Conference Preview: WaMaC East

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Posted On: 11/21/17 5:37 PM

The Teams
Anamosa (5-18): The good news is that the Blue Raiders bring back lots of experience from last year’s team, with scorers two through six all returning. The bad news is that that group struggled to score last season, averaging just 43 points a game with 35-28-67 shooting splits. They’ll be looking to improve on that in their final year as a WaMaC team before leaving for the River Valley Conference. They’ll be led by Matthew Walton (8.4), Noah Sams (7.0) and Brian Sayre (6.0). Walton and Sams are capable shooters from the arc, each knocking down 31 3s last season, while Sayre does a majority of his damage around the rim. A few years ago, this was one of the most fun teams in the state to watch, with a pressing, up-tempo attack that got a lot of players involved. With plenty of experience coming back, and a roster that isn’t as talented as a majority of the others in the division, maybe we see a bit of a return to that.

Central DeWitt (5-17): The Sabers lose leading scorer Matt Burke, who accounted for 30% of the team’s scoring last season, but they do bring back a player to be excited about in sophomore wing Alex McAleer (9.6), who put together a solid freshman season. A 6-5 combo forward, he’s capable of scoring at all three levels and has the length and athleticism to make a major impact on the defensive end. BJ Frick (7.1) also returns after leading the team in rebounding and finishing second in assists last season. Cam Steffens (3.7) and Drew Kueter (4.7) are the other returnees with significant experience who return. This is a team that is going to need to find some production from the perimeter, as Burke was the team’s best perimeter scoring option. But the potential of McAleer should give the people of DeWitt some reason to be excited.

Dyersville Beckman (17-6): A perennially strong program, the Blazers were strong again last season, winning 17 games before falling to state qualifier Cascade in the postseason. They lose four of their top seven from that group, including two of their top three scorers, but bring back some talent in the form of big man Mitch Gehling (12.9) and guard Jackson Bennett (9.5). Gehling is an efficient post player who runs the floor extremely well and has steadily improved throughout his career. He’ll be called upon to be the primary scoring option most nights. Bennett was a role player last season but knocked down a team-high 42.4% of his shots from deep. With the graduation of standout distributor Riley LeGrand, Bennett and Connor McDermott (3.7) will have to take over primary ball handling responsibilities. This is a program that always finds new pieces to plug in, and this year is likely no exception. While they may have some growing pains early on, there is no doubt in our minds that they’ll be heard from come postseason time in Class 2A, and they should challenge for a top two or three finish in the division.

Maquoketa (6-16): The Cardinals will have a huge void to fill following the graduation of Abe Kinrade, a gifted wing who averaged 18 points a game and headed off to play Division I basketball at Air Force. They bring back some experience however in the form of Macklin Shanahan (7.9), Abe Becker (7.8) and Max Becker (5.2), a trio of starters from last year’s roster. Shanahan and Abe Becker will share the primary scoring roles, each capable of scoring from the arc, and Shanahan can do some scoring around the rim as well. Lucas Brame (3.4) and Kane Kopp (2.5) are the other returnees with experience. They’ll need to figure out who the primary ball handler is going to be, as Abe Becker (31-29) and Kane Kopp (12-11) are the only returnees who had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio last season. If they’re able to figure that out and take care of the ball, they should have enough experience and balance returning to win some games.

Mount Vernon (17-5): The Mustangs, like Maquoketa, will have a huge hole to fill following the graduation of Austin Ash, who averaged 23 points a game last season and accepted a walk-on opportunity at Iowa. They do bring back some experience however, with four players who saw significant time returning. They’ll be led by point guard Drew Adams (8.7), a strong, physical lead guard who makes winning plays on both ends of the floor. He’s a capable shooter (24-51 3P, 47.1%) who will need to score some more this year, but is also very comfortable playing a distributing role. Nick Leopold (8.0) is another wing who can shoot it and will be a primary scoring option, while Blake Booth (3.1) and Cale Snedden (2.4) will play a complimentary role. The Mustangs have routinely had competitive teams, and there isn’t a reason to think they’ll fall off too much, despite the loss of a big-time scorer. With all the losses the other teams in the division have suffered, Mount Vernon will factor into the division race.

