by MATTHEW DAVIS
With a Division I recruit and a young team, first-year coach Jake Kuppe has the Champlin Park Rebels working toward big goals.
“We’re very young with a mix of experienced seniors,” Kuppe said.
The Rebels have just four seniors on the team, led by senior point guard and recent Division I South Dakota State signee Alexis Alexander. Three seniors graduated from last year’s team that went 17-10 last season and reach the Section 5 4A semifinals.
Kuppe hopes to see his team finish in the top three of a tough Northwest Suburban Conference and make a run to the section finals. For now, they are picking up a new system on the court with such a young team.
“I expect them to learn and by the end of the year, play the brand of basketball that we are capable of playing,” Kuppe said.
The team also has a few injuries, which will be a factor early on. The Rebels will need senior leadership from guard Kelli Heytens, center Mariya Sampson and guard Genevae Adkins in order to succeed.
“They really need to step up, not necessarily on the scoreboard, but with toughness and experience,” Kuppe said.
They opened the season beating Prior Lake 73-69 in overtime on Friday, Nov. 29, at the Hopkins Thanksgiving Invitational. Alexander led the Rebels with 28 points. Allison Gerads had 21, and Hanna Crymble chipped in 14.
“We tend to go as she goes,” Kuppe said of Alexander.
The Rebels fell to No. 1-ranked Hopkins 76-63 on Saturday, Nov. 30 in the title game. Alexander had 18 points, and Sydney Hilley added 13. Crymble scored 11, and Gerads had nine.
The Rebels will start NWSC play in the next week with their opener at Robbinsdale Armstrong on Friday and a road game at Centennial on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Centennial, Anoka, Elk River, Osseo, Maple Grove and Park Center will give the Rebels an idea of how they measure up in conference play. The Rebels finished fifth in the NWSC at 12-8 last season.
“The top five or six in our conference are really good, and they’re going to be dog fights,” Kuppe said.
Kuppe replaces former Rebels coach Doug Swenson who decided to step down after last season. Kuppe play high school hoops at Minnetonka and helped the Skippers win a state title in 1998. He also played football and went on to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
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