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Expectations remain high for retooling Packers

West Fargo boys basketball coach Adam Palczewski runs drills during practice at West Fargo High.David Samson / The Forum

Adam Palczewski entered into a pretty good situation during his first season as West Fargo's Head Boys Basketball Coach.

A long-time Packer assistant, Palczewski inherited a veteran team in prime position to win right away. West Fargo did just that, riding the hot shooting of Joe Pistorius, a Mr. Basketball finalist and 22.5-point per game scorer, to a 22-5 finish and an appearance in the state tournament.

But in year two, Palczewski, by his own admission, will have his work much more cut out for him, at least early on. Aside from Pistorius, the Packers also graduated starters Abdi Sufi, Tanner Zepeda and Brett Liebl.

With so many new pieces to plug in, Palczewski says he won't shy away from a trial-and-error process while trying to establish an identity with this group.

"We're nowhere near a finished product," he said. "We're going to have to fill some of the voids by committee and hopefully all the guys on the team can make a contribution."

While searching for his best lineup combinations, Palczewski can take solace in knowing he has at least one steady, established veteran presence he can lean on early in the season.

The lone returning starter in the Packer lineup, Luke Lennon, a 6-foot, 5-inch senior center, looks to build on an excellent junior season in which he averaged a double-double (14.5 points, 11.6 rebounds).

Joining Lennon in the frontcourt will be senior Jaeden Moton and Hunter Lyman, a towering, 6-8 junior. This duo will look to replace the contributions of Sufi, who averaged 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds a season ago.

In the backcourt, seniors Adam Heupel and Braxton Bruer are competing for starting reps with junior Matt Miller.

When asked who was in line to crack the starting lineup, Palczewski said the answer was changing on a daily basis.

"Every day someone's rising above someone else and then that person is clawing back and getting their spot," he said. "There's just a lot of competition at practice which is going to make everyone better."

"(The guys are) definitely putting in the work," added Lennon. "They know they need to step up so they're definitely putting in the effort to show they can be part of the team and make some plays."

After winning 20-plus games and reaching the state tournament in each of the last four seasons, the Packers aren't looking to lower their expectations for the coming season, even with some uncertainty on the roster.

Believing the biggest obstacle facing this team isn't talent-based, Palczewski says there's good reason for players to feel confident heading into the season.

"We have to play together more," he said. "I think one of our biggest deficits is our guys haven't played varsity basketball together. So we're going to keep working on that throughout the season. Get to know each other a little better and hopefully that helps."

For West Fargo's top returning player, expectations are easily defined.

"Our goal is to keep winning," Lennon said.