to try to repeat.”
Those are words of Osseo junior center Ian Theisen when asked how the Osseo Orioles are going to top last year’s state championship run.
Theisen, a 6’10” center, and 6-foot senior guard Bridge Tusler are the only returning starters from that Osseo team that captured the state championship on Theisen’s baseline jumper at the buzzer.
“Me and Bridge have been to state the last two times and we definitely want to go back to state for sure,” Theisen said.
To do so, the Orioles will have to replace eight seniors who graduated. Those seniors will be missed, especially for their size and toughness that made Osseo the most physically imposing team last winter. Osseo coach Tim Theisen thinks this year’s team will rely more on finesse and skills.
“Last year’s team was tough and physical,” coach Theisen said. “We have to develop that toughness. Bridge obviously provides that toughness for us but what’s gone is that muscle and strength we had last year from those football players. We are losing that toughness but I think we make up for it with basketball talent. We are going to rely on our talent as well as our athletic ability to stay competitive.”
Theisen looks for junior Wheeler Baker to provide a spark for the team. He transferred two years ago and is now eligible to show his talent.
“I believe he will step up and provide a lot of scoring punch for us,” Theisen said.
Seniors Harrison Lucas, Rakeem Felder, Tyrin Vann, Zach Bahl and Malik Wilson are the others who round up the varsity top eight.
“We will be young in the category of experience and there is a lot of experience that needs to be taught real quick and that will put a lot of stress on the shoulders of me and Ian,” Tusler said. “But we are a talented and scrappy team this year and I think our coaches will do a great job with it.”
Ian Theisen is optimistic the new guys will step up and perform well.
“We definitely have gaps to fill but I feel like we have the guys who will do a very good job,” Ian Theisen said. “Our JV team was top-notch last year so they know the system very well. They know what’s expected of them coming up. When you are playing varsity basketball at Osseo you have a target on you back. So I think they will all step up and play their roles very well this year and I think we will be just as good as last year.”
Whether Osseo returns a veteran or a young team, the Orioles will always get lofty ranking and their goals will always remain high. This year is no difference.
“We are excited. We return our top scorers in Bridge and Ian and we have a great nucleus from our JV team that was 23-2,” coach Theisen said. “We feel we can challenge for the conference and section titles. Our kids are always ready. We look forward to people giving us their best shot. That’s what we want. We might have some road bumps along the way, but this team has the mindset and the talent and the will to keep our tradition going.”
Osseo and Park Center are the clear favorites in the Northwest Suburban Conference but talented teams such as Maple Grove, Champlin Park and Centennial are not far behind.
The Orioles can’t wait to start the defense of their state championship.
“I am ready. Me and Bridge were talking last week and we are ready to get after it,” Theisen said. “Our first game next Thursday is here and we are going to raise that state championship banner. That will be a great way to start off the year.”
The Orioles host Anoka at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6.