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Posted On: 11/23/17 11:30 AM
Atlantic (19-6): The Trojans lose a true standout in Garrett Franken, who averaged 24 points a game and led the team in every major category except assists, where he finished second. He’s now playing at North Dakota. But they bring back plenty of experience outside of that, with scorers two through six returning from last year’s team, and they should be among the top teams in the league again this season. They’ll be led by the one-two punch of big man Scott Leonard (14.7) and guard Austin Alexander (11.9). Leonard was one of the most efficient players in the state last season, shooting 71.2% from the floor and pulling down eight rebounds a game. A strong, physical, 6-6 center, he’ll have another huge season. Alexander led the team in assists with 100 (to just 41 turnovers), and was a deadly perimeter shooter, going 56-123 (45.5%) from behind the arc. At 6-6, he’s armed with tremendous size for his lead guard spot and is a big-time matchup problem. That duo is going to win a lot of games with their talent and size, but they bring back some solid, experienced role players as well. Chase Mullenix (7.2), Grant Podhajsky (5.2) and Jaxson Eden (2.2) all saw plenty of time last season, and each of them are capable shooters from the arc. Look for a 4-out, 1-in offense surrounding the hyper-efficient Leonard in the paint. Atlantic is a perennially strong program, and this year will be no exception. They’ll certainly miss Franken, but don’t expect too much of a drop-off. They should finish in the top three of the league.
Clarinda (3-19): Like fellow cellar dwellers Red Oak, the Cardinals don’t bring much back from a three-win team, losing their top four scorers. Drake Polsley (3.2) is the leading returnee. But unlike Red Oak, they have a little more experience returning, with Owen Smith (2.1), Brady Strait (1.7), William Shull (2.2), Alex Best (2.0) and Matt Millikan (2.7) returning. It’ll be a long winter in Clarinda, but they should at least take a few games from Red Oak and stay out of the very bottom of the league.
Council Bluffs, Lewis Central (16-6): The Titans lose a lot of firepower from what was one of their best teams in recent years, with the losses of Chad Moran and Kyle Arrington, who combined to average nearly 34 points a game. But the cupboard isn’t bare, as they bring back a trio of capable scorers in Josh Simmons (10.5), Max Duggan (7.1) and Seth Wineland (7.2). Simmons is the leading returning scorer, a 6-0 junior guard who led the team in assists and steals last season. He’ll not only be asked to carry a heavier scoring load, but also to help facilitate and get everyone involved. Duggan is a standout quarterback on the football field, but also an efficient post player who shot nearly 56% from the floor last season and ranked second on the team in rebounding. And Wineland, a 5-10 junior, appeared in just five games late last season but showcased some scoring ability and a great perimeter shot (10-21, 47.6%). That trio will be called upon to carry the load for the Titans, while guys like Cole Jensen (1.8) and Dane Norville (1.4) adjust to larger roles. This group isn’t going to be as good as they were last season – they lost two highly skilled players. But they should fight for an upper half finish in the league.
Council Bluffs, St. Albert (10-12): The Falcons are never going to post a gaudy record, as they’re a 1A team playing against primarily 3A competition (with some 2A and 4A thrown in). They bring back their top six scorers from last season, so the record should improve a bit, but that doesn’t matter for this group. We have them pegged as the No. 3 team in Class 1A to begin the year, largely due to the competition they play all season. They’ll be led by a trio of players who were starters when this group played for the state title in the 2015-16 season. Tyler Blaha (11.6) is an athletic, slashing wing who does a majority of his damage by getting to the rim. Jake Carley (11.5) is a shifty lead guard who led the team in assists, steals and 3s last season, and Matt Fagan (10.0) is a big, physical interior presence capable of eating up space and scoring in the paint. The other three major contributors returning are Kyle Barnes (8.1), Joe Liston (5.2) and Luke Waters (5.2), giving this group plenty of experience. They allowed just 55.7 points a game last season, which is a pretty solid number considering they’re a 1A team playing against much larger schools. With lots of talent and experience returning, the Falcons should see the regular season win total rise up to the 14-16 range, and while they may not contend with Glenwood for the league title, they have their sights set on taking home a 1A state title, a goal they’re certainly capable of attaining.
