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Posted On: 11/24/18 5:00 PM
Atlantic (14-9, 14-6): The Trojans bring back a double figure scorer and Division I athlete in Chase Mullenix (11.2), who will run track at Iowa State. He shot 35% from behind the arc last year and led the team in steals. Also back is Logan Reilly (5.4), who shot 40% from behind the arc himself. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the next returnee, Tyler Moen, scored just 23 points on the year, so Atlantic is going to have a lot of holes to fill. The Trojans are traditionally strong, and will certainly find some pieces to step in alongside the shooting that Mullenix and Reilly will bring, but don’t expect to see this group competing for a conference crown this year.
Clarinda (7-16, 4-11): The Cardinals couldn’t compete with the big boys in the league last year, with only three of their 16 losses coming by single digits. They really struggled on the offensive end, ranking 89th (out of 96 teams) in 2A in scoring, at just 45.2 points a game. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they have loads of experience back, and should be improved. They bring back their top eight scorers from last year’s team, headlined by Nathan Lindsay (10.7), an efficient forward who also led them in rebounding. He’ll be joined inside by Alex Best (8.8), another efficient forward. If their guards can become a bit more efficient (30.9 3P%) and take better care of the ball (414 turnovers, 278 assists), this offense can improve. Connor Brown (7.9), Kory Rogers (5.2), Michael Shull (4.6) and Matt Milikan (4.5) will be the go-to players on the perimeter. There is enough returning that this group should get close to the .500 mark. How much above that they get will come down to the improvement they make in those aforementioned areas.
Creston (11-12, 8-9): The Panthers probably have the best player in the league in highly productive senior wing Kylan Smallwood (22.4), who led the team in scoring and rebounding last year while shooting 59.4% from the floor. He missed the team’s first eight games of the season, and they went 2-6 in those games, meaning they were a .600 team (9-6) with him on the floor. They lose their top perimeter threat in Evan Jacobson, who averaged just under 18 points a game, but bring back a pair of guards who can score from deep in sophomores Cael Kralik (9.8) and Brance Baker (4.7). That tandem made 40 3s last year and should take a significant step forward this year after productive freshmen seasons. This group needs to find a reliable ball handler and decision maker, as the returnees barely posted a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. If they can clean that area up, becoming a more efficient offensive unit, they’ll be dangerous. Smallwood is capable of taking over any given game, and they should be competitive on a nightly basis. With a number of teams around the league losing a lot of production, the Panthers could push for a top three finish.
Denison-Schleswig (9-13, 7-10): The Monarchs bring back leading scorer Charlie Wiebers (11.3), a versatile scoring wing who also serves as the team’s primary ball handler. He led the team in assists and steals last year in addition to his scoring. The only two other returnees with significant experience are Goanar Biliew (8.4) and Damien Magnuson (1.8), a pair of efficient interior options. This group struggled at the free throw line (53.5%) and wasn’t great from the arc (31.5%) last year. Those areas both need to improve if they want to get back around the .500 mark this year.
Glenwood (25-2, 20-1): The defending 3A champion Rams have an awful lot of production to replace from the school’s first ever state title winning team, but they bring back a trio of players who saw loads of playing time during the title run, and they’ll be well prepared to not only try to defend their 3A title, but roll through this league again. They’re led by Christian Stanislav (15.3), an athletic senior wing who is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. He led the team in scoring last year, and is a safe bet to do so again. At 6-5, he can get his own shot whenever he wants and is a solid wing defender. Look for junior guard Zach Carr (7.3), who was highly productive off the bench last year, to be one of the breakout players in 3A this year. He’s a solid scoring guard who is going to have the ball in his hands quite a bit as he likely steps into the point guard role of the graduated Nate Mohr. He’s a solid ball handler and passer who is going to need to turn into a little more of a facilitator than he has previously been, but he certainly has the skill set to do so. The final key returnee is Ryan Blum (6.1), a breakout star at the state tournament as a freshman. He’s in the mold of older brother Andrew, now a freshman on the Northwest Missouri State football team, a big, physical presence in the paint and one the glass, but he’s also capable of stepping out to the arc and knocking down 3s, as he did at a 38.5% clip last year. The Rams need to find a bunch of new players to fill into rotation roles, and look for guys like Ryan Leath (1.9), Jake Murtfeld (1.2) and Dax Lappala (1.4) to get the first cracks at bigger roles. Either way, with the returning trio, this is not only the team to beat in the league, but one of the favorites to come out of the southwest portion of the state and make a trip to Des Moines to defend their title.
Harlan (15-8, 11-7): The Cyclones have a lot of production to replace following the graduation of 79% of last year’s scoring from a group that was great on the offensive end. Brett Sears (7.3) is the leading returnee. He’s a solid 6-1 wing who can score from anywhere, but he’ll need to adjust to being the go-to option this year. Hunter Manz (3.0) played well off the bench last season, shooting 59.5% from the field at 47.1% from 3 (8-17). He could turn into the team’s go-to shooting threat on the perimeter, and their primary ball handler. Johnathan Monson (1.7) and Jake McLaughlin (1.6) were rotation pieces last year and likely step into the starting lineup. Harlan is traditionally strong and they should be good again, but they have a number of pieces who are going to be stepping into much larger roles, so there could be some growing paints, especially early in the year.
