The third annual Wells Fargo Advisors Shootout tips off this coming Saturday, February 1, in downtown Cedar Rapids, with eight games on the slate. This year, games will be played at Kennedy High School, and they will be played with a 35-second shot clock. We get started with Alburnett vs. Don Bosco at 9:30 am, and conclude with Cedar Rapids Xavier vs. Charles City, with tip scheduled for 8:00 pm, and plenty of quality basketball in between. Below, we preview each of the first session’s games, including some players to keep an eye on and make our picks for each of the eight games. (Note: Team records current as of 10:00 am Friday.)
9:30 am: Alburnett (9-5) vs. Don Bosco (13-1)Zach Huff
The day gets started with a good 1A battle between the Pirates and Dons. Both of these are solid defensive teams, with Alburnett allowing just 49.4 points a game, and Don Bosco giving up 39.0. This would’ve been a great matchup between Hunter Caves and Zach Huff, but Caves tore his ACL during football and isn’t playing this season. In his absence, Shane Neighbor (16.6 points a game) and Austin Huber (12.5) have really stepped up their play for Alburnett. They’ll have their hands full trying to limit Don Bosco’s high-scoring guard Zach Huff, who is averaging 22.6 points a game and shooting 38.5% from behind the arc. Look for the Pirates to throw a bunch of different defensive looks at Huff in an effort to slow him down, but he’s the most talented player on the floor and he’ll get his points. Huber, a 38.5% 3-point shooter, will need to knock down some open looks, and the Pirates will need Neighbor and Reed Stallman to control the glass if Alburnett is going to come away with a nice neutral site win here. At the end of the day, we think Huff finds a way to keep it rolling, and Don Bosco sneaks out a quality W to open the day.
Our pick: Don Bosco 58, Alburnett 50
Players to watch
Alburnett: Shane Neighbor (16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 40 assists), Austin Huber (12.5 points, 38.5 3P%, 57 assists, 34 steals), Blake Sperfslage (10.1 points), Reed Stallman (10.0 points, 9.3 rebounds)
Don Bosco: Zach Huff (22.6 points, 38.5 3P%, 41 assists), Lewis Havel (11.2 points, 62 assists), Luke Staebell (8.6 points, 31 steals)
11:00 am: Cedar Rapids Kennedy (7-5) vs. St. James Academy (KS) (4-6)Caleb Schlaak
St. James Academy has a long trip ahead of them, but they haven’t played since Tuesday, so they’ll be in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. The Cougars will have their hands full with a Thunder team that has some strong guard play, but the size that Kennedy can put on the floor with 6-7 forward Caleb Schlaak (17.9) and Brandtley Koske (10.5) should give them an edge on the interior and the glass that they can exploit. Schlaak has been great this year, taking advantage of all the opportunities that opened up following the transfers of Jack Wetzel and Tyler Andrews to out-of-state prep schools. With his ability to dominate the game on both ends of the floor, Kennedy should be able to hold serve at home and come away with the win here.
Our pick: Kennedy 68, St. James Academy 60
Players to watch
Kennedy: Caleb Schlaak (17.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 26 blocks), Brandtley Koske (10.5 points), Kenzie Reed (7.3 points, 42 assists), Paul Cory (6.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 35 steals)
St. James Academy: Jack Moellers (#23 in PHKS 2020), Michael Cahill (#36 in PHKS 2021), Matthew DeLeon (#72 in PHKS 2021), Tyler Clairbone (#21 in PHKS 2022)
12:30 pm: 4A #10 Hempstead (11-3) vs. Dowling Catholic (8-5)
This game was added to the slate following the postponement of the original set of games, pushing it from a seven-game schedule to eight, but we definitely aren’t complaining, as this should be the best game of the day. Hempstead has been one of the top teams in 4A this season, elevating as high as #2 in our poll behind the dynamic junior duo of Michael Duax (21.3) and Jamari Smith (16.2), a pair of extremely talented wings who can score from anywhere on the floor. Dowling is on a downhill slide right now, having lost four straight games after an eight-game winning streak saw them climb to near the top of the rankings as well. They have a tough one against Centennial on Friday night, so how will their legs be heading into this one? (Hempstead has a game against Western Dubuque that they should control, and even so, the travel is shorter for the ‘Stangs.) The Maroons are a bigger, physical team that likes to slow the game down and rely on a strong defense to help them scrape out wins. Matt Stilwill (11.7) and Ryan Riggs (11.7) are the big names to watch here, although Drew Daniel (8.5) has been a strong perimeter option, and Omaha Biliew (5.2) is one of the top freshmen prospects in the country. Having the shot clock in play could impact Dowling here, much more so than Hempstead, who likes to use their athleticism and skill to play a little faster. Michael Duax is the best player on the floor, and Hempstead notches a solid win for the MVC here.