Creston (11-11): Five of the top six scorers from last season return for the Panthers, headlined by one of the league’s most dynamic players in 6-3 junior Kylan Smallwood (18.4). An athletic, physical wing, Smallwood not only led the team in scoring, but also in rebounding and steals, while finishing second in assists. With his size, quickness, athleticism and talent, he’ll be one of the most difficult players to defend in the league. Also returning is Evan Jacobson (11.7), who led the team in assists last season and is the best returning 3-point shooter, connecting on 36% of his attempts last season. The combination of 6-8 Tucker Flynn (3.5) and 6-5 Trevor Downing (4.5) gives the Panthers some serious size on the interior, and that duo combined for 37 blocks last season. If they’re able to get more involved on both ends, it’ll go a long way towards making this a more versatile, well-rounded unit. Jaden Driskell (2.3) provides some more perimeter shooting as well. With Smallwood and Jacobson in tow, Creston should win plenty of games. The key to them breaking through and becoming a serious contender, however, will lie with the development of the two big men.
Denison-Schleswig (7-15): The Monarchs featured a very balanced attack last season, with eight players averaging between 3.5 and 10.0 points. Five of those players have graduated, including four of the top five scorers. Evan Wiebers (9.8) is the leading returnee. He’s a talented shooter who knocked down 50 3s last season at a 43.9% clip and also finished second on the team in assists with 73 last season. He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot this season. Cameron Webb (5.4) and Kuong Biliew (4.4) return to man the paint. Biliew, an athletic 6-6 forward, had 26 blocks last season and should be more heavily involved this year. After losing a lot of rotation players from last year’s group, it’ll be tough for the Monarchs to replicate the seven wins they picked up a year ago, but there is too much talent for them to be at the very bottom of the league.
Glenwood (18-6): Three of the Rams’ six losses last season came to Atlantic, so they’re certainly happy to see Garrett Franken gone. They lose only 14 points from last year’s roster, so they’ll be the most experienced team in the league and will be headlined by one of the best scoring trios you’ll find in the state. Nate Mohr (19.7), Andrew Blum (16.9) and Christian Stanislav (15.8) form one of the most potent trios of players we’ve seen in recent years, and they’ll be one of the most entertaining teams in the state to watch. Mohr is a gifted playmaker who led the team in assists, steals and scoring, and he can do his damage at all three levels. He knocked down 76 3s last season. Blum is a 6-4 wing who provides some size and rim protection, blocking 31 shots last season, while also leading the team in rebounding. He’s a big, physical wing who can score in a number of ways. Stanislav rounds out the “Big Three”, an athletic wing scorer primed for a breakout season. Cody Buresh (6.2), Nate Kennedy (5.7), Blake Von Essen (2.2) and Jake Murtfeld (2.8) provide depth and experience, and we’re expecting to see sophomore guard Zach Carr (1.6) play a big role this season. He moved to Glenwood from West Des Moines Valley, and is a really talented playmaker who can shoot it and get others involved. Look for him to be much more involved this season after playing in five games late last year. Our preseason No. 3 team in Class 3A, this group is going to be highly entertaining and is not only the favorite to win the league, but they have a real chance at taking home a state title.
Harlan (11-11): Another perennially strong program in this league, the Cyclones will have some work to do as they lose two of their top three scorers. The good news is that talented senior wing Shane Chamberlain (15.2) is back and ready to lead the charge. A big, physical 6-4 wing, Chamberlain can score from all three levels, is a talented shooter and led the team in rebounding last year by nearly twice as much as the next player. Logan Klaassen (8.5) gives them another shooter on the perimeter, and Jared Moser (3.5) connected on 41.5% of his attempts from beyond the arc last season in limited action as well. Klaassen and Chamberlain will likely share primary ball handling duties, at least early on, as they adjust to the loss of Caleb Rasmussen. Jacob Hansen (5.4) led the team in blocks last season and at 6-4 provides a bit of size inside. Harlan is a program that generally is able to reload rather than rebuild, and with Chamberlain leading the way, they should be competitive. Just how successful they ultimately are will depend on how the newer role players adjust to larger roles.
