Editor’s note: Winter Sports Athlete of the Year watch lists are based on early-season performances and not an indication of any athlete’s overall ability. Daily News wishes all Twin Towns Area athletes success in their respective sports.
Peyton Newbern (Fr.) – NDSCS Basketball – PG
Newbern is smooth as butter on the basketball court. The methodical point guard dances through the defense with long strides and unexpected changes of direction. Defensively, his lanky build helps deny entry passes on the wing and his long strides make transition baskets a breeze. The freshman averages 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He’s shooting 51% on the season for the 12-2 Wildcats.
Micah Swallow (So.) – NDSCS Basketball – G/F
Swallow is one of only two returning players from last season’s 30-2 team. The guard/forward has premium bounce and likes to throw down with authority, but he also uses those springs to hit the glass. He’s a threat to score from all areas of the court and brings lockdown perimeter defense every game. A finalist for this award last year, Swallow hasn’t missed a beat, averaging 17.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.9 blocks.
Noah Christensen (So.) – NDSCS Basketball – C/F
Christensen looks like a completely revitalized player this season. When the 6-foot-10 center is on the floor, NDSCS becomes a much better defensive team. He has the body control to block shots and the athleticism to reach down for steals, while providing a nice scoring touch inside with both hands. The local talent has settled in during his second college season, gaining confidence off the dribble and emerging as arguably the best passer on the team. The towering talent started 2022-23 with a minutes cap to manage injuries, but he’s rolling as of late, upping his averages to 7.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 blocks.
Kaleb Larson (Fr.) – NDSCS Basketball – SG
Larson showed up at an NDSCS open gym during the offseason. The coaches couldn’t pass up his bulldog defense and sweet shooting stroke, signing him for the 2022-23 season. The West Fargo Sheyenne graduate can shoot it from the parking lot, opening up the interior for a group of slashing guards and posts. He doesn’t tire easily, hounding ball handlers above the arc to leave opponents with a limited shot clock. The Eastern Dakota Conference alumni is averaging 9.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 steals. Larson is knocking down more than two 3s per game and converting them at a 44.4% clip.
Agwa Nywesh (So.) – NDSCS Basketball – G/F
Nywesh has a nice offensive package, changing directions with joystick-like handles. The ability to switch hands and make decisions after he leaves his feet has resulted in plenty of and-one opportunities. The combo guard makes a living at the free-throw line, providing a nice scoring floor during streaky shooting games. The sophomore transfer from Western Nebraska Community College leads NDSCS with 5.3 free-throw attempts per game, hovering around 70% at the line. Strong contributions across the board have Nywesh averaging 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.9 steals.
Ethan Manock (Sr.) – Wahpeton Basketball – PF/C
Manock is a mammoth presence in the paint. The senior power forward is averaging 14.3 points, 16.0 rebounds, and 2.3 steals and blocks combined. His ability to alter shots and fly to the glass is a big reason for Wahpeton’s 2-1 start to the season. Manock moves quickly off the bounce and parts the defense with rim-rocking dunks that have become a viral trend on TikTok. He’s usually the strongest player on the court, allowing for easy buckets at the block. Manock draws plenty of attention from the opposition, but needs only a handful of shots to affect the game, opening up the offense.
Caden Hockert (Sr.) – Wahpeton Basketball – SG
Hockert has cooled down since dropping 22 points in the Huskies season opener, but the confident shooter is bound to heat up again. Encouragingly, the senior shooting guard has increased his assist numbers and continued to chase perimeter players off the top with a bulldog brand of defense. The three-point aficionado is averaging 11.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Hockert’s 22-point outburst to begin the season was vital, as Wahpeton needed every last point to defeat West Fargo Horace, 96-85.
Caden Kappes (Sr.) – Wahpeton Basketball – PG
The second arm of the Caden guard tandem, Kappes runs the show from his point guard position with poise and stamina. His ability to pressure the basketball for 90 feet, jostle with the big boys for rebounds inside, and score when opportunities arise — these qualities make Kappes a textbook floor general. Multifaceted contributions in the early season have resulted in averages of 12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals for the three-sport star.
Jayden King (Jr.) – Wahpeton Basketball – PF
King came into the season as an unknown. He quickly answered any questions about his role by scoring 18 points in the season opener. The lefty forward has premium footwork and isn’t afraid to go up with his right hand. The junior cleans up a fair share of misses on the glass, forcing teams to box him out and providing more rebounds for Manock and Jackson Clooten. King is still growing into his 6-foot-4 frame and gaining traction in the Huskies offense each minute he spends on the court. He’s averaging 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.
Treyton Mauch (So.) – Wahpeton Basketball – PG/SG
Mauch played bigger than his size on the football field, earning him Fall Sports Athlete of the Year honors. He’s doing just that on the hardwood, jumping over defenders with a flashy pull-up jumper and racing past them with burners off the dribble. Championship-level teams always have a solid sixth man and Mauch is wearing that hat for Wahpeton, bringing electric energy and scoring bursts off the bench. The 5-foot-10 sophomore guard is averaging 10.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals.
