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Change is never easy for coaches or programs. For the coaches, it usually involves moving themselves or their families to a new place with new people.

New Rapid City Stevens girls' basketball coach Michael Brooks may have to deal with some of that, but his family is already very familiar with the Black Hills.

Brooks, who previously coached at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., has a wife, father-in-law and brother-in-law with South Dakota and local basketball ties.

"Coming to Rapid probably wasn't on my radar, but after talking to my family and the athletic director, we decided this would be a good fit for the family," Brooks said. 

Brooks' father-in-law, Jim Sutherland, was a coach at Black Hills State. His brother-in-law, Jason Sutherland, won a state championship playing for Watertown in 1992 before going to Missouri. And his wife, Andi, was born in Spearfish before moving to Missouri to start her own coaching career.

Brooks said the relationship with his father-in-law taught him that the level at which someone coaches doesn't matter as long as the coach can also be a teacher.

"I had a mentor (Sutherland) who started coaching high school in Iowa and Wyoming, coached in college and ended his career in Missouri," he said. "For me, it was being able to listen and understand the stories and grow to learn that the point of coaching is to continue to teach and impact lives, and I think this is the level to do that.

"For us, it was a no-brainer to come back."

With constant traveling for youth sports becoming the norm, Brooks said the commitment gap between high school and college athletes is narrowing.

"I think younger kids have gotten used to the AAU culture that has taken over basketball, and so they have experience with traveling," he said. "It's definitely a different feel, but the athletes around here are so good. Players can play multiple systems, so we have to decide which one is best for us."

That system could include a faster tempo. Brooks said that's the way he wants his team to play offensively and the way he tried to play at Bradley.

"I've kept it pretty open and honest with anyone I talk to that I want to pick the tempo up, to play full court offensively and defensively," he said.

The next step that probably won't be completed until after the season starts, according to Brooks, is to find an identity.

"When a team comes into our gym, what kind of atmosphere will they be walking into? There's no doubt there's excitement surrounding our program, but now the hard work starts," he said. "I have loved the tempo, the enthusiasm and their basketball IQ, but at the same time, we have to have realistic expectations because everything is new.

"We need as much practice as we can so that we can be as excellent as we can be."

Stevens' boys will look to improve on a season that had postseason success, with the Raiders finishing third in the state tournament.

One returnee is all-state guard Mason Archambault, who sparked the Raiders last season.

"We feel like with the returners we have back and the new players stepping in, we have a shot at having a great year and competing for a state title," Raiders coach Chris Stoebner said.

Across town, both the Rapid City Central boys and girls teams will also be looking to improve. The boys finished 6-20 least season and are very young, and the girls bring back a team that was 15-9 last season and won the district tournament.

The Cobbler boys have only three players returning from last year's squad, but coach T.J. Hay said he is excited about what he has seen from his players in the off-season.

"We had some kids really put in quality time in the gym and weight room in the last nine months," he said. "We have great leadership and kids with high basketball IQs."

All five starters return to a girls' team that will look to improve on its sixth-place finish in the state tournament last season.

The Sturgis boys and girls will also be looking to contend in the district race and fight for the Black Hills Conference title. 

Sturgis boys' coach Colin McCampell, who enters his sixth season, said his team can improve on its 8-15 mark.

"If we can defend at a higher level we will have a chance to be there at the end of every game," he said.

The Sturgis girls, 4-18 last season, lost the Region 2AA play-in game to Mitchell by only seven points. Ten players return from that squad, and coach Jordan Proefrock said that, based on the experience the team gained last season, improvement is a real possibility.

At Douglas, boys' coach Travis Miller hopes his team's 4-18 mark improves, and the girls are looking to better last season's 2-20 mark.

The boys' team will have eight returning players, and although Miller said they lack size, he thinks they can use quickness to win games.

"We are a smaller team, so we are going to need to rebound to be compete," he said. "We plan to push the tempo and will need to use our quickness and shooting to reach our goals for the season."

Girls' coach Duane Wince said success this year depends on the team's ability to work harder.

