Posted On: 11/23/18 9:30 AM

Every winter, players come seemingly out of nowhere to make themselves known across the state. Below, we take a look at nine players in Class 1A who may be ready to make that leap this year.  


2020 W Mitchell Countryman (Woodbury Central)

The 6-2 junior put together a really impressive sophomore campaign, and do so very quietly. He averaged just under 10 points a game (9.7), while shooting 51.3% from the floor and showcasing some versatility at 43.6% from the arc. Additionally, he’s the team’s primary ball handler, dishing out 67 assists to just 26 turnovers. On a Wildcats team that is losing a lot of production, it’ll be Countryman’s time to shine, and if last year was any indication, he’s ready to take a major step forward and become one of the more versatile threats in the class. 


2019 G Bryce Crabb (Grand View Christian)

Crabb has been a solid role player for the Thunder for each of their last two state title winning teams. He’s going to have to step into a starring role this season following the graduation of Grant DeMeulenaere, and the transfers of Mach Nyaw (Storm Lake) and Sam Glenn (Southeast Polk). Crabb is the only returning guard on a loaded GVC roster, and he’ll need to be a primary ball handler and decision maker. He’s a big (6-3) guard with good athleticism, and he’ll be playing alongside a pair of Division I forwards in Issa Samake and Harouna Sissoko, so he shouldn’t have too much pressure on him. This is his breakout year. 


2020 G Reece Held (Murray)

Held led a 15-win Murray team in scoring last year at 12.2 a game. In fact, he led the Mustangs in every major statistical category other than blocks (which, at 5-9, isn’t a surprise). He was really good with the Iowa Cornsharks during the summer, showcasing an all-around offensive skill set that should turn him into one of the best guards in Class 1A this season. He’s lightning quick with the ball and is a much better shooter than the 25% he shot from the arc last season. Look for Held to become a well-known name in 1A basketball this season, leading what could be a potent Murray attack. 


2019 F Rylan James (Lynnville-Sully)

Lynnville-Sully is traditionally strong, and it’ll be up to James to continue that tradition this year. The 6-4 senior forward is the team’s leading returning scorer at 8.8 points a game, and with three double figure scorers graduating, this is now his team. He’s an athletic forward who runs the floor, rebounds at a high level and is a quality defender. Look for him to become the go-to option for a Hawks team that is looking to stay near the top of Class 1A. 


2019 W Gavin Kies (Burlington, Notre Dame)

I had Kies pegged as a breakout player before seeing him play at the Soukup Twins Skills Clinic in mid-October. Seeing him there cemented it, he’s primed for a huge senior year. After shooting 27% from the arc last year, he’s worked hard to improve his shot, and he was tearing up the nets when I saw him. At 6-4, he has great size and length, especially for a 1A guard, and he should have a massive season stepping into the secondary (and possibly primary) scoring role alongside Ryle Koenig. He’s a good ball handler, capable of scoring at all three levels, but it’s the much improved jumper that is going to make him a force to be reckoned with on a nightly basis. 


2020 G Ian Latham (West Fork)

The Warhawks start the year ranked No. 4 in our 1A rankings, and Latham’s projected improvement is part of the reason we’re so high on this team. The 5-11 point guard dished out 76 assists last year and averaged eight points a game. We’re expecting to see him become a more potent 3-point shooter (30.2% last year) in addition to being a great facilitator who values possessions and keeps this team’s offense humming. Zach Martinek is without a doubt the star here, and Mitchell Halloran is a really solid second option. If this team is going to compete for a state title, it’ll be Latham who is the difference maker. 


2021 G Eli Ours (Iowa Mennonite)

Ours quietly put together a strong freshman year for a 21-win IMS team last season, averaging 7.7 points with 62 assists and 46 steals. With the top three scorers gone from that team, it’ll be Eli’s opportunity to break out and continue leading a strong IMS program to wins. 


2021 G Cole Watts (Montezuma)

A 5-10 guard, Watts put together a really good freshman campaign last winter, averaging 9.5 points a game and shooting 44.3% from behind the arc. He’s just getting started. Watts and Trey Shearer will form perhaps the best backcourt in Class 1A, and that tandem is a major reason why we have the Braves ranked No. 7 in our preseason rankings of the class. He’s a strong, compact scoring guard capable of finishing through contact at the rim, but it’s his shooting that stands out. He has a lightning quick release and unlimited range. Playing alongside Shearer, a really gifted playmaker, will provide Watts with tons of open looks, and he’ll cash in on them. 


2020 G Noah Wells (Seymour)

The Warriors won just six games last season, but they should be improved this year, and this junior guard is the biggest reason why. He quietly put together a strong season last year, averaging 9.4 points, dishing out 93 assists (to just 53 turnovers) and tying for the team lead in steals with 42. He’ll form with fellow junior guard Preston Lawson to give Seymour a pretty solid backcourt to build around.