NEW ULM - For the New Ulm Eagles boy's basketball team, the short-term goal may just be getting healthy before the pieces can be put in place for this year's team.
Jackson Yackley, one of two returning starters along with Grant Kannegiesser, is slowly coming back from a knee injury from football.
Blake Piotter is also trying to come back from a hip injury that may sideline him for a while and add in Matt Rowley, who is back just having a cast removed from a hand.
"Blake has a groin/hip injury and his shoulder is also getting better and Jackson is getting his knee in shape," said head coach Steve Foley.
The Eagles do bring back players with experience in Tanner Kluis (6 points per game) and Kannegiesser (9 ppg) along with Tyler Dittrich (8 ppg).
"And we do have some juniors that can help in Rowley, Jarin Spence, Tanner Ogren that will probably see some time on the varsity level," Foley said. "And we have Tanner Zupfer along with Peder Johnson.
"Our top three to four players have varsity experience but we have some younger players who have athleticism," Foley said.
One of the players who will be a key to the Eagles' fortunes this season is Yackley, who averaged just over 10 ppg last season and added two assists per game.
"We have all worked hard in the off-season (in summer basketball) and coach Foley has a good program going," Yackley said. "We did a lot of work in the off-season in tournaments and open gyms all summer. We got better and that is going to help us especially the younger players with the older players. It gets everyone working together more."
Foley agreed that the experience that his players got playing summer basketball will only be a plus come the regular season.
"We played between 18-20 games in the summer and a lot of our players came and played," he said. "In our first week of practice you can see our kids understand defensive and offensive concepts already more than last year. So this year we are way ahead of where we where a year ago. I thought that we made great strides last year and I think that we can make positive strides this season."
Foley looks to Fairmont and St. Peter as the picks in the South Central Conference this season.
"Waseca, St. James and Blue Earth Area have all improved and hopefully we can compete up there also," Foley said.
New Ulm opens the season at Chaska on Friday.