Bettendorf (21-2, 18-1): The Bulldogs spent a fair amount of time ranked #1 in the state last year, behind the play of star point guard DJ Carton, who is now at Ohio State. That’s a massive loss, as he led the ‘Dogs in every major category except for blocks. In all, four starters are gone, and every player who made more than six 3-pointers last year has graduated. Nonetheless, coach Curtis Clark is one of the best in the state, and you know that Bettendorf is always going to be solid on the defensive end, and fairly disciplined on the offensive end. Lucas Hayes (6.4), a 6-8 senior big man, is a nice piece to start building around. He’s big, fairly mobile and an efficient scorer around the rim. Look for Bettendorf to be a little bit more of an inside-out team last year, as opposed to the perimeter dominant team they were last season. 6-5 Oliver Bakeris (5.2) and 6-2 Tynan Numkena (2.7) also return, and each of that trio are strong on the glass and should be enforcers in the paint. Look for the perimeter to get an athleticism boost from Moline
Bettendorf (21-2, 18-1): The Bulldogs spent a fair amount of time ranked #1 in the state last year, behind the play of star point guard DJ Carton, who is now at Ohio State. That’s a massive loss, as he led the ‘Dogs in every major category except for blocks. In all, four starters are gone, and every player who made more than six 3-pointers last year has graduated. Nonetheless, coach Curtis Clark is one of the best in the state, and you know that Bettendorf is always going to be solid on the defensive end, and fairly disciplined on the offensive end. Lucas Hayes (6.4), a 6-8 senior big man, is a nice piece to start building around. He’s big, fairly mobile and an efficient scorer around the rim. Look for Bettendorf to be a little bit more of an inside-out team last year, as opposed to the perimeter dominant team they were last season. 6-5 Oliver Bakeris (5.2) and 6-2 Tynan Numkena (2.7) also return, and each of that trio are strong on the glass and should be enforcers in the paint. Look for the perimeter to get an athleticism boost from Moline (IL) transfer Harrison Bey-Buie, who is better on the football field but should give the ‘Dogs some quickness and strength on the perimeter. Additionally, they’ll get a shooting boost from the transfer of Zach Trevino, who averaged 11 points a game for Davenport West last season. He’s a solid shooter (36.5 3P%) who should help the ‘Dogs space the floor for their trio of interior-oriented players. They’ll also need guys like Joe Bryne (1.7, 5-11 3P) and Carter Furness (1.2, 6-16 3P) to emerge as go-to shooters. The Bulldogs are always going to be a tough, physical team that is going to try to grind teams down, and this year will be a return to that. Behind Carton last year, they were a little higher scoring than usual, and liked to play a bit more up-tempo. Look for this group to return to their slower, half-court offense look, and they’ll continue to stockpile wins.
Clinton (2-19, 2-15): The River Kings won just two games last year, beating Muscatine and Burlington, and they lose their top two scorers from that group. Max Holy (5.7) is the leading returnee, and he's the only returnee who scored more than 36 points last season, so this group is going to have a lot of new faces. They'll be battling it out with Muscatine at the bottom of the league.
Davenport Assumption (15-9, 11-7): The Knights bring back one of the league's best players in Sean Peeters (16.2), a highly efficient and athletic forward who can stretch the floor, but is at his best when he's crashing the glass and running the floor for easy buckets. He's a great finisher who battled through injuries last year but was still incredibly productive alongside his older brother Dylan. This is Sean's team now. Grayson Heiser (3.4) isn't much of a scorer, but he was a solid lead guard last year for the Knights, dishing out 68 assists against just 43 turnovers, and he's a capable shooter from deep when he decides to pull the trigger. Logan Ehrecke (1.7), Bill Flaherty (1.4) and JJ Stratman (0.7) should all step into bigger roles and perform. This group got a huge boost from the transfer of Rock Island Alleman (IL) guard Dayne Hodge, who figures to slide right into the starting lineup and give Assumption a good scorer on the perimeter. He should fit in nicely with Peeters. Assumption has one of the best players in the league, and they should win plenty of games as a result. They'll be in the group of teams battling it out for second, behind North Scott.
