Boys basketball: Hiawatha looks for more under 2nd-year coach Matthew Montavon

Hawks’ 2023-24 win total was most since 2004

Hiawatha basketball head coach Matthew Montavon, who is heading into his second year at the helm, talks to one of his players during practice Thursday, June 13, 2024 at the school in Kirkland.

KIRKLAND – In Year 1 under new head coach Matthew Montavon, the Hiawatha boys basketball team won more games than they had in any season in the past two decades.

While that equated to a 7-23 record for the Hawks, Montavon and the players said they hope it’s just a start.

“I didn’t know what to expect because I had never been a head coach,” Montavon said. “But I thought it went pretty well. We only had two weeks before the season started with that group of kids and we got seven wins, which is the most in a long time here, which is a good thing. We started the foundation for our program so next year we want to build on that.”

According to IHSA and other online records, the seven wins were the most in a season since the Hawks went 13-13 in 2004.

The Hawks accomplished the feat with nine seniors on the roster, but Montavon said he still expects the team to improve from last year. He’s hoping the team can reach a double-digit win total for the first time since 2004.

“I think with this group we could definitely do that,” Montavon said. “We can get to 10 wins, maybe even get to 14. We always want to do double. We got seven wins last year, maybe we get to 14. That’s our goal. It’s about getting better every day, working on the basic fundamentals and skills, and I can’t wait to see what we can do in Year 2.”

Montavon joined the school district at the start of the 2022-2023 school year and was an assistant coach on the girls team before getting the head boys job last year. He’s a 2018 graduate of DeKalb and went to Carroll College to continue his football career after playing basketball and football for the Barbs.

Montavon said junior Aidan Cooper will have a big role in any potential success for the Hawks. He averaged 5.8 points per game to go with 3.9 rebounds.

A starter last year, he led the team in scoring four times and rebounding twice playing forward and center. Montavon said he’s ready to make a huge leap this year.

“He dominated in a lot of games last year, which you don’t really expect to see from a sophomore,” Montavon said. “I think he can take that next step and be the best scorer, best rebounder for us for sure.”

Cooper said there’s a lot of incoming freshmen on the team this year, and this summer will play a big role in getting them varsity-ready.

“It makes the summer really important trying to get these freshmen, these underclassmen up to speed with trying to play varsity,” Cooper said. “They’re going from eighth grade to high school varsity players. They have to jump in skill and maturity really fast.”

Montavon said Thomas Giebel is poised for a breakout season. The senior didn’t start the year with the most playing time but played himself into a starting role.

He averaged less than two points per game, but the shooting guard said he knows more is expected of him this season.

“I have to play better than I did last year, and I think the same can be said about all the guys who have experience,” Giebel said. “We want to make a run this year and impress some teams, so we have to step it up a little bit. I was in a more laid-back role because we had seven or eight good players. But this year I’m going to have to look toward the goal of, I think it’s 15 points a game is what we set.”

Giebel suffered a knee injury earlier this year and will miss the summer, only participating in some light shooting. Montavon said he should be back by the start of the season.

And when the season rolls around, Giebel said he’s optimistic for what the Hawks can do.

“We look a lot better than we did this time last year,” Giebel said. “But we also had a lot of skill last year. If we can put it all together this year we can make a very good basketball team.”

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