Jake Zeitler has thought a lot recently about his place in Luxemburg-Casco basketball history.
Every time the 6-foot-5 senior is at a youth practice teaching kids, L-C coach John Hampton will point out that hard work could do for them what it did for his star pupil.
Zeitler recently signed a letter of intent to play at NCAA Division II Bemidji State University. He became one of the first, if not the first, in program history to be a scholarship player.
He also is closing in on the school scoring record, and in the process could become the first with 1,000 career points. Zeitler enters the season with 899, trailing the record 984 set by the late Tom Baierl.
The Spartans have had several great shooters over the years, but Zeitler has a chance to stand out from all of them.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Zeitler said. “It is something I was looking forward to since I was in first grade.”
If that’s an exaggeration, it’s not by much.
Hampton remembers Zeitler in middle school spending every morning in the gym shooting baskets. He made himself into a complete player. He always was willing to be coached and was a great listener.
Zeitler was a unanimous first-team all-conference pick in the Bay last season after finishing second in the league with 17.6 points per game and first with 78 assists while shooting 48.8 percent overall and 79.7 percent from the line.
“Jake has paved the way for these young kids and proven that if you work hard enough anything is possible,” Hampton said. “I couldn’t ask for a better kid to coach, a more selfless kid, and truly a kid who does it the right way. He has set the bar of achievement for our entire youth program by his actions.
“Yes, he wants to leave a legacy, but he’s already accomplished that. He is also very cognizant of the sacrifices that people have made to help him get to where he is and uses his game to give back. He represents the hard work that makes our school district great inside and outside of athletics.”
Hampton, who is in his second season as coach after previously serving as an assistant, hasn’t had a better kid than Zeitler and he might not have coached a much better team than the one he has now.
Zeitler headlines a squad that went 18-6 last season and is one of the favorites as a new member of the North Eastern Conference.
The Spartans have a little of everything, from the returning starting trio of Zeitler, senior forward Spencer Kanz and junior guard Bryce TeKulve to an explosive freshman forward in Nathan Coisman who has earned a starting spot.
L-C is deep on guards with size and length and others with speed.
The Spartans have all this in part because the program made several changes to revitalize their youth programs to keep success sustainable.
It’s why Hampton gives credit to the parents, his assistant coaches and the community rather than himself.
“I’ve told a few kids even in the 6th and 7th grade that we aren’t going to have Jake Zeitler forever, so we need to build another one,” Hampton said. “If they choose to try, we’ll be there to coach them. We don’t have a lot of kids, but the ones we do have are committed to our program and their community.”
As for the current group, they want to leave behind their mark with a big season.
“Coach Hampton says all the time that we are really good,” Zeitler said. “One of the best teams in history. We scrimmaged some of the starting lineup from 2005, which was a team that was undefeated. When they scrimmaged with us last weekend, they said we were really good.
“It meant a lot to us.”
North Eastern Conference
Coach: Shawn Howe, sixth year.
2014-15 record: 9-15.
Key players: Damon Lorge (sr., 6-0), Noah Hartleben (sr., 6-0), Tyler Petermann (jr., 6-1), Jordan Koeppen (jr., 5-9), Nate Krueger (jr, 6-1).
Notable: The Truckers don’t have much size, but they do hope to shoot the ball better than last season. It will be a young team for the most part, with just two seniors on the roster.
Coach: Cody Stelmach, second year.
2014-15 record: 9-15.
Key players: Blake Derricks (jr., 6-0), Derrick Umentum (sr., 6-2).
Notable: The Vikings will be an extremely young team this season, including rostering two freshmen in 5-9 Brady Jens and 6-4 Zane Short. They have just two returning players. Denmark lacks size, so it expects to be guard-oriented. Stelmach said his squad will rely on team defense to win games.
Fox Valley Lutheran
Coach: Matt Koepsell, 13th year.
2014-15 record: 6-17.
Key players: Alex Gerhardt (sr., 5-8), Jared Kraftzenk (jr., 6-3), Colin Stoffel (sr., 6-5), Ethan Eisenmann (sr., 6-2), Jared Laabs (sr., 6-0), Jett Malkowski (sr., 6-2).