Kuemper Catholic (15-9, 8-6): The Knights have put together a really strong run over the last five years, but that may come to an end this winter. They lose 90% of last year’s scoring, with Blaise Gunnerson (3.0) the leading returnee. He’s a fine interior option, but this group is going to need to completely rebuild their backcourt after graduating four guards who shot at least 40% from behind the arc last year. This was one of the best shooting teams in the state, regardless of class, and they return none of it. Kuemper will have talent, but it will be very inexperienced talent.
Lewis Central (12-10, 7-5): The top four scorers, and seven of the top nine rotation players, from last year’s Titans return this year. They’ll be headlined by a trio of double figure scorers in Josh Simmons (13.3), Cole Jensen (11.5) and Seth Wineland (10.5). Simmons, the lead guard for this group, does a majority of his scoring in the paint and is a creative playmaking guard who led this group in assists, dishing out 96 on the year (next was 39). He’ll have the ball in his hands a ton. Jensen is the team’s primary option in the paint, and Wineland (40.5 3P%) gives the Titans a potent shooter on the perimeter. Other key returnees include Dane Norville (6.4), another efficient interior scoring option, Nolan McKenzie (4.8) and Logan Jones (3.9). There is talent and experience here, and they could push Glenwood at the top.
Red Oak (2-20, 0-16): The Tigers were winless in conference play last season, and lose Owen VonDielingen, who led the team in every major statistical category. They’ll be led by Isaac Birt (11.3), a 5-9 senior guard. He’ll have the ball in his hands a ton following VonDielingen’s departure and will need to be the team’s go-to scorer. Garrett Rolenc (5.9) and Cole Carlson (5.0) made a combined 65 3s last season, giving the Tigers a bit of shooting to put alongside Birt on the perimeter. This is still a group that doesn’t have the talent to compete with the majority of teams in the league, and they’ll struggle to win a league game this year.
Shenandoah (5-17, 3-12): The Mustangs return three of their top four from last year’s group, so there is some reason to expect improvement from last year’s five wins. They’ll be led by Drake Polsley (10.6), a 6-4 senior forward, and 5-11 senior guard Trevor Bauer (9.1). Also returning with significant experience are Kyle Cerven (7.2) and Anthony Stogdill (2.2). This group really struggled shooting the ball last season, knocking down just 25.5% of their 3s, and unless that and the decision makings (421 turnovers to 210 assists) improve, it’s hard to see them winning more games this year.
St. Albert (15-10, 9-7): The Falcons lose seven of their top nine players from last season in what was a really strong senior class that played at State twice. Included in that group is last year’s top four scorers, so they have a lot of production to replace. The leading returnee is Jared Gast (5.1), a long, athletic 6-5 forward who has produced well for the Falcons but will need to adjust to becoming the go-to threat. Also back is Reed Miller (3.3), a solid 6-2 wing. After that, there is not much back. As a 1A school playing in a primarily 3A league, and without much experience returning, it could be a long year for St. Albert.
Projected Order of Finish
2. Lewis Central
8. Kuemper Catholic
10. St. Albert
11. Red Oak
Analysis: The defending champions in Class 3A look like a strong bet to take the league crown again this season, as some of the traditional powers (Atlantic, Harlan, Kuemper Catholic, St. Albert) have a lot of pieces to replace.
Preseason Player of the Year
2019 Christian Stanislav, Glenwood: 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 48.3 FG%
The race for Player of the Year in this league likely comes down to Stanislav and Creston’s Kylan Smallwood. Smallwood will likely end up producing bigger numbers, but we expect Glenwood to be back among the best teams in Class 3A, and should be the team to beat in the Hawkeye Ten as well, so we’ll give the nod to Stanislav, the Rams’ leading returning scorer and rebounder.
2019 Logan Reilly, Atlantic: A senior wing with some good size at 6-4, Reilly is stepping into a significantly larger role this season for the Trojans. He showed what he’s capable of as a role player last year, shooting 40% from behind the arc.
Players to Watch
2019 Christian Stanislav, Glenwood
2020 Zach Carr, Glenwood
2021 Ryan Blum, Glenwood
2019 Kylan Smallwood, Creston
2021 Cael Kralik, Creston
2019 Josh Simmons, Lewis Central
2019 Cole Jensen, Lewis Central
2019 Seth Wineland, Lewis Central
2019 Dane Norville, Lewis Central
2019 Chase Mullenix, Atlantic
2019 Logan Reilly, Atlantic
2019 Isaac Birt, Red Oak
2020 Charlie Wiebers, Denison-Schleswig
2020 Goanar Biliew, Denison-Schleswig
2020 Nathan Lindsay, Clarinda
2020 Connor Brown, Clarinda
2019 Alex Best, Clarinda
2019 Trevor Bauer, Shenandoah
2020 Kyle Cerven, Shenandoah
2019 Brett Sears, Harlan
2019 Jared Gast, St. Albert
2020 Blaise Gunnerson, Kuemper Catholic