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Posted On: 02/27/17 3:00 PM
With their junior seasons coming to a close, the guys in Iowa’s 2018 class have now had three whole years of high school ball to establish themselves as some of Iowa’s best prospects. And though there will — undoubtedly — be several more players emerge over the next year as top prospects, it’s these guys below who used their junior seasons to prove, or in most cases confirm, they were among the best players in the state.
UPDATED 2018 RANKINGS HERE
Devonte Thedford (Hoover) — 40 to 32
Here’s a recent quote from Hoover coach Courtney Henderson on his emerging lead guard: “He’s coming on for us. He’s starting to take that lead guard role for us, that guy that can break you down. We always have a guy that can break you down off the bounce, and he’s starting to take that role the latter part of the season.” Thedford has waited patiently for his turn to be lead guard in a Hoover system that on a yearly basis is loaded with them. He averaged 7.8 points this season, to go along with 2.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds. He’ll spend his summer with the Iowa Barnstormers, and should see an uptick with his recruitment because of it.
Brett Erwin (Davenport West) — 121 to 35
For starters, he’s 6-foot-8, and there’s always intrigue around a guy with that kind of size. In addition to his great size, he’s putting together a nice set of skills. He led the Falcons this season, with averages of 15.6 points (59 FG%), 2.0 blocks and 9.5 rebounds per game. That’s a nice season to build on as he heads into his final offseason before his senior season.
Grant DeMuelenaere (Grand View Christian) — 59 to 48
Holy smokes is this slick point guard enjoying a tremendous junior season. He’s one of those guys makes the game seem effortless with a crafty style and high basketball IQ — and he’ll have an opportunity to showcase that innate basketball ability down at Wells Fargo Arena next week. His numbers ballooned this season on a Grand View Christina squad that led the state in scoring during the regular season — by a wide margin — averaging 88.3 points per game. DeMuelenaere is the catalyst of that offense. He averaged 19.7 points on 58 percent shooting (41 3 FG%), 7.1 assists, and 3.3 steals per game during the regular season, all team-bests.
Marco Balderas (South Hamilton) — 60 to 49
He keeps climbing the charts, and after working relentlessly last summer on his game, he’s having himself a fantastic junior season with the Hawks — the state-bound Hawks that is. Balderas stepped-up and his two crucial free-throws late in South Hamilton’s substate win over East Marshall on Saturday night, and helped send his team to the State Tournament for the second time in the four years. Balderas has been one of the state’s most efficient point guards this season, sporting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.6:1, that’s top-tier stuff. The crafty 5-foot-8 junior has a proclivity to drop dimes to his teammates. He’s always fun to watch, and could be showstopping down at Wells Fargo Arena next week.
Grant Johnson (Van Meter) — 139 to 62
Another guy who will be showcased in Des Moines next week at the State Tournament, this 6-foot-8 power forward was instrumental in sending his Bulldogs there for the first time since Bob Feller was at Van Meter back in 1936. He’s been receiving some Division II interest (the specific programs are undisclosed), and he could see his stock continue to rise with a nice showing at the State Tournament. Johnson is a rangy post, who is a rim-protector defensively; he averaged 2.8 blocks per game this season. He’s also an efficient shooter — especially for a big-man — scoring 9.0 points per game on 63 percent shooting, hitting nine of his 15 3-attempts, and connecting on 80 percent of his free-throws this regular season.