Dallas Center-Grimes (8-14, 4-11): Nine of the top 11 scorers from last year's group return for the Mustangs, so expect to see them make a leap up the conference standings this year. They'll be led by the guard duo of Luke Rankin (12.9) and Cole Glasgow (11.9), who should give DCG one of the best backcourts in the conference. In addition to leading the team in scoring and made 3s (47), Rankin also dished out a team high 73 assists and led the team with 32 steals. Glasgow is coming off a strong freshman campaign and should emerge as one of the league's better all-around scoring threats as early as this season. Returnees Cody Hall (4.5) and Logan Smith (2.4) showed themselves to be capable shooters from the arc last year, albeit in limited attempts, and with the strength of this group laying in the backcourt, look for them to try to play a little faster this year, using those guards and shooting abilities to put up some points. DCG should push their record above .500 and be battling with Pella, Pella Christian and Grinnell for third in the league before trying to make
Dallas Center-Grimes (8-14, 4-11): Nine of the top 11 scorers from last year's group return for the Mustangs, so expect to see them make a leap up the conference standings this year. They'll be led by the guard duo of Luke Rankin (12.9) and Cole Glasgow (11.9), who should give DCG one of the best backcourts in the conference. In addition to leading the team in scoring and made 3s (47), Rankin also dished out a team high 73 assists and led the team with 32 steals. Glasgow is coming off a strong freshman campaign and should emerge as one of the league's better all-around scoring threats as early as this season. Returnees Cody Hall (4.5) and Logan Smith (2.4) showed themselves to be capable shooters from the arc last year, albeit in limited attempts, and with the strength of this group laying in the backcourt, look for them to try to play a little faster this year, using those guards and shooting abilities to put up some points. DCG should push their record above .500 and be battling with Pella, Pella Christian and Grinnell for third in the league before trying to make some serious noise come postseason play.
Grinnell (8-13, 4-9): After a disastrous 2017-18 season that saw the Tigers go 1-21, they bounced back and were much more competitive last season, winning eight games and trimming nine points off their average margin. With four starters returning, they should continue that upward trajectory this winter. They’re led by 6-4 senior wing Jake Hull (20.1), one of the top scoring threats in 3A, with the ability to get to the rim or pull-up from well beyond the arc. He’s a smooth shooter and an all-around dynamic scoring threat. He’ll be joined by the backcourt duo of AJ Wilkins (8.1) and Cole McGriff (7.2), a pair of junior guards with the ability to stretch the floor, while 6-9 junior Owen Coffman (4.9) will hold down the paint. If Coffman’s offensive game has developed even a little bit, he can help take some of the pressure off the three solid shooters Grinnell has on the perimeter. The only other returnee who saw significant time last year is Matayas Durr (2.5), so a lot of pressure, especially early on, will be on those four returning starters. Hull is capable of scoring 30+ on any given night, and his explosive ability will make Grinnell dangerous on a nightly basis. If they can continue to trim some points off their defensive average (66.9 in that 2017-18 season, 60.2 last year), they’ll have the firepower to win plenty of games.
Indianola (16-5, 9-4): Last year was the best season Indianola has had in a long time, and there's probably going to be a big fall back down to Earth for the Indians this winter. They lost Evan Gauger (27.2 points a game) and Quinn Vesey (16.1) to graduation (Gauger is now playing at UNI, Vesey at Briar Cliff). Tyce Johnson (9.9) and AJ Toigo (6.5) return, giving them a pair of potentially high-scoring guards to build around. They combined to make 70 3-pointers last year and should be quality scorers. The issue is that the next highest scoring returnee, Blake Kennedy (1.2), scored just 14 points last year, so they'll have a lot of new faces on the floor this year.