Kuemper Catholic (24-3): The Knights have a massive hole to fill following the graduation of Matt Dentlinger, who was among the best players in the state last season on both ends of the floor and is now at South Dakota State. They bring back a pair of double figure scorers, however, in guards Parker Badding (10.7) and Sam Auen (10.5), who each had great summers playing with Tryon Gym and will be looking to carry that over into the regular season. Each are high-level perimeter shooters (Badding 38.1%, Auen 43.4%), so the Kuemper attack this year will be more perimeter oriented. Jared Tigges (3.7, 39.2 3P%) and Nate Mertz (3.0, 36.1%) also return, so they’ll be loaded with shooting. There will be a large void in the paint that’ll need to be filled, but Kuemper has a strong program and with the shooting and guard play they have coming back, they’ll be heard from in the league race again this year.
Red Oak (2-20): It figures to be another long winter in Red Oak, as the Tigers return only one of their top seven scorers from last season, Isaac Birt (5.9). After winning just two games last season, Birt is the only returnee who scored more than 20 points, meaning they have almost no experience coming back in an always tough league. That’s not a good combination. Look for the Tigers to be in the basement of the Hawkeye Ten again this season.
Shenandoah (8-15): The Mustangs lose their top three scorers, and six of their top eight, from last year’s eight win team. The leading returnee is Josh Lehman (5.7), an efficient post player who shot 53.4% from the floor. Mason Silence (4.4) and Dustin Lembrick (4.3) are the only other returnees who saw significant playing time last season, so they’ll almost be starting from scratch this season. With so much talent at the upper half of the league, they’ll struggle to be competitive many nights, but should be able to rack up some wins against the lower tier teams in the conference.
Projected Order of Finish
3. Council Bluffs, St. Albert
5. Kuemper Catholic
6. Council Bluffs, Lewis Central
11. Red Oak
Analysis: Any league in which Harlan is the seventh best team is a loaded league, and that’s what the Hawkeye Ten is this year. You could make an argument for any of the teams from two through seven to be placed in any order behind Glenwood, and they’ll all enjoy beating up on each other. There are two teams in the league that we see as potential state title picks (Glenwood, St. Albert), so the competition throughout the season is going to be really tough.
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
2018 Nate Mohr, Glenwood: 19.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.6 steals, 76 3PM
The leading returning scorer in the league, Mohr put together a strong offseason playing with a good Omaha Elite program. After leading the conference in 3-pointers last year, he’ll be looking to lead the Rams back to the state tournament like he helped do as a freshman. He’s a versatile scoring threat who is also the leading returnee in assists and steals in the conference.
2020 Zach Carr, Glenwood: This talented sophomore point guard won’t be a sleeper for much longer, as he should fit in well alongside the Rams’ “Big Three”. He’s a great shooter and facilitator who should play a much larger role for Glenwood’s high powered attack than he had last season in five games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
2018 Nate Mohr, Glenwood
2018 Andrew Blum, Glenwood
2019 Christian Stanislav, Glenwood
2020 Zach Carr, Glenwood
2019 Kylan Smallwood, Creston
2018 Evan Jacobson, Creston
2018 Shane Chamberlain, Harlan
2018 Scott Leonard, Atlantic
2018 Austin Alexander, Atlantic
2018 Parker Badding, Kuemper Catholic
2018 Sam Auen, Kuemper Catholic
2018 Jake Carley, Council Bluffs, St. Albert
2018 Tyler Blaha, Council Bluffs, St. Albert
2018 Matt Fagan, Council Bluffs, St. Albert
2019 Josh Simmons, Lewis Central
2019 Max Duggan, Lewis Central
2018 Evan Wiebers, Denison-Schleswig