Posted On: 11/22/17 8:00 AM
photo credit: John Zsiray/Herald Journal
With the Idaho prep season underway as jamborees have kicked off, we continue our previews with a look at the defensive stoppers from around the state. Perhaps the most important preview piece yet as individual and team defense plays a crucial role in winning titles at the state level. In our featured list of players below we spotlight the gritty, loose ball chasers as well as the elevating ball swatters. Often times a defensive specialist won’t receive the headline, but they receive the praise in the locker room. Find out who some of the state’s best defensive prospects are below entering the 2017-2018 season.
Brayden Parker – Preston – 3.1 blocks per game & Derek Wadsworth – Preston – 1.8 steals per game
These two led Preston to a nail-biting state title run as they successfully defended their 2015-2016 championship from the prior season. They have helped their team finish a combined 45-8 over the past two seasons, and it is in large part due to the defensive capabilities each player brings to the table. Brayden Parker has dominated the paint at the 4A level during his career, and with 3.1 blocks per game highlighted by two big time blocks to help his team close out the overtime win against Vallivue in the title game this past season, Parker is everything you look for in a defensive stopper at this level. His running mate Derek Wadsworth is no push over on the defensive end either, as he poses an intimidating and seemingly relentless fever when facing opposing teams’ guards. These two make life difficult for everyone they face and they will look to do so yet again as they chase a three peat this year.
Ethan Christianson – Ambrose – 5.4 steals per game (all-time school record)
This stud on the diamond also plays a large role for his Ambrose squad on the hardwood, mainly as a defensive specialist. Ethan Christianson tallied a blistering 141 total steals last season, a school record that likely won’t be touched for quite some time. It is with his vision and anticipation that makes Christianson a menace in the passing lanes, and an athlete like him surely helps Ambrose on a nightly basis keep their opponents at bay offensively.
Paul Pennington – Boise High – 2.9 steals per game & Lucas Centeno – Boise High – 2.2 blocks per game, 1.7 steals per game
A familiar name to those who follow the prep scene in Idaho, Paul Pennington registered 57 total steals last season for his Boise High team as he demonstrated an impressive knack for poking, prodding and intercepting the ball frequently. A noted scorer, Pennington’s defensive abilities likely don’t get mentioned enough. But, with a big time senior season upcoming look for Pennington to establish himself as one of the premiere guards in the state in part by his play defensively.
Flanking Pennington is Lucas Centeno, a defensive minded player in his own right who amounted 44 total blocks and 34 steals for Boise High a season ago. It is with reason to believe that Centeno, along with Pennington and their teammates will be a force defensively speaking.
Zack Barton – Kuna High – 2.1 steals per game
With a 41 total steals last season for the Kavemen, Zack Barton is a noteworthy defensive guard just as he is offensively. With a touch over two steals per game to his credit, Barton can be counted on to provide lock em style D out on the court, which benefits his team greatly. At 6’2, Barton has some size for his position and that always creates difficulties for opposing players especially when his timing is spot on, as he seems to be one step ahead often.
Ellis Magnuson – Borah High – 1.7 steals per game
A 2019 prospect, and as it stands Ellis Magnuson is our number 1 ranked 2019 player entering the 2017-2018 season. Magnuson finished the season with 34 total steals and provided his Borah team with a spark on the defensive side of the ball as well as offensively. A kid who can shoot the ball and drain shots when needed, contributing in the steals category adds to his rising profile even more so. It will be interesting to see if he can take his defensive game up another level in 17-18.
Garrett Hawkes – North Fremont – 3.6 steals per game
A 6’2 guard, Garrett Hawkes, another 2018 prospect to hit this list registered an amazing 3.6 steals per game last season. His crazy statistical output landed him on the 2A All-Idaho Second Team as just a sophomore, but it came as no surprise looking back at his season totals. A true baller in a number of other categories, Hawkes is the leader of this North Fremont team and will need to keep up those totals to reach even more success in 17-18.
Brennon Costello – Logos – 3.3 steals per game
A known scorer for Logos, including a 44 point game last season, Brennon Costello gets it done defensively as well. Perhaps the 2019 prospect knows only one way to hit the box score and that’s in grand fashion as his totals jump out at you seemingly every game. Costello has noted that Russell Westbrooke and Chris Paul are two NBAers that he looks up and with his game, and you can understand why. Similar in many ways. Keep an eye on Costello in 17-18.
Slade Dill – Dietrich – 2.5 blocks per game
We touched on Slade Dill in depth in our top Glass Cleaning Rebounders piece, as the 6’6 forward stood out to us in that category of player. Another area with Dill shines is on the defensive end where he can alter the pace of a game with his shot blocking capabilities. Dill, an energetic terror out on the court is a prospect to watch in terms of players who can single handily determine the outcome of a contest.
Jonny Hillman – Genesis Prep – 2.1 steals per game
The main man for the state champion Genesis Prep squad of 2016-2017, Jonny Hillman can do it all on the basketball court. The reigning 1A Division II All-Idaho Player of the Year also spoke on behalf of his school who petitioned to the IHSAA about allowing F1 (international students) to play on its team during the regular and postseason in athletics. The IHSAA determined that it would allow F1 players to play during the regular season, but not during district and state tournaments. Here is a brief excerpt from Hillman’s statement found Mark Nelke of The Coeur d’Alene Press’ article, “I am going to be honest when I say that there have been times when the diversity on our team has caused us to enter and leave a gym side by side making sure we are together from the beginning to the end,” Hillman said. “If anyone has something to say to us, we take it as a team.” With actions such as this, on top of his stellar play defensively and offensively, there is no questioning this stud’s current standing as reigning Player of the Year.
Jake Pfennigs – Post Falls – 2.1 blocks per game
Another player who led our group of Glass Cleaning Rebounders to watch for in 2017-2018, this baseball standout flat out dominates the key when he is playing hoops for his Post Falls team. 2.1 blocks per game is highly impressive, but when you see Jake Pfennigs’ lanky stature, it’s easy to understand why it is so difficult for opposing players to find openings to shoot when they are near him. There is no doubt that Pfennigs will create all sorts of trouble for those who dare test him in the paint this upcoming season.