Newton (0-20, 0-14): It was a rough year last season for the Cardinals, as they lost by single digits just twice, and lost games by an average of 21 points a game. The good news is that that group was extremely young, and they should be much more competitive this year with their top six scorers returning. Adam Mattes (10.5) led the team in scoring last year as a freshman, and the trio of Kyle Long (9.7), Noah Allen (9.2) and Logan Schilling (6.5) are all capable shooters from the arc. Quintrail Coley (5.1) led the team in rebounding and gives them an athletic big man who runs the floor and can rebound, and Kaleb Dydell (4.6) chipped in last year as well. If the youngsters have improved, this group should be much more competitive. The unfortunate part is that they still play in a loaded league, and wins are still going to be really tough to come by.
Norwalk (22-5, 13-3): I said almost immediately after the 3A championship game last season that Norwalk would open the season at the #1 spot in 3A, and I’m sticking with it. The Warriors were within a few possessions of winning the 3A title last season, falling 48-44 to Little Hawkeye rival Oskaloosa, and return three starters, including arguably the front runner for Mr. Basketball, Bowen Born (27.8). One of the best scoring threats the state has seen in recent years, the 6-1 lefty guard has unlimited range and is one of the most creative scorers around. In addition to his scoring prowess, his playmaking abilities took a step up last year, as he dished out 102 assists (against just 41 turnovers), while having the ball in his hands all the time. Also back is second leading scorer Tyler Johnson (13.6), a long, athletic wing who can really shoot the ball (62 3PM, 45.6%). Johnson will pair with Born to give the Warriors the most potent offensive attack in 3A. Scott Anderson (5.1, 28 3PM, 41.8 3P%) is the final returnee from last year’s group, giving Norwalk a trio of high-level shooters. This is a group that relied heavily on their starting five last year, so they’ll need to get some increased production out of bench players like Sam Eggers (1.6) and Ethan Carlson (2.8), as well as finding some new pieces to fill into some key roles. But with future UNI Panther guard Bowen Born leading the charge, Norwalk is going to be really, really tough to beat. He’s that dynamic of a player. The Warriors are one of the top contenders to take home the 3A title this year, and with the best high school player on the floor on a nightly basis, they enter the season as our favorite.
Xavier Foster (Photo credit: Matt Bain, DM Register)
Oskaloosa (19-5, 10-3): The defending champions lose a lot from their first ever state title team, but with Xavier Foster (14.4, 148 blocks) returning, the Indians are going to be a real threat yet again this year. Yes, they are going to sorely miss Cole Henry, who is now playing at Northern Iowa. Rian Yates’ shooting and playmaking ability will also be missed, as will Austin Hafner’s shooting. But a two-way force like Foster doesn’t come around too often in Iowa high school basketball, and as such, Osky is still going to be a force to be reckoned with. Tyler Miller (2.3) is the only other returning starter for the Indians, and he’ll be asked to take on a heavy ball handling load, and they’ll need to get production out of a pair of sophomores who were on the varsity roster as freshmen last year, William Schultz (0.6) and Carson Genskow. The good news for Osky is that Iszac Schultz (2.7) proved himself to be a very valuable piece at State last year, an excellent perimeter defender and capable shooter, while Noah VanVeldhuizen (4.1) is also back. He’ll need to be the team’s go-to shooting threat after making 24 3s off the bench last year. Oskaloosa has more question marks than any other team on this list, but they also have one of the biggest difference makers and erasers the state has seen in years patrolling the paint, and they are going to win plenty of games.
Pella (17-6, 11-4): The Dutch were their typical selves last season, putting one of the most explosive offenses in the state on the floor, as they ranked fifth in 3A, averaging 69 points a game. They were also balanced, as they usually are, with four players averaging in double figures. Two of those players return in Logan Shetterly (17.3) and John Oltman (10.8), a tandem that combined to make 101 3-pointers in their up-tempo system. Shetterly will have the ball in his hands a lot this year as the leading returnee in assists (74), and his ability to score from anywhere on the floor and facilitate this deep group make him one of the more valuable players in 3A. Treyton Sturgeon (7.0) played in just the first three games last season but is back and should be a viable tertiary scoring threat, while Karl Miller (5.0, 52.0 3P%) returns after a very productive freshman season coming off the bench. A 6-4 wing with fantastic shooting ability, he’s the type of player who will thrive in Pella’s system. Grant Nelson (6.8) can also shoot the ball, making 28 3s at a 36.8% clip last season. The Dutch always score in bunches, and this year will be no exception. They are going to be loaded with players who can shoot the ball. They’re going to play fast, shoot it often, and try to force teams into turnovers with their pressure. If they can be a bit better on the defensive end (59.8 points a game last year, 41st in 3A), they can be a real threat in the class. This group was upset by Ballard in the substate final last year, and will be hungry to get further this time around.