Landon Blaufuss (Sr.) – Breckenridge Basketball – PF/C
Blaufuss is still shaking off the rust after missing the entire 2021-22 basketball season with a shoulder injury. He’s missed some bunnies down low that he will almost certainly start making in the coming weeks, something he proved with a monster 27-point, 12-rebound performance in his fourth game of the year vs. Lake Park-Audubon. What the 6-foot-2 senior forward lacks in height, he makes up for with beautifully sharp moves inside the arc, spinning and stepping through double teams like a seasoned scorer. Blaufuss is averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, giving hope that the Cowboys will break loose from their 0-4 start.
Daymon Smith (Sr.) – Breckenridge Basketball – PG/SG
Where have they been hiding this kid? Smith burst onto the scene this winter, leading Breckenridge in scoring across his first three games. The senior guard has the greenest of green lights, draining nearly five threes per game on an eye-popping 10.5 attempts. Smith has a mean streak about him, coming from a long line of competitive ballers in his family tree, something Breckenridge needs to reroute the trajectory of its program. The dangerous shooter is averaging 17.7 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Alex Sanchez (Sr.) – Breckenridge Basketball – G/F
Sanchez has taken on a reduced scoring role at times this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s had a reduced impact. The senior guard/forward tallied eight assists in a hostile road game at Barnesville. The lid came off for “Chez” in his fourth appearance, an 18-point game vs. Lake Park-Audubon. Sanchez has length and quickness that allows Breckenridge to draw up defensive pressure and slide him into multiple slots on the court. He’s averaging a well-rounded 11.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.0 steals per game.
Cam Nieto (Sr.) – Breckenridge Basketball – G
Nieto’s stats don’t jump off the page, but watching game film is part of the selection process, and he does many good things on the court. The senior guard is built like a pitbull and stops driving guards in their tracks with strong lateral quickness. He’s a plus-minus dream for Breckenridge Head Coach Jordan Christensen as the only Cowboy with a positive assist/turnover ratio. Nieto has 11 deflections in the passing lane, busting up offensive sets before they can get started. He’s averaging 5.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
David Erlandson (Fr.) – Breckenridge-Wahpeton Wrestling
Erlandson has grappled at 170 and 182 pounds this season; a tall task for a freshman. He’s a brute force, however, pumping out an 8-5 record on the mat. Erlandson doesn’t get too high in victory or defeat, keeping a level head that allows him to stay in the fight. His fourth-place finish at the Dan Unruh Memorial Invitational in Wahpeton was tops among the Storm roster.
Henry Slettedahl (Fr.) – Breckenridge-Wahpeton Wrestling
Slettedahl was late to the party after suffering a fractured finger during football, but he’s back and giving the Storm plenty to celebrate. The freshman is facing some of North Dakota’s top wrestlers right off the bat and hanging tough with a 3-4 record. Slettedahl’s best wrestling is yet to come and, combined with his toughness and untapped potential, he will be a wrestler to watch heading into the 2023 schedule.
Colman Barth (Jr.) – Breckenridge-Wahpeton Wrestling
Barth is one of the older talents holding the Storm together with his 8-5 record. Conditioning crept up on him earlier this season, keeping him from an even better mark. He settled in at the Dan Unruh with a fifth-place finish and also helped Breckenridge-Wahpeton drop Fargo North with a victory at home. Storm Head Coach Ryan Brandt is pleased with the work Barth continues to do, signaling more victories down the stretch for the 132-pound competitor.
Weston Jensen (Jr.) – Breckenridge-Wahpeton Wrestling
Jensen has shown flashes of beastly dominance. He’s getting better at digging into his second and third moves when opponents stuff his signature takedowns. The junior is 10-5 this season with three pins, leading the Storm in wins. More impressively, Jensen has grinded out some nail-biting decisions, including 14-11, 11-6 and 8-7 outcomes vs. North Dakota and South Dakota foes. Jensen placed fifth at the Dan Unruh.
Myles Hinkley (So.) – Breckenridge-Wahpeton Wrestling
Hinkley hovers just below the .500 mark with a 6-7 record. The junior secured a clutch pin to lift Breckenridge-Wahpeton past Fargo North and owns a top-five finish at the Dan Unruh. The 182-pound scrapper has four pins on his record, making him one of the better finishers on the Storm roster.
Riley Kappes (8th) – Breckenridge-Wahpeton Wrestling
Kappes makes a rare watch list appearance as an eighth grader. He’s certainly earned the nod by posting a 7-6 record. The work it takes to reach the physicality level of older wrestlers in the 132 pound ranks makes Kappes an outlier amongst his peers. Kappes has pinned six opponents and claimed fifth place at the Dan Unruh.
Andrew Withuski (Sr.) – Breckenridge-Wahpeton Hockey – G
Withuski is second in Section 6A save percentage (.885), making 254 saves and allowing 33 goals. The Blades are 0-6 this year, but its certainly not because of the 306 minutes Withuski has spent between the pipes.