Cloquet didn’t win the sixth annual Twin Ports Summer Jam basketball tournament Monday and Tuesday, July 26-27, at Cloquet Middle School, but the experience they gained from playing will be a benefit in the coming season.

The Lumberjacks haven’t been at full strength all summer with players away on vacation or competing in other sports, but summer results don’t matter to coach Steve Battaglia.

“We never have a full squad, so I don’t care if we win or lose,” he said.

In addition to a few summer practices, Cloquet players have been working to get stronger and improve their skills.

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“We spent a lot of time in the weight room — that’s kind of our first priority all summer is to get in the weight room three days a week,” Battaglia said. “We have impressively high numbers of guys doing that and then there’s lots of opportunities for our guys to get in the gym. We’ve opened it up a couple times a week in the evenings for guys to get good shots up.”

Among the returning starters for the Lumberjacks are Alec Turnbull and Caleb Hansen. In addition, Battaglia believes Connor Barney is a “big strong kid who is as good as anybody in our section.”

Cloquet's Caleb Hansen drives to the hoop during a game against Duluth East at the Twin Ports Summer Jam Monday, July 26, 2021, at Cloquet Middle School. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Cloquet's Caleb Hansen drives to the hoop during a game against Duluth East at the Twin Ports Summer Jam Monday, July 26, 2021, at Cloquet Middle School. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

Turnbull, a three-year starter on Cloquet’s varsity squad, thinks speed and shooting are what will be the differences this year for the team.

“We’ve got a fast team for sure, and we’ve got a lot of shooters on the team, one through five, we’ll be able to shoot the three,” Turnbull said. “I’m really excited, Battaglia thinks we’re going to have a good squad this year, and I think everyone is really excited.”

Battaglia said the long season will be a grind, but he’s glad things seem to be returning to normal.

“When you’re playing your 26-game schedule against big boys, you’re going to get beat up,” he said. “It’ll be interesting, we’re all ready to be back to some normalcy. Gyms will be full, bands will be back, so there’s lots to look forward to.”