Conference Preview: Upper Iowa

High School
Iowa

Posted On: 10/29/18 5:00 PM

The Teams
Central Elkader (13-9, 11-6): Last year’s leading scorer, Andy Seeland (15.0), returns for the Warriors, but he’s the only one of the top eight back. Only 16 total points return after Seeland, so he’ll be asked to do an awful lot this season for Central Elkader. He’s a versatile scorer who can get hot from the arc, but without much help returning, it’s hard to see the Warriors replicating last year’s 13 wins. 

Clayton Ridge (4-16, 4-11): Three teams in the league won four or fewer games last year, including the Eagles, but they probably bring back the most talent of those three with a pair of double figure scorers back in Chance White (13.6) and Mason Reimer (12.5). They’re each capable perimeter shooters who could shoot them into some wins this year, but they’ll need to find some role players to step up alongside them if they want to improve on their win total from last season. 

Lansing Kee (4-19, 4-11): The Kee Hawks were largely uncompetitive last year, with just two of their 19 losses coming by single digits. There is a chance for improvement, however, as the top three scorers from last year’s team return in Josh Walleser (14.4), Jacob Berns (6.9) and Dylan Walleser (6.9). Berns blocked 49 shots and provides some rim protection, while the Walleser brothers can make some perimeter shots. With some of the personnel losses other teams in the league have suffered, perhaps they can get into the six or seven win range, but they won’t compete for the league crown.

MFL-Mar-Mac (7-15, 7-7): The Bulldogs got off to a pretty solid start last season, winning four of their first six before going just 3-13 the rest of the way. There is some reason for optimism, however, with this perennially strong program. They lose leading scorer Mason Hertrampf, as well as fourth leading scorer Levi Ferguson, but bring back seven players with quite a bit of experience. They’ll be led by forward Tyler Kurth (12.7), an efficient big man who shot 61.5% from the floor last year and led the team in rebounding at 7.9 a game. He leads a talented junior class for the ‘Dogs that also includes lead guard Cedrick Drahn (7.0), who dished out 100 assists and posted a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Gavin Hertrampf (6.0) and Caden Stuckman (4.4) provide some shooting for this group. MFL is used to competing for conference titles, and while we don’t expect to see them all the way back at the top of the league, they’ll be much closer than they were last season.

North Fayette Valley (6-16, 6-8): If you’re looking for a team to make a major jump this year, it may be the TigerHawks, who bring back their top three scorers and six of their top seven overall. They’ll be led by the trio of Lance Butikofer (11.4), Kole Johnson (9.2) and Bryce Messler (9.1). Butikofer is the team’s leading returning scorer, doing a large majority of his damage (60 of 87 made shots) from behind the arc. He’ll control the perimeter while Johnson and Messler do most of their damage around the rim. Johnson was great late in the season last year as a freshman, seeing action in the final six games and shooting 84.6% from the floor. Messler shot 50% on the year himself, giving NFV a pair of efficient scoring bigs. Brooks Hovden (6.3) is the lead ball handler, and he’ll need to protect the ball better this year if the TigerHawks are going to make a leap.

Postville (14-10, 12-4): The Pirates lose their top two scorers and rebounders from last year’s 14-win team, taking 30.8 points a game with them. But they do bring back their three most prolific shooters from that group in Harison Dehning (8.0), Collin Bacon (6.8) and Gabe Loera (5.6), so expect to see a smaller, more perimeter oriented attack this season. The only other returnee who saw much time last year is Cole Walch (1.3), who will likely slot into the starting lineup in the paint. 

South Winneshiek (13-8, 12-4): The Warriors are led by our Player of the Year selection in the UIC, Levi Lukes (21.6), a big-time scoring guard who is the best player in the conference and should dominate on a nightly basis. While they lose their second and third leading scorers, they do bring back a solid cast of characters around Lukes. Cole Klimesh (8.9) is an efficient forward who led the team in rebounding in a big way, more than doubling up the next closest player. He’ll dominate the glass on both ends of the floor. Also back with some experience are Paul Hageman (2.8), Collin Wiltgen (2.6), Jaron Todd (2.2) and Jacob Herold (2.1). They need to find a lead guard who is going to protect the ball, as Lukes struggled with turnovers last year (29 assists to 68 turnovers), and if they can fill that hole, this may be the team to beat in the conference. 