Pella Christian (14-9, 5-8): Despite being a 2A school in a very strong 3A league, the Eagles are always competitive, and that was the case again last year, as six of their nine losses came by single digits, so they were really close to putting together a 17 or 18 win season. Two of their top three scorers return, and seven players overall who saw significant playing time last year are back, so expect PC to be strong again. They'll be led by 6-9 big man Josh Van Gorp (11.2), a highly efficient big who shot 71.5% from the field and had nearly as many offensive rebounds (75) as defensive (86) last year. He'll anchor the paint on both ends of the floor after blocking a team-high 31 shots last year. If they're able to get some increased production out of 6-7 senior big man Isaiah Gritters (2.0), they could be an absolute force in the paint. Gritters actually did pull down more offensive (26) than defensive (25) last year, and if he's improved, watch out, because the Eagles will put size on the floor that will be unmatched by just about any other team in the state. The backcourt will be led by Dan Jungling (8.4), who shot 46.7% from the arc last year and posted a 45-13 assist-to-turnover ratio last year. Jack Vermeer (6.7), Keean Cadwell (6.0) and Ryan Vande Haar (2.5) give the Eagles some more perimeter scoring, and Jase Amelse (1.4) saw time last year as well. PC should be strong again, and will be a real threat to do damage in 2A come playoff time after cutting their teeth against some really good teams in this league.
Projected Order of Finish
4. Dallas Center-Grimes
5. Pella Christian
Analysis: The LHC is loaded again, with our top two teams in Class 3A to open the year projected to finish atop the league. We also have Pella ranked (#7). The battle between teams 3-6 here for the third spot should be fun, and every team in this league is going to be dangerous come postseason time. There is a ton of talent in this conference.
Preseason Players of the Year
2020 Bowen Born, Norwalk & 2020 Xavier Foster, Oskaloosa
Born: 27.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.9 steals, 79 3PM
Foster: 14.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 6.2 blocks, 53.6 FG%
Is it a cop out to not pick one of the two? Perhaps. But there is no player in the state who makes a bigger impact on the offensive end of the floor than Born, and no player makes a bigger defensive impact that Foster. These are the two most impactful players in the state right now, and Little Hawkeye fans are lucky (or unlucky if you're a fan of the other teams in the league) to have them around.
2020 Isaiah Gritters, Pella Christian: The 6-7 big man was effective off the bench last year for the Eagles, shooting 54.5% from the floor and pulling down 26 offensive rebounds. He has the size that will make him intriguing for smaller schools, and he should be an impact player for a PC team that should be really good.
Players to Watch
2020 Bowen Born, Norwalk
2020 Tyler Johnson, Norwalk
2020 Scott Anderson, Norwalk
2020 Xavier Foster, Oskaloosa
2020 Izsac Schultz, Oskaloosa
2020 Jake Hull, Grinnell
2021 AJ Wilkins, Grinnell
2021 Cole McGriff, Grinnell
2020 Logan Shetterly, Pella
2020 John Oltman, Pella
2022 Karl Miller, Pella
2021 Luke Rankin, Dallas Center-Grimes
2022 Cole Glasgow, Dallas Center-Grimes
2020 Josh Van Gorp, Pella Christian
2020 Dan Jungling, Pella Christian
2022 Adam Mattes, Newton
2020 Kyle Long, Newton
2022 Noah Allen, Newton
2020 Tyce Johnson, Indianola