Posted On: 08/28/16 5:29 PM
With July’s evaluation period now behind us, and plenty of time to kill between now and late November, it’s time to take a look at who we believe will be some of the teams to keep an eye on in each classification this winter. And, since everyone likes rankings, why not roll out a de facto pre-season top 10 for each class, with our “Way Too Early” top 10 lists. Below you’ll find our top 10 for Class 2A, along with some other teams that could make some noise, as well as a brief summary of why each team is in their respective spot. Enjoy.
1.) Pella Christian (State semifinalist, 18-10 last year, 69.2% of scoring back)
After back-to-back third place finishes, the Eagles will look to make the jump to a championship game appearance behind the leadership of standout point guard Levi Jungling (19.5 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists). Jungling has been one of the best players in the class for two years now, and his ability to both score and get others involved may make him the most valuable player to any team in Class 2A. Last season’s second and third leading scorers are gone, but four other important pieces return with Graham Howerzyl (6.0), Alex Pringle (5.8), Caleb Roose (5.7) and Kenden Veenstra (3.7). Veenstra is a 6-6 forward who could be the key to this team making the final step, if he’s able to provide some big minutes in the paint on both ends of the floor. The Eagles will also receive a significant boost from the return of David Kacmarynski. An undersized power forward who missed last season with a torn ACL, Kacmarynski averaged 12.6 points and 8.3 rebounds as a sophomore. His return, with the number of talented returnees Pella Christian has, is enough to peg the Eagles as our early No. 1 team in the class.
2.) Carroll Kuemper (State qualifier, 18-7 last year, 73.9% of scoring back)
Star big man Matt Dentlinger is back after a sensational junior year in which he averaged 18.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. A lengthy and athletic big who is capable of scoring at all three levels, he’s a matchup problem for anyone. The second and third leading scorers also return in Jacob Schaefer (9.2) and Parker Badding (8.6). Badding had a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last year, and also knocked down 47 3-pointers. Also returning are juniors Jared Tigges (4.2) and Sam Auen (4.8). With nearly 75% of last year’s state qualifying scoring back, expect the Knights to make another run to Des Moines. And when they get there, they’ll be armed with one of the best players in the state.
3.) Western Christian (Defending state champions, 25-2 last year, 40.9% of scoring back)
The perennial power will be taking the floor without legendary coach Jim Eekhoff this season for the first time ever. Eekhoff retired after 34 years at the helm, winning eight state titles along the way, a state record. They’ll also be without arguably the best player in the school’s history in Josh VanLingen, who scored 1,665 points and grabbed 1,027 rebounds in his decorated career. New coach Bill Harmsen has plenty of winning experience, spending five seasons as the girls coach at the school (winning three titles), and a decade as an assistant for Eekhoff beforehand. Despite losing VanLingen, Taylor Miedema and a host of other talented players, the den is far from empty for the Wolfpack. Jesse Jansma (11.6 points per game) and Ben Gesink (9.0) both return after playing significant roles last season, as does Tyson Kooima (5.5). While the rest of the talent on the roster isn’t known across the state yet, it won’t take too long for Western Christian to establish themselves as a power yet again. This is one of the few teams in the state, regardless of classification, that you can never count out going into a season.
4.) Des Moines Christian (State qualifier, 21-4 last year, 67.9% of scoring back)
Leading scorer Ben Juhl (18.9) returns after a season in which he shot an incredible 60.3% from the floor for the Lions. They lose a Division I forward in Keaton Van Soelen (Air Force), but four of the top five scorers return, including Juhl. Nathan Herbers (8.6), Isaac Prewitt (8.4) and Austin Mona (6.4) are all back after playing big roles last year. This is a team that will need to find someone to step up and compete on the glass, as Van Soelen was the leading rebounder by 119 boards. Juhl is one of the more talented scorers in the class, however, and with the other returnees, this team should compete and will be considered one of the favorites to get back to Wells Fargo.
5.) MFL-Mar-Mac (16-7 last year, 98.1% of scoring back)
All but 27 points return for the Bulldogs, headlined by a quartet of double figure scorers. Tristen Kautman (18.4 points per game) is one of the best all-around scoring threats in the class, with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, and he’s joined by a trio of players who averaged around 13 points a game in Ty Hefner (13.0), Mason Hertrampf (13.3) and Cade Kuenster (13.8). Hertrampf and Hefner are perimeter shooters, and Kuenster is a presence in the paint and on the glass. Also back is guard Bryar Ruff, who led the team in rebounding and tied for the team lead in assists. He’s the straw that stirs the drink for the ‘Dogs, setting up all of the big-time scoring threats on the floor. With so much firepower back, MFL seems to be a safe bet to improve on their 16 wins from last year and potentially get back to Des Moines for the first time since 2013.
