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Notre Dame boys basketball hopeful to get back on track with new coach

Notre Dame junior guard Kolton Johnson returns as the Bulldogs leading scorer after helping his team reach the Class 4 District 1 championship game last winter. Photo by Jay Forness

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Notre Dame boys basketball team will have a new head coach on the sidelines this winter. The Bulldogs will be without now former head coach Paul Unterreiner, who took over in the 2014-15 season and led Notre Dame to two state final four appearances.

Unterreiner stepped down from coaching after last season when the Bulldogs recorded their least total wins in his career at 10-19 overall. Notre Dame still made the Class 4 District 1 championship game, though, but fell to Dexter 42-36.

Notre Dame had recently made the Class 4 Final Four in 2019-20 and finished with 20 wins the season after, but the program went down to 12 wins two years ago before last winter.

The Bulldogs are now officially entering their first season with Jeremy Brinkmeyer at the helm, who is actually a former assistant for the Bulldogs, lastly being on the staff in 2020-21.

Coach Brinkmeyer has spent the last two seasons as the head coach at Kelly and actually guided the Hawks to win a district championship in his first year. He finished with a combined coaching record of 32-23.

Heading into his first season at Notre Dame, Coach Brinkmeyer is hoping to restore the blue-collar work ethic in the program that led the program to two final fours over the last nine winters. Brinkmeyer knows the process to getting back to winning district titles and reaching the final four isn’t something that happens overnight.

“I am a true believer in if you focus on the mountain top, you’re going to trip on the mole hill,” Coach Brinkmeyer said. “That’s kind of been our problem is we’re so focused on success that we’re forgetting what it takes day-to-day to be successful. That’s why every day we really just focus on trying to win the day and the moment.”

Brinkmeyer will have a large junior class at his disposal to start his head coaching career, which is led by Notre Dame’s returning leading scorer junior guard Kolton Johnson.

Johnson helped the Bulldogs win the Christmas Tournament Consolation Championship by scoring a career-high 35 points off seven 3-pointers in the ninth-place game.

“One thing that goes unnoticed if you fly at him, he can make one-dribble pull-ups and hurt you in multiple parts of the game,” Coach Brinkmeyer said. “When he plays within the system and tries to not do too much, he does a lot of really good things.”

Another returning starter for Notre Dame will be fellow junior forward Will Henry Steward, who suffered a torn ACL prior to last season. Steward will be asked to be the Bulldogs force down low as Coach Brinkmeyer is excited to see what he can do this year.

“Will Henry has gone though it, and he came back [from the injury] last year,” Coach Brinkmeyer said. “Him and I have talked a lot about that it takes a while to gain confidence back in your ability. We’re hoping he continues to grow because he could be a really big part and do a lot of good things for us in the post.”

Perhaps the junior with the most playing experience coming back to the starting lineup for Notre Dame is junior Logan Landewee. He has served as the team’s starting point guard for his first two seasons.

Other key players for the Bulldogs this season will be the team’s lone senior Carson Essner and several juniors, such as Brett Dohogne, Brody Harden, Hayden Steimle and Trenton Schumacker.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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