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Senior Alex Herink (32) headlines the returning players for the 2013-14 Raider boys’ basketball team after earning All-Big Rivers Conference honors for the third straight season last year. The Raiders opened the season Tuesday, Nov. 26, at home against North St. Paul. (Hudson Star-Observer file photo by Bob Burrows)

Raider boys' basketball season opens Tuesday night against North St. Paul

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Coming off an 8-15 season a year ago, the Raider boys’ basketball team will hit the court for the 2013-14 season with a solid foundation in three-time All-Big Rivers Conference player Alex Herink. But there will be plenty of opportunities for some new faces to make an impact as well.

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Herink, who earned All-Big Rivers Conference first team honors for the second straight year last season after earning honorable mention as a freshman, signed his national letter of intent last week to play college basketball at Minnesota State University-Mankato. But before heading off to college, he’ll try to help the Raiders improve of their fourth place conference standing a year ago.

“We have a great mix of seniors and underclassmen on the roster,” head coach Jason Swavely said. “We have a crop of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen that will undoubtedly be counted on throughout the season.”

Herink returns after averaging 18 points and eight rebounds per game as a junior -- both team highs. The 6-6 senior enters the season just 51 points shy of the 1,000 career point total with 949.

Sophomore sharpshooter Matt Sparstad is also back after averaging nearly 10 points a game as a freshman while seniors Miles Lewis and Jake Giordana return after seeing substantial time on the floor a year ago.

Herink, Lewis, Giordana and senior guard Reid Schwechler will serve as Raider captains this season.

Six-foot, six-inch senior Briggam Knott, 6-5 senior Ryan Schramm, 6-3 senior Landry Otten, 6-5 junior Jake Neiderhauser and 6-3 junior Jack Koski give the Raider plenty of depth down low while Schwechler and senior Aaron Stein join Sparstad, Lewis and Giordana in the backcourt.

“Many players were focused on getting better this off-season so we are excited to see how this transfers to our season,” Swavely said.

The Raiders finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big Rivers Conference last year with Menomonie and Eau Claire Memorial, all at 5-7. They won three of their final four conference games, including victories over both Menomonie and Memorial, before losing to Marshfield in the regional semifinals.

Swavely said the conference is shaping up to be tough once again, but believes the Raiders will be competitive.

“Rice Lake, Menomonie, Eau Claire North and Eau Claire Memorial all return multiple starters from last season, so every night will be a challenge in the league,” he noted.

The Raiders open the season with three nonconference games against Minnesota opponents -- home against North St. Paul Nov. 26, at Hastings Dec. 3 and at Como Park Dec. 6 -- before hosting Eau Claire North in the BRC opener Tuesday, Dec. 10.

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