Solon (13-9): Four of the Spartans’ nine losses came by single digits last season, and they return arguably the most experience and talent of any team in the division. They’ll be led by a dynamic backcourt duo of Ben Krutzfeldt (9.4) and Luke Ira (9.1), who combined to shoot 41% from behind the arc last season. In addition to finishing second on the team in scoring last season, Krutzfeldt also dished out 113 assists. He’ll be the best point guard in the division. Sophomore wing AJ Coons (7.9) had a solid freshman season and followed it up with a strong summer playing against top-notch competition with the Iowa Barnstormers. A long, 6-5 wing, he can make a major impact on both ends of the floor and should turn himself into one of the better players in the league this year. Luke Schaekenbach (2.9) is the only other returnee with significant experience, but the trio of Krutzfeldt, Ira and Coons will be enough to win plenty of games for the Spartans.

West Delaware (25-2): The final remaining undefeated team in Class 3A last year, the Hawks took a perfect 24-0 record into the state tournament, won their first round game then dropped a pair to finish fourth last season. And they bring back two of their top three scorers from that team, including an all-state forward in Derek Krogmann (15.8), who also pulled down 11.4 rebounds a game. There are going to be some major question marks for this team, however, as they lose five key seniors from last year’s group, none more important than point guard Ryan Trainer, who was a steadying influence in the backcourt for four years. When we saw them play over the summer, they struggled with turnovers, and that’s something they’re going to need to work through this season. Look for wing Tyler Kelley (11.1), the other key returnee, to play with the ball in his hands much more than he has in previous years, as he’s probably their best playmaking option right now. Between him and Krogmann, they may have the most talented one-two punch in the division, but they’re going to need to find some help if they want to get back to the top of this league.

Western Dubuque (9-13): The Bobcats suffered a significant blow before last season started when leading returning scorer Jordan Lake tore his ACL. He’s back this year, which will provide a needed boost to this group as they enter their final year as a WaMaC team before joining the Mississippi Valley Conference for the 2018-19 school year. They lose four of the top six scorers from last year’s team, but bring back a talented sophomore guard in Calvin Harris (13.1), who finished second on the team in rebounding and third in assists last season in addition to his scoring prowess. Adding Lake, who averaged just under 15 points a game as a sophomore, to Harris on the perimeter will give the Bobcats the best backcourt in the division. 6-4 forward Alec Wulfkuhle (5.2) had a productive summer with the Tri-State Steam and will be asked to be the primary contributor in the paint. They’ll need to find some increased production out of role players like Kyle Cleary (3.0), Sam Goodman (2.7) and Grant Kelchen (2.1), but with the duo they have in the backcourt, they should be among the top contenders in the division.

Projected Order of Finish
1. Solon
2. Dyersville Beckman
3. Western Dubuque
4. West Delaware
5. Mount Vernon
6. Anamosa
7. Central DeWitt
8. Maquoketa

Analysis: In all honesty, teams one through five could be placed in any order, and teams six through eight could be placed in any order. There are lots of question marks across the league, and the teams that plug those holes the best will rise to the top. To begin the year, we’ll give the edge to Solon, who return the most dynamic trio of players, but this could go in a number of directions. West Delaware has the best player, Beckman the most tradition, Western Dubuque a great backcourt and Mount Vernon lots of versatility. This should be an interesting division to keep tabs on.

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

2019 Derek Krogmann, West Delaware: 15.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 57.6 FG%

The junior big man had a sensational sophomore season as the best player for the final remaining undefeated team in 3A. A 6-7 post with a seven-foot wingspan, he has the size and length to cause major issues on both ends of the floor, and the skill set to match. Look for him to have another All-State season for the Hawks.

BIGGEST SLEEPER

2018 Alec Wulfkuhle, Western Dubuque: The 6-4 forward is coming off a strong summer with the Tri-State Steam and is an efficient big man. He’ll need to play at a high level for the Bobcats to succeed this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
2019 Derek Krogmann, West Delaware
2018 Tyler Kelley, West Delaware
2018 Mitch Gehling, Dyersville Beckman
2018 Jackson Bennett, Dyersville Beckman
2018 Jordan Lake, Western Dubuque
2020 Calvin Harris, Western Dubuque
2018 Alec Wulfkuhle, Western Dubuque
2018 Ben Krutzfeldt, Solon
2020 AJ Coons, Solon
2018 Luke Ira, Solon
2020 Alex McAleer, Central DeWitt
2018 BJ Frick, Central DeWitt
2018 Nick Leopold, Mount Vernon
2018 Drew Adams, Mount Vernon
2019 Matthew Walton, Anamosa
2018 Brian Sayre, Anamosa
2018 Noah Sams, Anamosa
2019 Macklin Shanahan, Maquoketa
2019 Abe Becker, Maquoketa