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Hoelscher is new boys' basketball coach in Osakis

Alexandria's Matt Hoelscher has known he wanted to be a head coach since his days playing for former Cardinal boys' basketball coach John Holsten at Jefferson High School.

Now at age 31, Hoelscher will get that chance after taking over as the head boys' basketball coach in Osakis. Chris Stroup opened the door for him with his decision to step away this past spring after leading the Silverstreaks for 10 seasons. It was a door Hoelscher was happy to walk through.

"It's always on my mind anytime I watch a game," he said last week, "whether it's NBA or college. I look at it a lot differently now. It's like, that is something we could maybe run. It's constant evaluating, constant looking for new things. It's consuming but it's enjoyable."

The former football, basketball and baseball standout in Alexandria will be entering his fifth year as an 8th and 10th grade U.S. and world history teacher at Osakis. He has coached at the junior high and junior varsity levels in the Silverstreaks football and baseball programs during that time. He coached the 7th grade boys and girls basketball teams in Osakis last winter, as well.

Hoelscher said basketball was the sport he loved most growing up, with baseball a close second. He spent a year at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall after graduating from JHS in 2000. He tried walking on to the men's basketball team his freshman year before transferring to St. Cloud State University to play baseball for the Huskies.

Hoelscher spent six seasons as an assistant boys' basketball coach in Melrose under head coach Ryan Dusha. He feels that experience, and his time spent playing and studying the game, has prepared him for his first head coaching job.

"When it comes to knowledge and things like that, I feel like I have a good understanding of the game," Hoelscher said. "I like to watch film and start scouting other teams and try to put pieces together like me, it's just more the extra stuff, not so much the coaching and the practice planning, that I'm going to have to get used to."

Hoelscher wants to play an up-tempo style that will allow his teams to get some easy buckets and pressure the opposition on defense. His offense in the half court will feature aspects of the flex with more ball screen and rolls.

He knows adjusting to some of those new elements will take some time for his players. Hoelscher hosted a three-day camp earlier this month, where he had a chance to evaluate the guys he will be working with in both individual and team events.

"It's definitely going to be a learning curve," he said. "Just the terminology that I used in camp, they didn't really know what I meant, so you have to slow things down and say here's what I mean on this part. That's where [assistant coach] Lee VanNyhuis is going to help out too. Talking to coach [Ryan] Maddock, I asked him, 'What are some things in the past that have worked that you think we should keep doing?' That way it's not a huge overhaul for them that will take three-fourths of the year before it finally clicks."

Hoelscher will have a young team heading into his first season. Doug Zimmel will return after getting solid minutes as a junior this past winter and Ky Zimmel should also be back after suffering a knee injury early last year. The rest of the roster will be filled out by guys who still need to get their feet wet at the varsity level.

Hoelscher said he liked the energy of his team in camp but he knows that the inexperience could lead to some growing pains. Ultimately, his goal is to get Osakis back to being a perennial power in the Prairie Conference after finishing the last two seasons a combined 9-43 overall.

"First year, I'm not expecting to go to the state tournament and win it," Hoelscher said. "[We'll] just kind of build off of each year...We want to get back to that competing for the conference championship. When Stroup won it all those years in a row - that's our goal, get up there and try to compete."

He'll have a lot of time to build that program if he has it his way. Hoelscher has been working toward a head coaching job for years. Now that he has it, he has no plans of letting it go.

"Three years ago, I was like, 'I want to coach as long as [Rocori's 42-year head coach] Bob Brink," Hoelscher said. "You don't see that at all any more, coaching as many years as he has. Coach Holsten has been in there a long time. My plan is to stay in Osakis. I have a son who is 6-years-old who I would love to coach someday."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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