Northeast Wisconsin is hardly shallow on talent when it comes to boys basketball and while no team won a state title this past season, there was plenty of talent on display all season.
So finding a player of the year is no easy chore when you have the likes of Matt Heldt from Neenah, Sandy Cohen from Seymour and Kyle Monroe from Ashwaubenon, amongst others.
Nonetheless, with the season being over it’s time to name the best of the best so here are this year’s winners for player and coach of the year in the Large and Small divisions for boys basketball:
Heldt player of the year
Matt Heldt was always noticeable when he ran onto the court for warmups. When you’re 6-10, you’re easy to notice.
But this past basketball season Heldt wasn’t just noticeable because of his height, but because how he played the game. Heldt affected the game like no other player in the area and in the process led Neenah to the Division 1 state title game game, where the Rockets fell to Germantown.
On the court, Heldt stood above the competition and for his efforts the junior is the FOX 11 Large Division (Divisions 1-2) boys basketball player of the year.
“He did what we hoped he would do,” coach Scott Bork said. “We hoped he’d make a jump and he did.”
Heldt’s biggest moment came in a state semifinal against Mukwonago. He scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 24 minutes. Against Germantown, Heldt added 11 points and nine rebounds.
If you’ve ever watched Heldt play you could see he wasn’t good because he was 6-10. Wisconsin scouted him this season and Bork believes he is Badgers material.
“He adjusts how you have to play,” Bork said. “Higher majors school have been calling for his (AAU) schedule this spring.
“I think he’s an ideal fit (for Wisconsin). I think he has Big Ten-level talent. Wisconsin likes kids that can step out and shoot.”
Heldt has another season before he starts his college career, but this season was a stepping stone in proving the caliber of payer he is. In Northeast Wisconsin, he was the best.
Zinser Small School Player of the Year
Like Heldt, N.E.W. Lutheran’s Dakota Zinser had his best game in a state semifinal win. Zinser, the Packerland Conference player of the year, scored a career-high 33 points in a D5 semifinal win over Sheboygan Lutheran.
In this game, Zinser put on display his offensive artillery, making 3-pointers, driving to the basket and hitting mid-range jumpers.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Zinser after the game. “The shots were falling for me. I couldn’t have done it without my team. It feels great on the big stage with a bunch of people watching.”
It just wasn’t at state where Zinser shined. The senior, who will play next year at UW-Whitewater, scored at least 20 points in 14 of his team’s 29 games.
While Zinser’s career was terrific, it ended on a sour note as the Blazers fell in the D5 state title game to Thorp. Two straight silver balls have been won by N.E.W. and Zinser was a major reason.
Bork is coach of the year
Neenah almost didn’t reach the state tournament, let alone the title game, as the Rockets almost were eliminated in a sectional semifinal when they trailed Stevens Point by 15 points at halftime.
But championship-caliber teams find ways to win and Neenah did just that, rallying past Point and eventually making the title game. Bork’s leadership was key in Neenah’s season and that’s why he’s the Large Division coach of the year.
Bork led Neenah to a 26-2 record and the Fox Valley Association title and the Rockets could be in store for more success next season and maybe get back to Madison.
“That’s the goal every year,” Bork said. “We lose a lot. You can’t replace Taulvish (McCray), Alec (Becker) and (Adam) Pohlman. We have kids that can help us in other areas. I love our kids coming back.
“Our kids will have to make a jump in the offseason.”
And if they do, Bork once again should make Neenah a factor next season.
Rux is coach of the year
Roncalli made the state tournament behind great shooting and great offense and the architect of this was coach Joe Rux, who is the Small Division coach of the year.
Rux led Roncalli to an 18-0 Olympian Conference record and a D3 state semifinal berth, where his team lost a thriller to eventual state champion Brown Deer, 48-45. Overall, the Jets were 25-2.
Rux was tremendous this season getting shooters open. His team averaged about nine made 3-pointers per game and his team’s ability to shake free time and time again was impressive.
Roncalli’s other loss this season came to Milwaukee Vincent in the Terry Porter Classic.
FOX 11 Boys All-Area Basketball Teams
Boys Large Division
- *Matt Heldt, Jr., C, Neenah: 18.2 ppg.; led Neenah to FVA title.
- Sandy Cohen, Sr., G, Seymour: 21.2 ppg. (led Bay); led Seymour to Bay title. Committed to Marquette.
- Kyle Monroe, Jr., G/F, Ashwaubenon: 21.7 ppg.; led Jaguars to share of FRCC title.
- Brevin Pritzl, G. Jr., De Pere: 20.9 ppg.; led Redbirds to share of FRCC title.
- Cody Schwartz, F, Jr., West De Pere: 18.5 ppg.; helped lead Phantoms to first state title appearance since 1933.
- Chandler Diekvoss, Sr., G/F, West De Pere: 15.6 ppg.; helped lead Phantoms to first state appearance since 1933. Committed to Richmond.
*Player of the year
Boys Small Division
- *Dakota Zinser, Sr., G, N.E.W. Lutheran: 19.4 ppg., helped lead Blazers to D5 state title game. Committed to UW-Whitewater.
- Nathan Toenjes, Sr., F, N.E.W. Lutheran: 13.5 ppg.; 9.6 rpg.; helped lead Blazers to D5 state title game. Committed to Concordia (Neb.).
- DJ DeValk, Sr., G, Little Chute: 17.8 ppg.; scored career-high 36 pts. in sectional final loss. Committed to St. Norbert.
- Charlie Noone, Sr., G, Lourdes Academy: 20.3 ppg.; led Knights to D4 sectional final.
- Josh Erickson, Sr., G. Roncalli: 17 ppg., helped lead Jets to D3 state tournament.
- Tyler Lemke, Jr., F, Brillion: 15.8 ppg.; helped lead Brillion to D4 state tournament.
*Player of the year
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay