Young U.P. cagers offer optimism

I can’t wait.

It has been a week since the Michigan high school basketball season has ended and already, I’m looking forward to the 2013-14 campaign.

The tip-off for the opening game of the coming girls’ season can’t come soon enough. Neither can the boys’ first games a week or so later.

I couldn’t say that during the 2011-12 season. In fact, I didn’t. I wrote in February of 2012 how bad Upper Peninsula prep basketball was on the boys’ – and particularly, the girls’ – side.

Of the 19 games I had covered to that date, one girls’ contest sported a halftime score of 12-10. That prompted one of the coaches involved to say afterward “that first half set offensive basketball back 20 years.”

Basketball fundamentals such as passing, shooting – layups included – and rebounding were lacking to such an extent across the board it was painful to watch.

Not all players and games were bad, of course. But the ones that were often overshadowed those that weren’t.

This past season was different, however. Play greatly improved and basketball skills began to shine through the darkness.

What’s particularly encouraging is the fact all five Upper Peninsula “Dream Team” selections for girls basketball this season are underclassmen. Four are juniors – including Class D Player of the Year Lexi Gussert of Forest Park – and one a sophomore in Hunter Viitala of Marquette.

The Class ABC First Team also featured a junior and two sophomores.

In all, of the 35 girls picked by members of the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association for postseason honors, 16 were underclassmen, including five sophomores.

That kind of young talent bodes well for next season and the one after.

It was a little different for the boys, however. Of those honored, 12 were underclassmen – three of them sophomores.

But Class ABC Player of the Year Tyler Jandron of Negaunee will be back for another season. That alone makes the coming season enticing.

The “young blood” this season will have a lot of experience coming into 2013-14, and maybe more talent, as well. That should translate into some fine basketball play.

If the underclassmen taking center stage this coming season want to improve even more, they’ll work during the offseason perfecting their skills.

That would almost guarantee an even better season in 2013-14.

We’d all like to see that happen.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is