Posted On: 11/1/18 3:30 PM

The Teams
Albia (11-11, 7-7): The only returnee for the Blue Demons who scored more than 38 points last year is Blake Chance (9.2), but he’s a solid one to build around coming off a really good freshman year in which he finished second in rebounding and led the team in steals. This will be his team moving forward, and they’ll go as far as he can take them. A lot of new pieces will be stepping into much larger roles, but with only three teams returning their leading scorers, they should remain competitive. 

Centerville (9-12, 7-5): The Big Reds lose their top four scorers from last season’s team, but four players with some significant experience return in Brady Kauzlarich (4.9), Matt McDonald (4.6), Jaxson Ocker (4.2) and Quentin Koestner (3.5). Each will be stepping into much larger roles this season, and there isn’t much shooting coming back, so they’ll need to either find some shooters or work the ball around to get open looks around the rim. Ocker, who dished out 68 assists against just 28 turnovers, is a good place to start. He’s a quality lead guard who will get his teammates looks. With Centerville losing a lot of scoring punch, it’ll be interesting to see who steps up and how this group competes against the rest of the pack.

Chariton (9-13, 6-6): The Chargers bring back three of their top six from last season, headlined by 6-5 forward Nathan Weaver (12.6), who led the team in rebounding and blocks last season. He’s an efficient scorer who does most of his damage around the rim who will be surrounded by a pair of solid returning guards in Nathan Blong (8.6) and Dylan Cain (3.1). That duo combined to dish out 67 assists (against 36 turnovers) last season. Blong is a quality shooter who made 40 3s on 39.2% last year, and Cain is a solid defender. The Weaver-Blong-Cain trio will be among the best in the conference, and should keep them within the top three this winter.

Clarke, Osceola (2-20, 2-10): The Indians won only two games last season, sweeping Davis County in their meetings. They really struggled with their efficiency last season, with 34-28-61 shooting splits and 348 turnovers against 262 assists. But they bring back eight of their top nine scorers from that group, which likes to play fast and should be doing so again this year. Cobey Robins (12.6) and Lenny Peavy (11.9) lead a deep group that will shoot a lot of 3s and get up and down the floor. We’ll have to see if it translates to wins, as they ranked dead last in 2A in scoring defense last year (77 points a game). Until that improves, we can’t expect to see many more wins.

Davis County (1-19, 0-13): Like Clarke, the Mustangs struggled mightily with efficiency last season (34-20-49, 370 turnovers, 134 assists), but return six of their top seven scorers back from that group. Reegan Warning (8.9) is the leading returnee, but the standout here could become Jaxson Sharp (6.6), a 6-6 senior who led the team in rebounding and blocked 37 shots. 

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont (20-4, 13-0): The Rockets lost four games last season, each to teams that qualified for the state tournament – Grand View Christian and Lynnville-Sully in 1A, Van Meter in 2A and Oskaloosa in 3A. They rolled through the conference, winning all 13 games by an average of 16 points, but they weren’t as dominant as that number would suggest, winning five of those games by single digits. We don’t expect that to happen this year, as you could make a very strong argument that E-B-F has the league’s top three players returning in Trey Moore (14.8), Gabe Larkin (13.2) and Wyatt Klyn (13.0). Moore is a slashing, scoring guard who will take over primary ball handling responsibilities following the graduation of KJ McCrea. Klyn is much the same, a guard who does more of his damage slashing than shooting, but each are capable shooters. And Larkin is the big, 6-6 forward in the paint who led the team in rebounding and blocked 43 shots. He’ll be a force on both ends of the floor. Jaden Herr (2.8), Ryan Adams (2.5), DJ Stout (2.4) and Connor VanderVeer (1.5) round out the rest of the returnees and will fill out the rotation. Herr made 41.3% of his 3s, while Stout shot 40.7%, albeit on limited attempts. This is far and away the best team in the conference, and as long as they stay healthy, they’ll be a threat in Class 2A all year.

Knoxville (9-13, 9-3): The top four scorers graduated for the Panthers, so it’ll be sophomore guard Kieren Nichols’ (6.0) team now. A small, but tough, lead guard, he’s a quality shooter, facilitator and defender who will need to become the team’s go-to option on the offensive end. RJ Roberts (5.9) and Tyler Vaske (3.1) are each capable shooters as well. In a league that saw a lot of roster turnover, Knoxville will still battle for a top-3 finish.

 

Projected Order of Finish
1. Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont
2. Chariton
3. Knoxville
4. Albia
5. Centerville
6. Clarke
7. Davis County

Analysis: It’s E-B-F, then a big gap to the Chariton-Knoxville-Albia tier. If the Rockets lose a conference game this year, it’ll be a surprise. 

 

Preseason Player of the Year

2019 Gabe Larkin, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont: 13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 53.3 FG%

You can make a strong argument for any of E-B-F’s “Big Three” as the Player of the Year. The Rockets are ranked No. 5 in our preseason rankings in Class 2A, and Larkin’s efficiency, rebounding and rim protection give him the slightest edge over his teammates Trey Moore and Wyatt Klyn.

 

Biggest Sleeper

2019 Jaxson Ocker, Centerville: The 6-0 lead guard put up solid numbers for the Big Reds last year, especially with his 68 assists to 28 turnovers. He’s a solid ball handler and decision maker who will pace a Big Reds attack that lost a lot of firepower. 

 

Players to Watch
2019 Gabe Larkin, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont
2019 Trey Moore, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont
2019 Wyatt Klyn, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont
2019 Nathan Weaver, Chariton
2019 Nathan Blong, Chariton
2021 Blake Chance, Albia
2019 Lenny Peavy, Clarke
2019 Cobey Robins, Clarke
2021 Dalton Stubbe, Clarke
2019 Reegan Warning, Davis County
2019 Jaxson Sharp, Davis County
2019 Trevor Slayton, Davis County
2021 Kieren Nichols, Knoxville
2019 RJ Roberts, Knoxville
2021 Brady Kauzlarich, Centerville
2020 Matt McDonald, Centerville
2019 Jaxson Ocker, Centerville