Posted On: 11/25/18 6:30 PM

The Teams
Dallas Center-Grimes (13-10, 7-8): The Mustangs are going to have an entirely new look to their roster this season, as Tyler Borneman (3.2) is the only returnee among the top THIRTEEN scorers from last season. We don’t know what to expect out of this group, but you can be assured that freshman guard Cole Glasgow figures to be a big part of whatever is going on here. He looks the part and will make an immediate impact for DC-G. 

Grinnell (1-21, 0-14): It was a rough year for the Tigers, as they went winless in 14 conference tilts, and only three of those losses were by single digits. They have a few good pieces coming back to build around in Jake Hull (13.6), AJ Wilkins (4.9), Cole McGriff (5.2) and Jayden Gibson (4.1), giving this group some returning experience. Hull looks primed to be one of the best scoring threats in the league, coming off a huge summer with Iowa Intensity in which he displayed a much better jumper than the 22% he shot from the arc last year. Gibson is a capable lead guard who takes fairly good care of the ball, and McGriff, Wilkins and Gibson are all capable shooters. Until this team proves they can compete with the other teams in the league it’s hard to pick them anywhere other than dead last, but expect them to be much more competitive at the very least. 

Indianola (15-8, 9-6): Only two players who scored more than 34 points last season return for the Indians, but fortunately for them, it’s their top two scorers from last year’s 15-win group. Evan Gauger (19.2) and Quinn Vesey (13.3) will combine to be one of the best scoring tandems in the state this year, and they’ll be heavily relied upon this winter if the Indians want to continue the upward trajectory of this program. Gauger, a talented playmaking guard who led the team in every major category, can be a dominant force on both ends of the floor. Vesey, a talented scorer, needs to become more efficient (39.1 FG%) for this group to take the next step forward, especially since the only other returnee who saw playing time last year is Matt Deike (1.7). But with two players with the talent that Gauger and Vesey have returning, Indianola will be a dangerous team on a nightly basis.

Newton (14-8, 7-8): The Cardinals suffered two major losses this offseason. The first was expected with the graduation of Garrett Sturtz, who led the state in scoring at 34.7 points a game and accepted a preferred walk-on spot at Drake. He accounted for over 55% of the Cardinals scoring last season. The other loss came in the form of head coach Bill Liley, who returned to Washington state. Those are two huge losses for Newton to deal with. The good news is that two starters, and three players with significant experience, return in Aaron Bartels (8.9), Kyle Long (6.1) and Quintrail Coley (5.2). Bartels and Long are both good perimeter shooters, knocking down 93 3s between them, while Coley is an athletic big man who runs the floor and finishes around the rim. This group is going to be much more balanced this year without Sturtz, and while they probably won’t win as many games, they should still be competitive on a nightly basis under new coach Kyle Peta.

Norwalk (22-3, 13-2): The highest scoring team in 3A last year, the Warriors cracked the 100 point mark three times last year and averaged 77.4 points a game. They lose a major piece of that explosive attack with the graduation of Luke Vaske, who led the team in scoring and was second in the state with 211 assists. He has walked on to Drake. That said, they return one of the best players in the class, and the state, in junior guard Bowen Born (18.4), who is going to be one of the top scorers in the state this year. The lefty shot 50.7% from the floor and 42% from the arc last year and is a fearless driver who will live at the free throw line. He holds offers from Drake and UNI. Iowa football commit Tyler Endres (9.0) gives the Warriors a big body in the paint, and he’ll thrive off of Born’s penetration, as he did last year with Vaske and Born. He shot 70.7% from the floor last year, and will be highly efficient again. At 6-5 and with plenty of strength, he’s a force on the glass and a presence in the paint on the defensive end. Also returning is Tyler Johnson (6.0), who will likely step into the secondary scoring role alongside Born. Johnson, a 6-4 junior wing, shot 42% from the arc last year. The Warriors have some holes to fill in their rotation, but with Born returning, they’re going to be a threat, not just in the league but in Class 3A. 

Oskaloosa (23-4, 12-2): The Indians were minutes away from taking home the school’s first ever state title last season, before falling to Glenwood in a fantastic 3A championship game. With two Division I big men returning, the 3A title looks like Oskaloosa’s to lose this year. They’re led by recent UNI commit Cole Henry (15.0), a remarkably talented playmaking forward who led the team in assists at 6-9. He’s worked hard this offseason on improving his jumper, making him an even more dangerous threat. He’s going to have the ball in his hands an awful lot this winter, as point guard Spencer Tucker (120 assists) has graduated. The other primary ball handler figures to be Rian Yates (6.1), a sharpshooting guard who knocked down 43.2% of his 3s last year and dished out 88 assists (against just 21 turnovers). He’ll be a solid third option alongside Henry and superstar Xavier Foster (12.7), the 6-11 shotblocking extraordinaire who recently picked up an offer from Kansas. The star junior blocked 96 shots last season, led the team in rebounding, and is a threat to score inside and out. He’s constantly been improving over his first two high school seasons, and he looks ready to make a massive jump as a junior. Like Issa Samake and Grand View Christian at the 1A level, it’s going to be extremely tough for teams to score against Foster in the paint. This is a group that has a lot of production to replace after losing Tucker and leading scorer Jarad Kruse, in addition to most of the other role players who saw time last year. But with Henry, Foster and Yates returning, this group is going to be really good. And rumor has it that there is a lot of talent coming up from a JV team that grew up playing with Foster and will have instant chemistry. This is certainly the team to beat in the conference, and they have their sights set on bringing home that state title, but if there is one weakness that this group has, it’s at the line. Henry (53.3%) and Foster (51.8%) will need to improve in that area for this group to cut down the nets. 

