For the first time in three seasons, Knox will start the year without Tanner Carlson ‘12 slated to start in the point guard position. The two-time All-Midwest Conference honorable mention point man is gone to graduation as is Knox’s all-time leading three point shooter Ben Wetherbee ‘12. Knox also lost leading scorer Joe Kozak ‘12, so the Praire Fire will have a lot of production to make up for in order to move forward.
The man in charge of helping with this task is first year head coach and Knox graduate Kevin Walden ’01. Walden replaces former head coach Rob Purlee, who went 9-83 in four seasons at Knox.
Walden will likely rely heavily on senior Lukas Shaw, who led the Prairie Fire in rebounding last season and is Knox’s top returning scorer.
Shaw is the only senior on the roster to have played a full four years at Knox: senior Tyler Olson transferred in last season, so look for him to be the emotional leader of the team as well. Joining Shaw down low is junior David Jones, who will need to provide more production with Kozak no longer in the lineup.
In the backcourt, Knox will rely on a mix of youth and experience. Olson averaged 20 minutes of play last year and will combine with sophomore Armand Stricklin and transfer junior Eric Miller to make up the production lost with Carlson. Sophomore Mitch Murphy returns as Knox’s most potent threat behind the arc but will also need to provide ball-handling skills in the Knox offense.
The Prairie Fire have struggled mightily in close games the past two seasons and are going to have to get better at closing games if they want to compete in the Midwest Conference. The conference will be extremely competitive amongst the mid-level teams, which realistically is the best case scenario for the Prairie Fire in terms of placement.