6.) Hinton (15-7 last year, 86.4% of scoring back)
A Division I talent returns for the Blackhawks in scoring guard Jay Small (25.7 points per game), and his return makes them a very dangerous team. One of the highest scoring teams in the class last season, Hinton also brings back four more players who averaged between 6.2 and 11.5 points per game (Carson Covey, Ross Johnson, Andrew Hasselquist, Collin Jurgenmeier), giving them a starting lineup that will be full of experience. If big man Hasselquist (8.0 points, 9.6 rebounds) can take another step forward in his development, that will go a long way in getting the Blackhawks to the state tournament for the first time since 1940.
7.) Pocahontas Area/Laurens-Marathon (18-4 last year, 60.0% of scoring back)
Leading scorer Tanner Youngberg has graduated, but a pair of very talented players return in Austin Roetman (16.9 points, 9.3 rebounds) and Jace Davidson (12.7 points). Roetman had a great spring and summer with All-Iowa Attack, showcasing a very diverse skill set that should allow him to be one of 2A’s leading scorers this year, and with his 6’7″ frame, he’s a matchup problem. Davidson returns after a very good freshman year in which he was one of the most productive 2019s in the state. Tyler Behrendsen (6.4) is also back, hoping to improve on his 29.5% shooting from the arc. With the Roetman-Davidson duo back, they’ll win a lot of games again this season. The role players stepping up will be the key to how far this team can go.
8.) South Hamilton (14-10 last year, 76.7% of scoring back)
It seems as though this is the year that South Hamilton has been building for for quite some time now, and now is the time if they’re going to do something special. Collin Hill (21.1 points) leads a talented group that brings back standout point guard Marco Balderas (10.0 points, 4.8 assists) and Conner Hill (8.1 points, 45.6 3P%). Logan Klemp (5.9) provides some help to Collin Hill on the interior and on the glass, and his furthered development could lead to allowing Hill to operate further away from the basket. With four starters back, the time is now for the Hawks.
9.) Jesup (State qualifier in 1A, 22-4 last year, 62.5% of scoring back)
A state qualifying team last season in Class 1A, the J-Hawks make the move up a class this winter. Led by dynamic guard Ethan Wyant, they’ve got a chance to make significant noise yet again this season. Wyant averaged 18.3 points a game last season on an absurd 62.8% shooting, and showed the state a glimpse of what he was capable of in the first half of their quarterfinal loss to Gladbrook-Reinbeck. Also back is Tyler Lienau (13.7 points), who was the team’s second leading scorer, tied for the team lead in assists and led in steals and blocks. Guard Drew Schmit (8.7) is back as well, but Jesup will need to find some new role players to fill the voids left by players like Rodney Ciesielski, Kyle DeBerg and Alex McCombs, who have graduated. The trio of Wyant, Lienau and Schmit will win plenty of games, but this team will only truly contend for a state title if they’re able to get production out of the remainder of the roster.
10.) Rock Valley (14-10 last year, 59.0% of scoring back)
A big reason the Rockets find themselves in the top 10 here is the step forward that we expect junior big man Jason Taylor to take. Taylor, a 6’11” center, grabbed a few Division I offers over the summer on the heels of strong play on the grassroots circuit. He stands to improve greatly on the 9.8 points and 7.5 rebounds from last year. Kendrick Van Kekerix (9.0) and Brett Moser (7.4) return after playing significant roles last season, while Elliot Van Kekerix (5.3), JT Van’t Hul (3.9) and Brayton Van Kekerix (2.4) look to build on promising freshmen seasons. This was a very young roster last season, and with another year of development, they should improve on their 14 wins.
Seven more teams to watch
Southeast Valley (18-4 last year, 52.7% of scoring back)
Top scorer Conner Conrad is gone, but Dakota Jaeschke (14.9 points, 10.1 rebounds) is a dominant force on the interior who should be very good again this season. Guards Myles Davis (6.4), Keegan Goodwin (5.6) and Caleb Jondle (5.9) return to flank Jaeschke on the perimeter, with Goodwin and Jondle in particular being good shooters. Look for a more balanced attack from the Warriors this season, and they should come close to matching last year’s win total.