Our pick: Hempstead 63, Dowling Catholic 57
Players to watch
Hempstead: Michael Duax (21.3 points, 53.4 FG%, 8.1 rebounds, 48 assists), Jamari Smith (16.2 points, 47.0 3P%, 41 assists, 37 steals), Nicholas Kaesbauer (10.7 points, 37.8 3P%)
Dowling Catholic: Matt Stilwill (11.7 points, 29 assists, 21 steals), Ryan Riggs (11.7 points, 55.9 FG%, 6.8 rebounds, 20 blocks), Drew Daniel (8.5 points, 39.1 3P%), Omaha Biliew (5.2 points)
2:00 pm: Iowa City Liberty (6-6) vs. Carlisle (5-8)Andre Brandon
This looks like a spot where Liberty should roll to a comfortable win and get back on track after losing seven of their last nine games. Carlisle has struggled to score this year following the graduation of high-scoring guard Collin Lister, averaging just 45.3 points a game, and they’re shooting just 29.3% from behind the arc. Liberty has a balanced rotation of scoring options, with five players averaging between 6.5 and 12.3 points a game, led by Andre Brandon, a player who the ‘Cats will have a difficult time matching up with. Liberty’s defense should force plenty of Carlisle turnovers (176 turnovers to 130 assists this season), and should come away with a solid win here. We’ll see the difference between the MVC and the Raccoon River come into play in this one.
Our pick: Liberty 68, Carlisle 48
Players to watch
Liberty: Andre Brandon (12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds), Kelby Telander (10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds), Ira Hazeltine (7.5 points), Ethan O’Donnell (6.7 points, 32 assists)
Carlisle: Nate Norton (12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds), Hayden Amos (9.5 points, 7.8 rebounds), Tyson Guard (8.6 points, 43 assists)
3:30 pm: Linn-Mar (5-6) vs. West Des Moines Valley (9-5)
Coming into the season, this was a really young Linn-Mar team, but four of their losses have come by single digits, so they’ve been really competitive. The Lions are led by senior guard John Steffen (15.4), who leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists but has seen his efficiency fall significantly this year as he’s been asked to do much more of the scoring. They’ve gotten solid production out of combo forward Brady Klahn (11.1), a long forward who can score inside and out. Valley has started to really come on, emerging as a legitimate state tournament threat again behind the dynamic guard play of Jake Auer (16.9) and Ty Walker (14.1). Sophomore big man Eli Raridon (12.9) has also been a revelation this year, giving the Tigers a force in the paint with explosive athleticism. Those three handle a bulk of the scoring for Valley, and they should have enough firepower to outgun a Linn-Mar team that can struggle to score at times.