Notable: Koepsell anticipates the depth on his team will be one of the biggest strengths of the season, especially with the four additional minutes added to games. FVL has two returning starters in Gerhardt and Kraftzenk. The two combined to average 11.9 points per game last season.
Coach: John Van Rossum, seventh year.
2014-15 record: 21-4.
Key players: Noah Brickner (sr., 6-2), Avery Van Stralen (sr., 5-10), Seth Doxtater (sr., 6-3), Carter Helms (sr., 6-0), Alex Gehring (sr., 6-3), Mason Van Rossum (sr., 5-11), Isaac Gonnering (sr., 5-9), Casey Calhoon (sr., 5-11).
Notable: Freedom last all five starters from last season. Defense and depth are expected to be strengths, while consistent scoring, interior scoring and rebounding are all concerns early on.
Coach: Mickey Martin, 11th year.
2014-15 record: 14-10.
Key players: Parker Gloudemans (sr., 6-2), Devin Plate (jr., 5-10), Noah Knudsen (jr., 6-1).
Notable: The team has just one returning starter in Gloudemans, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a junior.
Coach: John Hampton, second year.
2014-15 record: 18-6.
Key players: Jake Zeitler (sr., 6-5), Spencer Kanz (sr., 6-6), Bryce TeKulve (jr., 6-3), Nathan Coisman (fr., 6-4), Mitchell Ronsman (jr., 6-5), Mitchell Jandrin (jr., 6-3), Jacob Wotruba (jr., 6-2), Jon Deprey (jr., 5-10), Anthony Otradovec (fr., 5-8).
Notable: The Spartans are one of the favorites to win the NEC this season. It has one of the best players in the league in Zeitler, who was a first-team all-conference selection in the Bay as a junior. Kanz is expected to be a force in the middle again, while TeKulve is another returning starter who is expected to go from a defensive stopper to a scoring threat.
Coach: Nick Semenas, fourth year.
2014-15 record: 3-20.
Key players: Garrett Waloway (sr., 5-8), Connor Nelson (jr., 6-0), Jordan Wendt (fr., 6-5), Matt Wagner (fr., 5-11), Jake Poetzel (fr., 6-3), Nathan Paris (jr., 6-3), James Jagielski (jr., 5-8), Kevin Charlesworth (jr., 6-0), Blayne Smejkal (sr., 5-11).
Notable: Poetzel scored 33 points in a loss at Peshtigo on Monday. He is one of four freshmen on a young team that has just three seniors.
Coach: Kirk Hirst, first year.
2014-15 record: 5-18.
Key players: Jack Huberty (sr., 6-2), Mike Manns (sr., 5-11), Tyler Hagemeier (sr., 6-2), Sam Fletcher (sr., 6-1), Aaron Kurth (jr., 5-8), Tyler Klimpke (jr., 6-4), Owen Walters (jr., 6-2).
Notable: The Panthers don’t have great size, but Hirst loves the chemistry on this team with a roster that has played together since elementary school.
Coach: Ron Weber, 35th year.
2014-15 record: 6-17.
Key players: Anthony Blackwell (sr., 6-0), Bre’on Sease (sr., 6-0), Joseph Blackwell (jr., 5-10), Ryan Dayton (jr., 5-11).
Notable: Waupaca is seeking its second winning season since 2009-10.
Coach: Cory Haese, 18th year.
2014-15 record: 14-11.
Key players: Stephen De Cramer (sr., 6-2), Austin De Cleene (sr., 6-3), Patrick Froehlke (jr., 6-2), Zac Haese (sr., 6-4), Theo Opichka (sr., 6-2), James Hansen (so., 6-2), Derek Zwick (jr., 6-4), Nate Kola (sr., 6-3), Nathan Beining (sr., 6-6).
Notable: Haese scored 28 points in a 78-31 season-opening win over Chilton. The Tigers will be led by their veterans, which includes eight seniors.