The Madison Memorial boys basketball team had a 627-day stretch between games.
So even though the Spartans’ 55-48 win against Adams-Friendship on Tuesday had more turnovers than highlight plays, the smiles still radiated on Memorial’s home court.
Memorial returned to action for the first time since March 2019 due to the fact that Madison Metropolitan School District officials didn’t allow winter sports competition last season in Dane County amid health concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every single Spartans player on the 13-member roster is competing on the varsity level for the first time.
“I’m literally having to teach them how to be varsity basketball players and here’s what they need to do,” said Memorial coach Steve Collins, who’s overseen the program for 24 years.
“They’re just happy to be on the floor and you can see it. It was a good first game. I’ll take it.”
Spartans senior Cole Hendrickson said he was thrilled to be on the court.
“It was amazing and really nice to get out there,” said Hendrickson, who finished with three points.
“It’s been two years and we’re not going to use it as an excuse for a sloppy game, but we’ll go to practice and get better.”
Sophomore Sam Mickelson, a 6-foot-7 forward, scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the second half for Memorial. He added a team-high six rebounds. Senior Aidan Wischhoff added 11 points and sophomore Braylen Blue had 10.
Blue transferred from Sun Prairie to Memorial after his freshman year. The 6-4 guard was excited to compete in his first-ever varsity matchup.
“It’s just good to be with the guys and coach Collins,” said Blue, who has already received a handful of offers from NCAA Division I teams.
Blue is a confident 3-point shooter and said he “likes creating for my teammates and being a leader on the court.”
Collins said the Spartans struggled with the Green Devils’ 1-3-1 zone, but were eventually able to put up some good shots.
“They’re all trying to figure out their spots,” Collins said. “For the first time playing varsity basketball, I thought they showed a lot of composure.”
Senior Carson Klaus scored a game-high 18 points for Adams-Friendship, a Division 3 team which competes in the South Central Conference.
Junior guard Aidan Livingston scored eight straight points to open the second half and pull the Green Devils within eight points at 35-27. They got within five points twice with less than 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the game.
The Green Devils posted a 13-12 record last season and moved up to Division 2 in the playoffs. They lost to Wisconsin Dells in a regional final in February.
Green Devils coach Kevin Bork said he was happy with his team’s performance. Two starters, Zander Klaus and Keyvon Holloway, are sidelined with injuries.
“I think we played pretty well considering that we’re shorthanded,” Bork said.
He thinks that Memorial will be a formidable opponent once they get a few more games out of the way.
“Mickelson looks good, and Blue shoots the ball well,” Bork said. “We don’t see that physicality as much at our level.”
Collins couldn’t wait to get back to his house to take another look at the game for the first time in nearly two years.
“I can’t wait to watch the film and go through it with the boys,” he said. “I’m a teacher. They know what they did wrong.”
Boys basketball preview: D-I prospect Braylen Blue highlights intriguing list of Big Eight's 10 players to know
Jacob Naber, sr., F, Janesville Parker
The 6-foot-7 senior is returning to a Parker team that saw some success last season, winning a Division 1 regional title. Naber finished with 13 points and almost nine rebounds per game for the Vikings. This season, with the two leading scorers having graduated in the spring, Naber will have more responsibility.
Massi Malterer, sr., G, Madison East
The 6-2 guard only saw seven minutes of action, scoring three points, in 2019-20 before the pandemic shut down the season. But coaches in the Big Eight respect his ability to score. He does most of his damage penetrating to the rim, but has shown off a jumper against AAU competition. He's one of the more intriguing, unknown commodities in the conference as the season starts.
Habib Alidu-Ball, jr., C, Madison East
Alidu-Ball is also one of the few holdovers from the talented 2019-20 Purgolder team that won the Middleton Sectional semifinal over Oconomowoc. He saw 11 minutes of action and scored one point as a freshman that season. The 6-6 center has the size to step in and anchor a defense, which the Purgolders will certainly take.
Clevon Easton, fr., G/F, Madison East
Easton has impressed coaches early on at East and looks like a young breakout candidate. He's an athletic wing with room to grow and will have the time to do so with Malterer and Alidu-Ball expected to lead the Purgolders.
Ahrman Lewis, jr., G, Madison La Follette
Lewis, like teammate Quinton Lomack (more on him shortly), has not played varsity basketball yet for La Follette, which went 23-1 two years ago and won its sectional semifinal over Waunakee before the season was canceled. Five of that team's top six scorers have since graduated, leaving an opening for the Lewis-Lomack backcourt to provide much-needed playmaking. Both players have impressed in AAU and other events over the summer.
Quinton Lomack, so., G, Madison La Follette
The 6-2 sophomore has impressed coaches in the Big Eight in events he's played in over the summer, like his backcourt running mate. With big Juck Riak (7.6 ppg) the only notable scorer back from the 2019-20 squad, La Follette has a desperate need for guards to step up. Lomack and Lewis could provide that.
Braylen Blue, jr., G, Madison Memorial
The 6-4 guard has left an impression on coaches who have seen Blue play even though he has yet to log a varsity minute. Those coaches aren't just high school and AAU coaches. College coaches have liked his game as well. Blue has picked up offers from Division I programs like Arizona State, UW-Milwaukee and Murray State.
Kaden Fosdick, jr., F, Middleton
Fosdick began his varsity career averaging more than eight points per game and was the Cardinals' third-leading scorer at 8.5 points per game. The 6-5 junior showed his athletic ability during the Cardinals boys volleyball season. His size and athleticism will be crucial to helping the Cardinals in the paint.
Logan Raffel, sr., G, Middleton
The 5-foot-11 senior led the Cardinals in scoring last season with 13.4 points per game, including a season-high 29 points against Monroe. The top returning 3-point shooter (10 made 3s a year ago), his presence will help stretch the floor for other top scorers like Fosdick and senior guard Nick Meinholz (9.1 ppg). Raffel is part of a deep senior class; in fact, Middleton's roster, according to Wissports.net, includes only seniors and juniors.
Ben Olson, sr., G/F, Sun Prairie
Olson is coming off an impressive junior season where he scored 18.6 points per game for the Cardinals, which makes him the top returning scorer in the conference after Janesville Craig's Angelo Rizzo (21.1) graduated in the spring. The 6-5 Olson improved his scoring output by eight points between his sophomore and junior years. Drew Houtakker (12.2 ppg) and Connor Carpenter (10.9) are both graduated, leaving Olson to take on more of a leadership role on the court.