Experience, depth boost Panthers’ hopes

All-stater Neils leads two-time defending EWC champions
by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

KOLLIN NEILS (left), Plymouth senior guard, was named to the All-EWC boys basketball first team the past two seasons and was all-state honorable mention as a junior. — Review file photo KOLLIN NEILS (left), Plymouth senior guard, was named to the All-EWC boys basketball first team the past two seasons and was all-state honorable mention as a junior. — Review file photo PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers are poised to enjoy a successful season and make a run at their third straight Eastern Wisconsin Conference boys basketball championship.

PHS returns seven letter winners, led by 6-foot-2 senior guard Kollin Neils who was named to the All-EWC first team the past two seasons. Neils, who earned Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 2 all-state honorable mention as a junior, paced the Panthers in scoring with a 13.6 points-per-game average, threepoint goals with 26 and steals (tied for lead) at 1.9 per contest.

Neils, selected the Panthers’ Most Valuable Player last season, tied for first in the EWC in steals (2.2 average) and was fifth in scoring (13.6 average).

Neils is the lone returning starter. The other letter winners are senior guards Clay Henning and Collin Denzin, senior forwards Tom Jankowski, Eric Majerus and Eric Nygaard and junior forward Zac Cain.

Jankowski was the team’s top rebounder last season with a 3.8 average per game. Cain led in overall field-goal shooting at 52.0 percent and Denzin was first in three-point accuracy with 38.6.

The Panthers finished 12-2 in the EWC and 17-7 overall last season. They upset No. 3-ranked and host West De Pere in the D-2 regional semifinals, 59-43, and lost a heartbreaker at No. 7-rated Seymour in the finals, 62-61.

Jason Duff, entering his third season as the Panther head coach, is high on what his players have shown thus far in preseason practice.

“I like the character of our guys. They get it. They work hard, pay attention to details, stay positive with each other, and do it ev- ery single day,” said Duff.

“I also like the skill sets that we have. We have some guys that are very skilled offensively.”

Duff pointed out what the program’s recent success means to this year’s team. Two years ago, the Panthers advanced to the sectional finals and were one win away from the state tournament.

“What we’ve done, hopefully, over the years is establish a culture where players expect to play in big games at the end of season. The thought of playing deep in the playoffs excites them but we need to stay focused on the here and now which right now is Oostburg,” he said.

The Panthers open their season Saturday at Oostburg in a nonconference game starting at approximately 7:20 p.m.

Duff pointed out his team’s strengths.

“I would say that our biggest strength is our ability to get up and down the court and make plays with the basketball,” he said.

“We have a good combination of ball-handling and shooting skills that should make offense a lot of fun.

“Without having played a game, it’s hard to say what our weaknesses will be – possibly the ability to play physical and guard big, strong teams. Our size is more of the long, quick size as opposed to the wide, strong size.”

The team should have good depth and the potential for balanced scoring.

“I think we can be quite deep, barring injury. Our bench has looked good in practice. We might be able to go 10-11 deep if we can stay healthy,” Duff said.

Duff expects Neils, a threeyear letter winner, Nygaard and Jankowski to provide leadership as the team captains. The coach thinks several players can score well.

“Besides the three already mentioned, Clay Henning and Collin Denzin might have some nights where they score 20. Zac Cain will probably come off the bench most nights but he can really score and rebound,” said Duff.

“And Eric Majerus is a Swiss army knife. He can guard any position, and on offense he can do a little bit of everything.”

Duff has been impressed with all of the varsity newcomers.

“Nick Casper has the potential to be a real playmaker on offense. Drew Schweiger has improved his shooting stroke and Brady Grapentine is one of the most technically sound players on our team,” he observed.

“Matt Olig can guard bigger players and has improved his ability to knock down mid-range shots. Dominic Bocchini has given us something that we didn’t have – a pass-first point guard. He’s one of the quicker guys on our team and has fit in very well with his teammates.”

Bocchini, a junior guard, played on the Kohler varsity last season.

“I believe the EWC will be better than last season. There are some really good returning players like Mason Domask [Waupun], Matt Wilke [Sheboygan Falls], Dexter Smith [Two Rivers], Isiah Daniels [Campbellsport] and Ja- cob Winkel [Kiel],” said Duff.

Domask and Wilke were All- EWC first-team picks, and Smith, Daniels and Winkel were on the second unit last season.

“I think the conference is wide open. I think we have a chance to be right there but it won’t be easy by any means,” Duff said.

Waupun finished second in the league at 11-3 last season, followed by Falls at 10-4.

Duff mention his goals for the season and the keys for the team to having success:

“To get better every single day. To focus on the process of executing on every possession, both offensively and defensively. If we do that, we’ll be playing our best basketball at the end of the season,” he said.

Nov. 23 – @ Oostburg
Nov. 26 – Menomonee Falls, here
Dec. 3 – Kiel, here
Dec. 6 – @ Sheboygan Falls
Dec. 7 – Terry Porter Classic, @
Milwaukee South Division
Dec. 12 – @ Kewaskum
Dec. 14 – Var. Reserve game, @ Kiel
Dec. 17 – Waupun, here
Dec. 20 – Campbellsport, here
Dec. 26 – Roncalli, at Concordia
Dec. 28 – Greendale, @ Concordia
Dec. 30 – @ Manitowoc Roncalli (JV)
Jan. 2 – @ Kiel
Jan. 7 – Two Rivers, here
Jan. 10 – @ New Holstein
Jan. 14 – @ Port Washington
Jan. 17 – Sheboygan Falls, here
Jan. 24 – @ Waupun
Jan. 30 – @ Campbellsport
Feb. 4 – Sheboygan South, here
Feb. 7 – Kewaskum, here
Feb. 13 – New Holstein, here
Feb. 18 – @ Manitowoc Lincoln
Feb. 20 – @ Two Rivers


Name Gr. Ht. Pos.
Kollin Neils 12 6-2 G
Clay Henning 12 5-10 G
Collin Denzin 12 6-1 G
Tom Jankowski 12 6-5 F
Eric Majerus 12 6-2 F
Eric Nygaard 12 6-5 F
Dominic Bocchini 11 5-8 G
Zac Cain 11 6-4 F
Nick Casper 11 6-1 G
Brady Grapentine 11 6-0 G
Drew Schweiger 11 5-11 G
Jack Sacket 11 6-2 G
Carter Krzyzaniak 11 6-4 F
Matt Olig 1 6-4 F

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