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Playing with potential

Brandon-Evansville 8th grader Taylor Bitzan pulls up for a baseline jumpshot over the defense of Osakis’ Lane Berberich (middle) and Drew Fearing (right) last Thursday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Being the starting point guard at the varsity level comes with a lot of responsibility, so handing those reins to an 8th grader means there is obviously a lot of potential in that player.

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That’s exactly what head coach John Holsten sees in Taylor Bitzan at Brandon-Evansville. He’s part of a young nucleus of players who are going through some growing pains after a 0-4 start to the season. The hope is that Bitzan can be one of the catalysts of a brighter future for the Chargers in the coming years.

“We think he’s got tremendous upside,” Holsten said. “He’s a good athlete. He’s a neat kid. He enjoys playing basketball, and we’re hoping that he’ll be a leader on the floor eventually. Right now he’s still struggling with the role.”

Bitzan was the starting point guard and the primary ball handler in the Chargers’ fourth game of the season against Osakis last Thursday. He isn’t being asked to carry the scoring load for this team. Sophomore big man Skyler Quinn has taken over that role after the loss of John Haseman to graduation.

What Holsten wants out of Bitzan is what any coach wants from their point guard.

“We’d like him to get us into our offense,” Holsten said. “Make shots when they’re available to him and guard some pretty good guards that we play during the year. He’s capable of doing that. He’s got a good mental approach to the game. He wants to get better and he wants to help the team succeed. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Bitzan showed flashes of the kind of talent that has Holsten so high on him against the Silverstreaks. He finished with just six points, two rebounds and two assists, but didn’t shy away from the challenge of bringing the ball up-court against an Osakis defense that likes to pressure teams.

Bitzan also showed an ability to create his own shot on one occasion after catching the ball past the three-point line on the right wing. He drove baseline on his defender and pulled up for a short, contested jumper that found the bucket.

That part of his game is still a work in progress, but that’s to be expected for a young player. The good news for the Chargers is that he’s a player who coaches say is willing to put the work in to become the kind of player they think he can be before his career is done.

“He spends a lot of time on his own and he also spends time when nobody’s watching, which is what good players do,” Holsten said. “We think his mental approach can handle [starting already]. He’s a tough kid mentally, and he doesn’t get rattled easily. We think he can handle it. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t think he could handle it. He looks to be more comfortable every time we take the floor.”

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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