Davenport Central (16-7, 12-6): The Blue Devils were one of the most pleasant surprises around the state last year, getting off to a 13-2 start before stumbling down the stretch and falling to Iowa City West in the substate final. Using a deep rotation and an extremely athletic lineup, they were able to routinely overwhelm opponents with their length and speed, and Keshawn Pegues was dominant and gave them some outstanding rebounding in the paint. Unfortunately, Pegues is gone, as is Josh English. The good news is that there are three starters returning, and the most important piece back came off the bench last season. The three returning starters are Kaiden Phillips (10.0), John Miller (10.1) and Amari Porter (2.7), while the key returnee off the bench is junior wing Emarion Ellis (8.6). Miller briefly considered a transfer to Rock Island (IL), but is back at Central and ready to help lead the Blue Devils. He led the team with 29 made 3-pointers last year, and will be called upon to help space the floor. Ellis had as good a spring as anyone in the state playing with the Iowa Barnstormers and putting his name on the radar with slews of Division I coaches. He’s a supremely athletic wing who thrives on getting into the paint, where he finishes over people or through contact. He also showed a much better jumper than his percentage during the high school season (26.9 3P%) indicated. The key for Ellis will be his shot selection, and becoming more disciplined as a ball handler and decision maker. He’s got a ton of talent, but he did shoot just 35% from the floor and had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio last winter. If that stuff starts to correct itself, watch out. Phillips is another intriguing player for the Devils, a 6-5 combo forward with immense length and athletic ability. He led the team in blocks last year, and he has the ability to score from all three levels. Like Ellis, his key is going to be becoming more consistent with his shot. Amari Porter led the team in assists (61) and had a nice assist-to-turnover ratio (24 turnovers). He’s listed at just 5-5, but he’s quick and a good decision maker who should thrive running this offense with a pair of potent, athletic wings next to him. Niiziar Rogers (6.3 in three games) and Dajion Greer (1.7) return with some experience, but it’s the quartet of Miller-Ellis-Porter-Phillips that will make Central a team to keep an eye on this year.
Davenport North (10-13, 8-11): The Wildcats will have a new face roaming the sidelines following the resignation of Joe Ewen, who resigned to spend more time with his wife and five kids. Their new coach is Marc Polite, who spent a year as an assistant at North a few years ago, and was the coach at East Moline United Township (IL) for seven years earlier in the decade. He’ll have some talent to build around, as the ‘Cats bring back three of their top four scorers from last year, headlined by Quincy Wiseman (10.4) and Jayden Houston (10.0), a pair of long, athletic wings who are at their best attacking the rim. Houston led the team in rebounding last season, and is a force on the glass, especially the offensive end, where he pulled down 84 offensive rebounds, good for 3.7 a night. Those extra possessions can be extremely valuable, especially for a team that lost eight games by 10 or less last year. Wiseman showed himself to be a capable perimeter shooter as well last season, burying 19 3s at a 44.2% clip. Also returning is lead guard Jamal Litt (7.0), a bulldog of a point guard who should prove to be one of the top perimeter defenders in the state this year. Mekki Sisk (6.3) was an effective player for the ‘Cats off the bench last year and had a solid spring and summer with the Barnstormers. He’s another athletic wing who excels in transition. Look for Sam Wellman (2.1, 5-9 3P) to get some more run this year, giving North some more shooting, and for guys like Mekhi Jacobs and Alec Brown to emerge as solid rotation pieces as well. The Wildcats have lots of athleticism, and if they can improve on the decision making/protection of the basketball (240 turnovers to 180 assists last year), they’ll become a more efficient offensive team and they can turn some of those close losses into wins this year.
Davenport West (9-13, 7-11): The Falcons lose their top three scorers from last year's team, two to graduation, and one (Zach Trevino) to transfer. But the next five from last year's rotation return, and they add a key transfer of their own in Jamal Winston, who transfers over from North. Aldane Barrett (6.1), a 6-7 junior big man, is the leader of this group. He led the team in rebounding last year and blocked 31 shots. They'll need him to be a dominant two-way force this season. Nasir Beechum (5.7) is another long, athletic forward who should pair nicely with Barrett, while Elijah Hollingshed (6.9) figures to be the team's primary perimeter scorer. This is a group that really needs to find a quality lead guard option, as the returnees had a 52-155 assist-to-turnover ratio last year. That's not going to win games in this league. Winston, a 6-3 senior forward, averaged 4.4 points at North last year, and showed himself to be a capable shooter from the arc (15-38, 39.5%), giving them another wing scorer. This team should be plenty athletic and quick, but if they don't protect the basketball, they'll really struggle.
Muscatine (0-21, 0-17): The first year post-Joe Wieskamp was a rough one for the Muskies, as they cracked 50 points just twice and failed to record a win. Their 37 points a game ranked dead last in 4A. They bring back the top two scorers from last year in Noah Yahn (12.9) and Josh Dieckman (7.3), but this is a group that was largely non-competitive last year, with just three of their losses coming by single digits. The youngest Wieskamp is on his way, but he's still a few years away from being a Muskie, and this could be another long year in Muscatine.
