Conference Preview: Iowa Star North

High School
Iowa

Posted On: 10/25/18 9:30 AM

The Teams
Clarksville (5-16, 4-13): The bad news? The Indians lost last year’s leading scorer Ben Waetjen, who averaged over 18 points a game. The good news? Everyone else is back, so this group should be improved. They’ll be led by a pair of double figure scorers in Ethan Schmidt (14.2) and Chris Behrends (10.4). Schmidt is an undersized power forward at 6-2, but he was highly efficient last season (63.8 FG%) and led the team in rebounding. Behrends will pair with Dawson Holub (9.5) and Pacen Hendricks (1.6) in the backcourt. Behrends and Holub combined to make 72 3s last year, while Behrends and Hendricks tied for the team lead in assists with 57 each. With just about everyone returning, Clarksville should be improved. They don’t have the talent to compete with the top three in the league on a nightly basis, but they may challenge one of them on a given night.

Don Bosco (24-4, 13-1): The Dons largely rolled through the league last year, with their lone conference setback coming to Dunkerton by four (they later avenged that loss by 23 at home), and culminated the year with a third place finish at State. They lose a number of key pieces from that group, but bring back arguably the best guard tandem in Class 1A in Jack Kelley (14.5) and Zach Huff (8.3). That duo combined to dish out 254 assists (to just 122 turnovers) last year. Kelley is a great scorer and facilitator, and Huff looks more than primed to step into the secondary scoring role after Zach Nie and Sean McFadden graduated, taking 29.2 points with them. Cael Tenold (4.8) and Kendall Becker (3.9) return alongside Kelley and Huff, solid role players last year who will likely step into the starting lineup. The fifth spot is up for grabs, but could go to Michael Allen (1.1), an athletic, defensive minded guard who could be called upon to be the team’s stopper. There is a lot of production to replace for Don Bosco, but this is a school that is always loaded with good athletes, and they should find plenty of capable replacements. The guard tandem is going to win them a lot of games, and should make them a State threat yet again. 

Dunkerton (22-3, 15-1): The Raiders, a 22-win team last year, are basically the opposite of Clarksville in that they return their top two scorers and then lose a whole lot of depth behind that. Zach Johnson (15.6) and Brady Happel (14.9) are both big-time scoring guards, and if they can improve their efficiency from the arc (33.8 3P% and 28.2%, respectively), watch out, because they could put up huge numbers. They were incredibly efficient (54% and 58%) on 2-pointers, a testament to their ability to get to the rim and finish. Look for that to be a bigger part of their respective games this year. The only other returnee with significant experience is Brady Stone (5.7). With Johnson and Happel leading the way, the Raiders will be a borderline top-10 team in 1A all year, and will compete with Janesville and Don Bosco for the division crown. 

Janesville (15-7, 12-5): New coach Joe McKenna has a lot of talent and experience to play with, as the top four scorers from a 15-win team return for the Wildcats. They’ll be headlined by the dynamic inside-out duo of Codey Hicks (18.0) and Spencer Hoff (13.2), who are one of the best tandems in 1A. Hicks, at 6-6, is a physical, athletic forward who shot just under 70% from the floor and is a force on both ends of the floor. Look for him to have a massive senior season for the ‘Cats. Hoff can be a dynamic scorer on the perimeter (he averaged 17.5 as a sophomore), capable of scoring from all three levels. Josh Hahn (8.6) returns as the team’s lead guard, dishing out nearly twice as many assists as the next closest man, and Caden Conrad (6.5) gives them another big body in the paint at 6-4. They’ll need to find some depth, but that quartet is the most talented and experienced group in the division. They lost five games  by single digits last year, and the experience should help them close some of those games out, allowing them to challenge Don Bosco and Dunkerton for league supremacy. 

Riceville (6-16, 4-10): The Wildcats ranked 114th in Class 1A in scoring last year, averaging just 45.4 points a game. And they lose six of their top seven players from that group, including the top four. The only returnee with significant experience is Sullivan Fair (4.5), a junior guard who ranked second on the team in made 3-pointers last year. This will be his group, as only 13 more total points return from last year’s team. It will be a real struggle for the ‘Cats to get back to the six win mark.

Tripoli (11-11, 8-8): The Panthers did what they were supposed to last year, beating the teams that were worse than them and losing to the better teams. They lose the top five scorers from that group, taking more than 82% of the team’s scoring output with them. The leading returner is Blake Bockhaus (5.0), a 6-5 senior who should control the glass. Lincoln Drewis (3.3) figures to be the team’s primary ball handler and is the only other returnee who saw significant time last year. With a lot of new pieces being broken in, it’ll be tough for the Panthers to repeat last year’s .500 mark. 

 

Projected Order of Finish
1. Don Bosco
2. Janesville
3. Dunkerton
4. Clarksville
5. Tripoli
6. Riceville

Analysis: The three-horse race at the top of this division will be one of the best in any small school conference, and you could make a solid argument for any of the teams. We’re giving the edge to Don Bosco because guard play wins at the high school level, and they have one of the best guard tandems in 1A. 

 

Preseason Player of the Year

2019 Jack Kelley, Don Bosco: 14.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists

A talented lead guard who paces what should be one of Class 1A’s best teams, Kelley is equally adept as a scorer or facilitator, and he’ll help lead what will be one of the best defensive units in the state. He ranked second in scoring on the Dons’ Class 1A third place team, and there’s no question they’re much better when he’s on the floor. He’ll lead a Don Bosco team looking to remain at the top of a division filled with quality teams.

 

Biggest Sleeper

2019 Caden Conrad, Janesville: The 6-4 forward gets overshadowed by Codey Hicks and Spencer Hoff, but he’s an efficient scorer (51.5 FG%) who competes hard on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis. 

 

Players to Watch
2019 Jack Kelley, Don Bosco
2020 Zach Huff, Don Bosco
2019 Cael Tenold, Don Bosco
2019 Kendall Becker, Don Bosco
2019 Codey Hicks, Janesville
2019 Josh Hahn, Janesville
2019 Spencer Hoff, Janesville
2019 Caden Conrad, Janesville
2019 Zach Johnson, Dunkerton
2019 Brady Happel, Dunkerton
2019 Brady Stone, Dunkerton
2020 Ethan Schmidt, Clarksville
2019 Chris Behrends, Clarksville
2019 Dawson Holub, Clarskville
2019 Blake Bockhaus, Tripoli