Starmont (8-15, 8-10): The Stars lose a trio of double figure scorers, and an awful lot of depth behind them, with seven of the ten key rotation players from last year graduated. The leading returning scorer is Chris Baumgartner (8.9), who finished second on the team in made 3s last year. Look for Quinton Brehme (2.3) to emerge as a solid interior option, while Connor Boardman (2.0) slots in alongside Baumgartner on the perimeter. After that trio, there are a slew of question marks. With the personnel losses the rest of the league suffered as well, they may get back into the seven or eight win range, but they won’t be competing for the league crown.

Turkey Valley (17-6, 14-1): Two of the top three scorers are back for a Trojans team that pretty much strolled through the conference last season. They’re led by Ethan Leibold (13.3), who led the team in scoring and rebounding, and is an efficient 6-4 junior forward who will push South Winneshiek’s Levi Lukes for POY honors. The other major returnee is Keegan Balk (9.3), a capable shooter and ball handler who will be the team’s primary perimeter scoring threat. Turkey Valley is going to need to fill a lot of depth holes, as only 72 points in total return outside of Leibold and Balk. But with that tandem in tow, the Trojans will factor into the league race, and just may repeat.

West Central (0-22, 0-16): Not much went right last year for the Blue Devils, as they ranked 138th in scoring (35.2) and 142nd defensively (70.0) among 147 Class 1A teams. They turned the ball over an average of 27.5 times a game, and until that gets cleaned up, it’s hard to see them getting a win. Adam Dolf (12.4) led the team in scoring last year and is back after making 54 3s, and Decker Wirtz (7.8) also returns. This program has really fallen since Ethan Steinbronn, Joe Wolfe and Dustin Gordon graduated.

 

Projected Order of Finish
1. South Winneshiek
2. Turkey Valley
3. North Fayette Valley
4. MFL-Mar-Mac
5. Postville
6. Central Elkader
7. Starmont
8. Clayton Ridge
9. Lansing Kee
10. West Central

Analysis: A majority of the teams in this league lost a lot of production from last season, and as such, the top three teams in our projections probably return the most talent. We see South Winneshiek and Turkey Valley as fairly even teams, and we’ll favor the team with the best player.

 

Preseason Player of the Year

2019 Levi Lukes, South Winneshiek: 21.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 50.7 FG%

Far and away the leading scorer in the league last season, the senior wing is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor and will be looking to lead the Warriors to the top of the conference this winter.

 

Biggest Sleeper

2019 Cole Klimesh, South Winneshiek: The efficient senior forward was only the fourth leading scorer for South Winneshiek last season, but he was dominant on the glass, averaging 9.7 rebounds a game. He’s going to average a double-double this year for the best team in the league, but he doesn’t get much attention. That should change. 

 

Players to Watch
2019 Levi Lukes, South Winneshiek
2019 Cole Klimesh, South Winneshiek
2019 Andy Seeland, Central Elkader
2019 Josh Walleser, Lansing Kee
2019 Jacob Berns, Lansing Kee
2019 Dylan Walleser, Lansing Kee
2020 Ethan Leibold, Turkey Valley
2020 Keegan Balk, Turkey Valley
2020 Tyler Kurth, MFL-Mar-Mac
2020 Cedrick Drahn, MFL-Mar-Mac
2020 Chance White, Clayton Ridge
2019 Mason Reimer, Clayton Ridge
2020 Lance Butikofer, North Fayette Valley
2019 Bryce Messler, North Fayette Valley
2020 Chris Baumgartner, Starmont
2020 Adam Wolf, West Central
2019 Decker Wirtz, West Central
2020 Collin Bacon, Postville