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Expectations can be a double-edged sword for sports teams at any level.

They can certainly put pressure on that team, and all opponents can be counted on to give their best efforts, but they also mean the team possesses the potential to be really good.

The Whitnall boys basketball squad comes into the 2016-17 season rated fifth in Division 2 thanks mostly to the return of standouts Tyler Herro and Kevion Taylor.

Herro, a 6-foot-5-inch junior, averaged 24 points, four rebounds and four assists last season for the Falcons, who advanced to the WIAA Division 2 State Tournament and finished 20-7.

Taylor, a 6-6 senior, averaged 19.1 points and a team-high seven rebounds to complete the one-two punch.

Both players made the Now Newspapers All-Suburban team last season, with Herro also being named first-team all-state and Taylor earning honorable mention.

They both announced their college plans: Herro to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Taylor to Winona State University.

Another returning starter is 6-4 junior Danny Alexopoulos, who tallied 8.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season.

Other veterans from last season are 6-4 junior Jonah Bzdawka and 5-11 senior Mitchell Knapp, and the Falcons welcome players from a successful junior varsity squad as well.

"This season is filled with tremendous anticipation," coach Steve Kujawa said. "We're coming off the state semifinal berth, and there are three returning starters. The junior varsity was 20-2, and several members of that squad will be expected to immediately contribute at a high level."

With Herro, Taylor and others, offense should be strong, but Kujawa said his team's priority has been defense.

"Being able to consistently defend dribble-drive penetration and holding teams to one shot per possession is a point of emphasis in practice," Kujawa said.

The Falcons opened the season on Nov. 22 against a strong Destiny team and will take on Wauwatosa East at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at home.

Whitnall then meets Westosha Central at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, also at home, and the Woodland Conference slate begins at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, against Greendale on the home court.

Besides Destiny and Tosa East, the nonconference slate also includes second-rated Kaukauna at Concordia University over the holiday break and an invitational that includes defending Division 1 champion Stevens Point.

"The nonconference schedule is demanding," Kujawa said, "but it was designed with one purpose: getting us battle-tested for conference and tournament play."

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