North Scott (23-3, 18-1): Death, taxes, and Shamus Budde having an elite defensive team at North Scott. Those are three things that we can count on right now. Since taking over the reigns in Eldridge, Budde’s teams have finished 1-3-10-3-4-1-1-3-13-4-5-4-25 in scoring defense in 4A, with that 25th place finish coming in his first year. Some of those low points against numbers can be attributed to the methodical style that they play on the offensive end, but a large chunk comes down to the fact that Budde can flat out coach, and he gets his kids to buy in on the defensive end. So, despite returning just two starters and only four players who saw significant playing time last year, the Lancers find themselves in the top five again, because they are going to be elite on the defensive end of the floor yet again. They’re led by Ty Anderson (13.7, 8.2 rebounds), a Northern Iowa commit and 6-7 power forward who will be a dominant force on both ends of the floor. He’s long and a great athlete who has gradually expanded his offensive game and can now comfortably stretch out and knock down 3s. He has the versatility to defend one through five at the high school level. The other returning starter is Sam Kilburg (7.8), who returns after leading the team in assists last year (74). He’s a solid decision maker and defender who does all the little things to help his team win. Landon Eiland (3.5) will be asked to step into a major scoring role this year. A 6-5 junior wing, he’s capable of being a big-time shooter from the arc, although his numbers last year (29.4 3P%) don’t show it. Expect to see him be much more efficient this year. You can also expect to see more out of Trent Allard (1.7), a 6-6 senior big man who should fit in well alongside Anderson. The Lancers return a number of other players who didn’t see much time last year, but they practiced every day against players who helped lead this team to an 18-0 start last year and should be ready to step into bigger roles this year. So keep an eye on players like Ben Belken, Luke Jennings, Jackson Guffey and Layne Hamann. They’ll contribute for this winning program, and the Lancers will be in the hunt for Des Moines again this winter behind an elite coach and an elite defense.
Pleasant Valley (15-8, 10-8): You know what you're going to get from Steve Hillman coached teams, and you should expect that again this year. The Spartans are going to play slow, grind out possessions, and rely on their strength, physicality and defense to wear teams down. They ranked fourth in 4A in scoring defense last year (45.9 points a game), and they were the fourth worst in scoring offense (48.8). They lose a pair of double figure scorers in Carter Duwa and Hunter Snyder, who combined to average 27.2 points a game (55% of the team's scoring). Jacob Townsend (5.1) is the leader this year, a big, physical wing who can shoot it a bit, but is at his best when he's attacking and playing downhill. Carter Cline (4.2) and Jacob Parker (3.7) also return, and expect to see Ryan Dolphin (1.1) to emerge as a solid perimeter scoring threat as a sophomore. They have another nice piece coming through in junior wing CJ Ragins, a big, physical combo forward who fits the mold of a PV Spartan. This group is always going to be really disciplined, and it'll help keep them in games that they shouldn't be in, and they'll grind their way to another above .500 record.
Projected Order of Finish
1. North Scott
6. Pleasant Valley
Analysis: North Scott looks like a pretty solid favorite at the top of the league. Shamus Budde has that program rolling, and they should be really good again. The battle between teams 2-6 for that second spot should be great and you could make a decent argument for any of them.
Preseason Player of the Year
2020 Ty Anderson, North Scott: 13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.2 blocks, 59.1 FG%
The future Northern Iowa forward is the best player on the league’s best team. Blessed with great length and athleticism, he runs the floor, rebounds at a high level, protects the rim and is one of the most versatile defenders in the state, with the ability to switch onto smaller guards without giving up much. He’s steadily improved his offensive skill set, and he should have a huge senior year for one of 4A’s best teams, helping lead the Lancers back to the top of the MAC.
2021 CJ Ragins, Pleasant Valley: One of the biggest surprises at our Top 250 Expo in September, Ragins is a prototypical PV forward - big, athletic and physical. He's a switchable defender who rebounds the ball, runs the floor and will limit mistakes. Look for him to be a major impact player this year for the Spartans.
Players to Watch
2020 Ty Anderson, North Scott
2020 Sam Kilburg, North Scott
2020 Sean Peeters, Assumption
2021 Emarion Ellis, Central
2020 Kaiden Phillips, Central
2021 John Miller, Central
2021 Jayden Houston, North
2021 Quincy Wiseman, North
2020 Jamal Litt, North
2020 Zach Trevino, Bettendorf
2020 Lucas Hayes, Bettendorf
2021 Oliver Bakeris, Bettendorf
2022 Tynan Numkena, Bettendorf
2021 Noah Yahn, Muscatine
2021 Josh Dieckman, Muscatine
2021 Aldane Barrett, West
2021 Jacob Townsend, Pleasant Valley
2022 Ryan Dolphin, Pleasant Valley