Garner-Hayfield-Ventura (21-4 last year, 51.5% of scoring back)
Leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocking extraordinaire Sam Cataldo has graduated, which may make some think the Cardinals will take a step back. However, four players who averaged between 4.6 and 11.0 points per game return in Holden Hutcheson (4.6), Nick Joynt (6.6), James Betz (9.2) and Johnny O’Connor (11.0). The big name here is Betz, who is one of the top sophomores in the state, and should improve tremendously on his 9.2 point, 6.1 rebound averages last season. He looks like a player capable of completely taking over Cataldo’s role and keeping this team on track to be a threat to make it to Des Moines for the first time since 2007.
Camanche (17-6 last year, 53.4% of scoring back)
The Indians lose a number of valuable players from last year’s group, which set a school record with 17 wins. And while they’ll miss Blake Bialas, Will Seeser and Dylan Dodson, those are the only three players gone, while the rest of the roster returns. Leading scorers Dakota Soenksen (14.1) and Dylan Hundley (13.1) are back, giving Camanche a pair of lengthy wings who can shoot from the arc or get to the rim. They’ll need to get increased production out of role players like Tre Austin (3.5), David Gonzalez (2.6) and Dev Patel (1.3), as well as newcomers Cameron Soenksen (2020) and Carson Seeser (2019). They’ll certainly miss Dodson’s interior presence (85 blocks), as well as the point guard abilities of Bialas (139 assists), but this team shouldn’t fall off too much with the scoring talent they’ve got coming back.
Dyersville Beckman (16-8 last year, 32.1% of scoring back)
The Blazers lose their dynamic duo of scoring guards in Colton Willenbring and Colin Squiers, who combined to average 36.5 points per game on a ridiculous 57.4% shooting. And while that efficiency and scoring punch will be missed, Beckman brings back a very talented lead guard in Riley LeGrand, who was among the state’s leaders in assists last year, dishing out 184 of them, compared to just 75 turnovers. With him running the show, and efficient forward Sam Stelken (11.5 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, 55.7 FG%) controlling the paint and glass, the Blazers should be dangerous again. A 2A team playing in a 3A conference (WaMaC), they’ve got the benefit of playing up in competition all season, which really benefits them come playoff time. We want to see how the other returnees adjust to bigger roles, most notably Mitch Gehling and Ben Palmer, before we put them into the top 10, but this is a team that will certainly be a tough out, and will likely end up spending a good chunk of time in the top 10 come January.
Osage (State qualifier, 20-5 last year, 55.8% of scoring back)
A trio of junior guards return from last year’s state tournament team in Drew Olson (11.5), Lucas Schwamman (7.4) and Nathan Bushbaum (6.0). Olson and Schwamman are coming off impressive summers playing with the Iowa Mavericks, and the duo of big, physical guards should have very nice seasons for the Green Devils. Bushbaum hoisted up nearly 75% of his shots from behind the arc last season, and if he can improve on his 27.4% from there, he could become a dangerous weapon alongside the penetration of Olson. Ben Grimm (4.5) is also back after playing a significant role. This is a team that wins with their physicality and defensive abilities, and that won’t change this season.
East Marshall (9-13 last year, 94.8% of scoring back)
The Mustangs won seven of their final 11 games last season and return all but 57 points from last year’s roster, headlined by Dru Boliver (16.4 points per game) and Zane Johnson (12.3 points, 7.5 rebounds). More importantly, however, they add an extremely talented combo forward in Grinnell transfer Zaine Leedom. Leedom averaged 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds as a sophomore and the move down a class should make him even more potent. With that trio to build around, and other role players such as Tyler DeBondt back, look for East Marshall to improve tremendously on their nine wins from last year.
Aplington-Parkersburg (18-4 last year, 42.9% of scoring back)
Coach Aaron Thomas has turned A-P into a power in northeast Iowa, and while they may not be quite as strong this season as in previous years, this is still going to be a dangerous group. Headlined by Cade Alberts (12.5 points per game, 41.4 3P%) and Carter Cuvelier (9.6, 48.9 3P%), the Falcons will have plenty of shooting on the floor. Cuvelier is one of the better sophomores in the state, and should build on a strong freshman campaign. They’ll need to get significant production out of guys like Coby Hoff (3.9) and Alec Oberhauser (3.2) to become a true state tournament threat, but this is one program that can’t be counted out – they’re ripe with athletes seemingly year in, year out.
Disagree with anything we’ve said here? Let us know in the comments section below.