Conference Preview: Bluegrass

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Posted On: 10/29/18 2:54 PM

The Teams (2017-18 record on parenthesis)

Ankeny Christian Academy (19-5)

Last year’s best Bluegrass representative again looks very strong this season. Star guard Drew Wilken is gone, but guys like Jayce Goergen and Chad Elrod are ready to fill that void. Plus, the Eagles have the Preseason Player of the Year, Caleb Grizzle. 

 

Diagonal (11-10)

After winning just one game two seasons ago, last year’s Maroons squad improved considerably, upping their win total to 11. This season a strong group of juniors, headlined by Kade Klommhaus, will try and keep Diagonal’s success trending upward. 

 

Iowa Christian Academy (1-17)

After winning just one game a a season ago, there’s really only up for the Blazers to go. They can take solace in knowing Zach Dueker is back, a guy that averaged 16.6 points and more than four assists per game a season ago. And with four of the top five scorers from last season back, not only this season, but next as well, things should get better soon for the West Des Moines-based school. 

 

Lamoni (15-7)

Last season was good for the Demons, especially at the start, when they were 11-2 through the first 134 games of the season. And with their top two scorers, Stephen Ansong and Nicholas Patience, back this season, there’s no reason to believe they can’t be as successful again this winter. 

 

Melcher-Dallas (11-8)

Last season the Saints made considerable improvements from the year before. And the 11 wins were the most for the program since we started Prep Hoops Iowa in 2014; not bad for a team who had zero wins just four seasons ago. Now more good news: the Saints’ top two scorers from last season are back. seniors Ethan Harrington and Blaise Cooper.  

 

Moravia (12-9)

Mateo Varese was one of the Bluegrass’ best players a season ago, and he helped propel the Mohawks to an impressive 12-win season. Varese is now gone, he graduated, and it will be up to Brendan Gray and Casey Smith to keep Moravia trending in the right direction, up. 

 

Mormon Trail (15-3)

There’s certainly a lot to be excited about for Mormon Trail this season. Not only does star player Parker Hitt return for his senior season, but also Keaton Gwinn — that’s two preseason first team all-conference guys. Last season, they were second best in the Bluegrass, two of their three losses were against Ankeny Christian Academy. 

 

Moulten-Udell (6-13)

They improved their win total by five games last season after winning just one game in 2016-17. This season Wyatt Stansbury returns, he was the Eagles’ leading scorer a season ago with 12.7 points per game. However, it could be another middle to bottom of the conference finish for Moulton-Udell. 

 

Murray (15-7)

One of those programs that has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years, Murray comes into the 2018-19 season with very high hopes. After winning 15 games a season ago, the Mustangs’ top two scorers return, including junior point guard Reece Held, who led the team in points, assists, steals and rebounds last season. 

 

Orient-Macksburg (2-20)

It was tough sledding last winter for the Bulldogs, who won just two games, both wins came very late in the season after an 0-19 start. This year, there’s reason to believe they could win several more games than just two; the team’s top four scorers are back, including junior Dewayne Figgins, who averaged 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds last season. 

 

Seymour (6-15)

Eight wins two seasons ago was followed by just six wins last winter for the Warriors. Now, they head into their 2018-19 campaign just looking to make a mark and perhaps get into that upper echelon of the Blugrass. Don’t count Seymour out this season, though, juniors Preston Lawson and Noah Wells are both back, as sophomores they were the Warriors’ two leading scorers last season. 

 

Twin Cedars (4-18)

The Sabers are heading in the wrong direction, and their four-win season last year was their worst since the 2009-10 season. Last year’s senior leader Nick Hasselhuhn is gone, he was the leading scorer, assister and rebounder; guys like Dakota Shylman, Brock DenBurger and and Reese Wallace will try and get this team trending back in the right direction. 

 

Projected Order of Finish

1. Ankeny Christian Academy

2. Morman Trail

3. Murray

4. Lamoni 

5. Diagonal 

6. Melcher-Dallas

7. Moravia 

8. Seymour

9. Moulton-Udell 

10. Twin Cedars

11. Orient-Macksburg

12. Iowa Christina Academy

Analysis

Ankeny Christian Academy is our pick to again stay on top of the conference standings, but it won’t be easy. Caleb Grizzle and Co. could be tested greatly by the likes of Mormon Trail, Murray and Lamoni. The bottom teams look to all have better outlooks than a season ago, and could provide some tests for the upper echelon teams more this winter. 

 

Preseason Player of the Year

Caleb Grizzle, Ankeny Christian Academy — 2019

Although several guys were considered for the honor, Grizzle gets the nod here because of his proclivity to play both sides of the ball at a high level. He led the conference in blocks last season and was able to be proficient on offense too, going for 12.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.  

 

Biggest Sleeper

Reece Held, Murray — 2020

After leading a 15-win Murray team in points, rebounds, assists and steals last season, Held was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection, so it’s odd to think of him as a “sleeper.” He’s back now for his junior campaign; we know he’ll have another fine season, but won’t be surprised is he emerges as a bonafide star for the Mustangs this winter. Could he compete for conference player of the year? 

 

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE (Click Here)