Our pick: Valley 67, Linn-Mar 55
Players to watch
Linn-Mar: John Steffen (15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 32 assists), Brady Klahn (11.1 points), Dylan Decklever (9.0 points)
Valley: Jake Auer (16.9 points, 40.2 3P%, 44 assists), Ty Walker (14.1 points, 37 assists), Eli Raridon (12.9 points, 61.8 FG%, 6.9 rebounds)
5:00 pm: Central City (9-5) vs. Edgewood-Colesburg (10-5)
Due to this event being rescheduled, these teams will actually meet again on Tuesday, which is an odd scheduling quirk. The headliner here is definitely Central City wing Nick Reid (28.5), who is averaging over 19 rebounds a game in addition to his scoring prowess and is coming off a game in which he scored 40 points and had 31 rebounds. At 6-7, he has size that lots of 1A schools can’t compete with, and he should be able to do whatever he wants against Ed-Co. If Ed-Co junior guard Parker Rochford were healthy, this one would be much more entertaining, as he can really shoot it, but alas. Spencer Staner (10.5) leads a balanced team that has six players averaging between 5.3 and 10.5 points a game. They’ll need to find a way to limit Reid, however, and that’s easier said than done. He should have a field day.
Our pick: Central City 59, Edgewood-Colesburg 48
Players to watch
Central City: Nick Reid (28.5 points, 19.1 rebounds, 32 blocks), Ethan Tye (7.4 points), Trey Orcutt (4.9 points, 36 assists)
Edgewood-Colesburg: Spencer Staner (10.5 points, 52 assists, 32 steals), Riley Ashline (9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds), Korey Putz (9.4 points, 32 steals)
6:30 pm: Iowa City High (5-6) vs. 4A #8 Waterloo West (11-2)
Outside of a loss to Iowa City West in which the Trojans completely took Waterloo West out of what they wanted to do, the Wahawks have been one of the most dominant teams in the state this year, winning games by an average of 20 points a game. One of the most athletic teams in the state, they use ball pressure defense to make opposing ball handlers uncomfortable and use that to spark their offense. Daquavian Walker (15.1) leads the team in scoring and steals, while Isaiah Johnson (10.5), Amar Kulijuhovic (7.4), Jaden Keller (7.2), Caleb Haag (7.0) and Antonio Alexander (6.8) are all key contributors for this group. City High is currently on a four game losing streak (which will likely be five coming into this one, given they play Iowa City West Friday night), but they’ve been getting strong play out of senior guard Keshawn Christian (17.2), who recently signed to play at DMACC. Byron Benton (9.4) is a quick guard who can get to the rim, and Jamari Newson (8.1) is another solid ball handler. The Little Hawks have struggled with turnovers at times this year, and they’ll need to protect the ball against that ball pressure defense West will employ.
Our pick: Waterloo West 72, City High 60
Players to watch
City: Keshawn Christian (17.2 points, 8.4 rebounds), Byron Benton (9.4 points, 33 assists), Jamari Newson (8.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 21 steals)
West: Daquavian Walker (15.1 points, 33 steals), Isaiah Johnson (10.5 points, 38.5 3P%), Jaden Keller (7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 43 assists)
8:00 pm: Cedar Rapids Xavier (6-7) vs. Charles City (8-6)
The night concludes with a Xavier team that has turned their season around of late, winners of four of their last five (lone loss to 4A #1 Cedar Falls), taking on a solid Charles City team. Xavier has been led by the tandem of Davis Wagner (10.3) and Jake Beckmann (10.2), but is getting production out of different players every night. Jaylon Moses (7.2) is still trying to get acclimated, but has provided some rebounding and a rim protector. He’ll have his hands full with Bradley Andrews (16.6), a bull of a forward who rebounds at a high level and is a highly efficient scorer. Both of these teams have struggled with turnovers this year, and the team that plays the cleaner game should end up prevailing. I think we’ll see the difference between the MVC and the Northeast Iowa Conference come into effect as this game wears on.
Our pick: Xavier 62, Charles City 53
Players to watch
Xavier: Davis Wagner (10.3 points), Jake Beckmann (10.2 points, 37.9 3P%), Jaylon Moses (7.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 23 blocks)
Charles City: Bradley Andrews (16.6 points, 55.6 FG%, 8.5 rebounds, 24 blocks), JJ Ritter (13.1 points)