Pella (11-12, 5-9): After a long string of successful seasons, the Dutch struggled a bit last year under first year coach Derek Schulte, who had come from Montezuma. With three double figure scorers returning, look for Pella to return to their winning ways. They’re led by a “Big Three” of Nick DeJong (13.5), Ryan Gustafson (13.1) and Logan Shetterly (10.0). DeJong does all of his damage around the rim and was far and away the team’s leading rebounder last year. Gustafson is the team’s gunner, knocking down 63 3s at a 40% clip, and well over 60% of his field goal attempts came from behind the arc. Shetterly is the team’s primary ball handler and a threat to score from all three levels. If he’s able to clean up the ball handling (68 assists to 78 turnovers), it would go a long way in making this attack more potent. John Oltman (2.4), Grant Nelson (2.3), Josh Warner (1.2) and Sam Warner (1.0) all return after playing plenty of minutes last year, so look for this group to begin to return to their old style of play under former coach Mark Core, a little more up-tempo to utilize the athletes and depth they have. Pella is always loaded with athletes, and this year will be no exception. If they can become a little more efficient, they’ll be deadly again.

Pella Christian (8-15, 5-9): A 2A team playing in a loaded 3A-filled conference, Pella Christian is never going to post a sterling record, but they’re always going to be a threat come postseason time. With seven players returning who averaged between 3.9 and 8.4 points a game, look for the Eagles to get above the .500 mark and be a real threat to not only get through district and substate play, but to do damage in Des Moines. Eight of their losses last year came by single digits last season, and with all the experience they have returning, they should be able to turn quite a few of those losses into wins this year. This is going to be another balanced group, led by Jake Pringle (8.4), Jayden Huisman (8.1) and Dan Jungling (8.0). Look for Jack Vermeer (5.4), a big bodied wing, to have a big junior year after a really solid spring and summer with All-Iowa Attack. With the balance they have, they’ll be a nightmare to try to defend on a nightly basis, and if 6-9 junior Josh Van Gorp (4.0) has made improvements to his game, watch out. 

 

Projected Order of Finish
1. Oskaloosa
2. Norwalk
3. Pella
4. Pella Christian
5. Indianola
6. Newton
7. Dallas Center-Grimes
8. Grinnell

Analysis: Oskaloosa, Norwalk and Pella are each ranked in our top 10 in Class 3A, while Pella Christian will be around the rankings all year in 2A. The top five in this league is really strong, but it’s the size and talent of Oskaloosa that sets them apart at the top. 

 

Preseason Player of the Year

2019 Cole Henry, Oskaloosa: 15.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 59.2 FG%

The talented lefty is one of the state’s best passers despite being 6-9. He’s done a lot of work on improving his jumper over the summer with Martin Brothers, and if he’s added a 3-pointer to his arsenal, he’ll be one of the biggest matchup problems the state has seen in years.

 

Biggest Sleeper

2020 Jack Vermeer, Pella Christian: A big-bodied lefty wing, Vermeer is coming off a strong summer with All-Iowa Attack and should be a major contributor for the Eagles this year. He’s a versatile, playmaking wing who should have the ball in his hands quite a bit. 

 

Players to Watch
2019 Cole Henry, Oskaloosa
2020 Xavier Foster, Oskaloosa
2019 Rian Yates, Oskaloosa
2020 Bowen Born, Norwalk
2019 Tyler Endres, Norwalk
2020 Tyler Johnson, Norwalk
2019 Nick DeJong, Pella
2019 Ryan Gustafson, Pella
2020 Logan Shetterly, Pella
2019 Evan Gauger, Indianola
2019 Quinn Vesey, Indianola
2020 Jake Hull, Grinnell
2021 Cole McGriff, Grinnell
2021 AJ Wilkins, Grinnell
2019 Jake Pringle, Pella Christian
2019 Jayden Huisman, Pella Christian
2020 Dan Jungling, Pella Christian
2020 Jack Vermeer, Pella Christian
2020 Kyle Long, Newton
2020 Quintrail Coley, Newton