"We expect to build a solid rapport together through focus and hard work," he said. "The goal is to compete and improve every day and peak at the end of the season when it is district tournament time."

Here's a capsule look at the area Class AA teams:


Rapid City Stevens Raiders

Coach: Chris Stoebner 

Last season: 14-11

Returning players: Mason Archambault, Jacob Martin, Hawky Cummings, Andrew Cottier, Jordan Lawrence, Takoda Ghost Bear, Cooper Bowman, Connor King, Will Moore, Gib Elder.

Newcomers who could contribute: Taron Olson, Trent Lopez, Josh Schumacher, Isiah Richards, Alex Weaver, Carter Nesland. 

Preseason expectations: "Obviously our goal is to be playing our best basketball by tourney time. Again we don’t have a lot of size, so we are going to have to speed up the game and not get into a half-court grind-it-out contest. We have a number of guys who can really shoot, so we feel like if we shoot it well, we can compete with anyone. Our district will be very competitive this year, so we will have to play very well just to get out of the district," said Stoebner.

Rapid City Central Cobblers

Coach: T.J. Hay 

Last season: 6-20 

Returning players: Dylan Hay, Kallieb Walton-Blanton, Ira Murphy. 

Newcomers who could contribute: Tanner Berg, Cameron Hall, Camden Talley, Nehemiah Baustian, Kyle Elder, Trey Eberlein, Mason McBride.

Preseason expectations: "Looking to find a few players who will be able to make the jump and compete at the varsity level. We have two starting guards and the first post off the bench returning for us from last year. We are undersized for a AA team but will be an exciting group to coach. We will look to play an up-tempo style and try to use our quickness and athleticism to our advantage," said Hay.

Douglas Patriots

Coach: Travis Miller 

Last season: 4-18.

Returning players: Lemans Little Eagle, Russell Morton, Joe Hannah, Anthony Jones, Trevor Severson, Chance Sorensen, Riley Klueber, Dylan Pourier. 

Newcomers who could contribute: Cetan Big Crow, Sam Hand, Dan Hand. 

Sturgis Scoopers

Coach: Colin McCampell 

Last season: 8-15. 

Returning players: Dawson Geuke, Connor Crane, Ryan Garland, Taylor Eby, Jace Fischer, Jarrett Keffeler, Caleb Bates. 

Newcomers who could contribute: Jacob Peotter, Grayson Nelson, Jay Krull, Cedrick Stabber, Gavin West. 

Preseason expectations: "We are looking to be competitive in the Black Hills Conference and AA District four race. There are great teams in both our conference and district."


Rapid City Central Cobblers

Coach: Kraig Blomme 

Last season: 15-9. 

Returning players: Mya Jones, Karli O'Brien, Abby Johnson, Maddi Sullivan, Juneau Jones, Michelle Jones, Bailey Johnson. 

Newcomers who could contribute: Lilli Estus. 

Rapid City Stevens Raiders

Coach: Michael Brooks.

Last season: 11-17.

Returning players: Ally Riddle, Elizabeth Schaefer, Falon McNabb, Mya Hendry, Haley Molstad, Julia Haefs, Sydney Smith, Hanna VanDerWerff, Aly Hammon, Christina Delzer.

Newcomer that might contribute: Kyah Watson, Claire Martin, Emily Sobczak, Grace Martin, Lexus Chasing Eagle, Emma Burns.

Sturgis Scoopers

Coach: Jordan Proefrock 

Last season: 4-18. 

Returning players: Eden Lambert, Brook Janz, Donni Bruch, Sierra Fischer, Alexa Delbridge, Libby Korth, Micah Holt, Olivia Jolley, Loralee Stock, Cassidy Jorensen. 

Preseason expectations:  "I think we will have a much improved season. We gained a lot of valuable experience from last season," Proefrock said.

Douglas Patriots

Coach: Duane Wince 

Last season: 2-20.

Returning players: Breeze Stock, Alisha Davis, Jordynn Toliver, Naomi Wynn. 

Newcomers who could contribute: Adrianna Zolicoffer, Valarie Doud, Ariah VanBuskirk, Jeslyn Jindra. 

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