The Flyers have had a long lineage of successful centers.
Some have excelled using extra height, others with extra strength.
Bryce Zawatzke is looking to join that group, with a little bit of everything.
Double-doubles are turning into a nightly occurrence for the athletic junior, who put up another with 17 points and 12 rebounds in a 77-68 home win over Sauk Rapids-Rice, Feb. 8.
“Bryce has definitely made his presence known inside,” Little Falls head coach Kevin Jordan said. “It didn’t take very many games before teams started to focus on how they were going to keep him under control. It is sure fun to watch someone that is 6-foot-2 have the kind of success he has inside.”
“Bryce is different than a Dan Kornbaum or Matt Valentine. Those two were much bigger in stature,” he said. “But Bryce has developed into a very good high school athlete. He has a great combination of strength and quickness. There is no doubt the time he has spent in the weight room with our strength coaches, Nick Abbott and Jack Marmon, over the last three years has really helped him succeed on the basketball floor.”
The Flyers are counting on Zawatzke to continue pounding the paint as they reach the stretch run of this season, as well as being the focal point of next year’s roster, when a young group will have a year’s experience under its belt.
“He is our go-to man inside,” Jordan said. “All year long, he has drawn double and triple teams. Offensively, we have been working on getting players to play to their strengths. And we are starting to see more success and efficiency on offense.
“If our shooters can knock down shots on the perimeter and our other athletes can get to the rim with drives and cuts, we will be a very good offensive team,” he said. “Combine that with our ability to defend and rebound, we will be ready to make a run and finish strong.”
The fact that Zawatzke still has one more season to expand his already expansive skill set is also cause for excitement.
“He definitely knows what to do with the basketball when he gets it inside,” Jordan said. “His athleticism makes him hard to stop one on one. His ability to seal the defense is getting better, which allows him to get the ball close enough in a position where he just has to catch and finish.
“If he gets the ball near the post up area and has room to take one dribble, his strength and quickness allows him to score or get to the foul line,” he said. “And lastly, he is a quick offensive rebounder. He can grab the ball and finish before others even react.”
Senior Sebastian Sowada and sophomore Riley Loukinen each added 14 points against Sauk Rapids-Rice, with juniors Thomas Bell and Kyle Kabanuk both netting 10 and senior Mark Hanowski scoring eight.
Kabanuk also posted a double-double with 10 rebounds.
Zimmerman, Albany narrowly edge Flyers
The Flyers also were edged out in a pair of close seven-point contests this week, falling 60-53 at Zimmerman, Feb. 6 and 50-43 at Albany, Tuesday.
Zawatzke had 14 points and eight rebounds and Hanowski had 13 points and seven rebounds versus Zimmerman, with Loukinen picking up nine points and Bell distributing eight assists.
Zawatzke had another double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds versus Albany, while Sowada drained 12 points.