DE PERE — The De Pere boys basketball team is a squad many are picking as the front runners for the 2023 Division 1 state title and they're coming off a year where they were on the doorstep of an appearance at the state tournament down in Madison. As they sit with a perfect 13-0 record this year, they’re driven by that loss to Menomonee Falls to end last year.
“As a kid you dream of getting to Madison, playing at state and getting that close and the year before we got that close too. It drives us every single day in practice to get better,” said junior big man Will Hornseth.
The Redbirds are led by none other than senior guard Johnny Kinziger, the school’s all-time leading scorer and assists leader. He’s averaging 18 points points per game this season.
“There's a lot of good players and I'm not going to take anything away from anybody, but he’s certainly a candidate to be Mr. Basketball in the state,” said Redbirds head coach Brian Winchester. “I can't say enough about his character, how he handles himself and how he’s helped us as an entire program.”
Then there’s Hornseth. Averaging 15 points and almost 6 boards per game, the 6’8” junior has another year under his belt and brings versatility as he’s more than a post player who just sits inside.
“He's so skilled in every facet of the game,” Winchester said. When you think about our guard play and you put it together with him, it makes us very difficult to guard for just about every team.”
Stepping out of his brothers shoes, sophomore Zach Kinziger is an elite scorer in his own right as he averages 16 points a game, but also brings it on defense.
“He’s one of the best defenders in the state,” said his head coach.
The guy who is the glue for the team, senior forward Gabe Herman. He has come back from a knee injury he suffered in the first game of the Redbirds football season.
“I was hoping it was just a regular MCL sprain and I was only going to be out 4-6 weeks,” Herman said. It turned out to be worse – I'm back here and I'm very thankful for that.”
“(He’s) such a high IQ player,” said Winchester. “He's a great teammate. He's a glue guy – does a little bit of everything.”
The Redbirds can light it up on offense, but every single player will tell you it's their defense that’s the key to their success.
“The offense will always come, but (it) starts at the defensive end,” Johnny Kinziger said.
“They just get after people,” said Winchester. “They love to play, there’s no back down in us and it doesn’t matter what we do on the offensive end, they get back down to the defensive end and just play.”
They say iron sharpens iron and this is a deep squad that makes each other better each and every day in practice with one goal in mind: a gold ball.
“In some cases, it might be worth my buying a ticket to one of our practices than maybe a few of our games and so they just get after each other, they make each other better. They get along so well,” Winchester said.