CEDAR RAPIDS — It was three years ago in late February, and North Linn’s boys’ basketball team had just been upset by Alburnett in a district game.
Mike Hilmer was despondent, upset that his seniors had lost their opportunity to play in the state tournament. Discouraged that after 20-some years on the sideline, again, he wasn’t going to get a chance to coach in Des Moines.
After a few minutes of tears, Hilmer’s oldest son, Jake, sidled up to next to him. Jake Hilmer was North Linn’s freshman point guard.
“When all the dust settled that night, he comes up to me, puts his arm around me and says ‘Dad, we’re going to get you to the state tournament,’” Mike Hilmer said. “Most kids that age aren’t thinking about how they can get their coach to the state tournament, they’re just disappointed they lost and everything. That’s one thing I remember that really brought into focus what kind of kid he was.”
That kid ended up helping get his father to three state tournaments, including a Class 2A championship last week. That kid led North Linn to a 102-4 record in his four years.
Today, that kid is honored as co-recipient of the 2019 Iowa Mr. Basketball award. He shares it with another outstanding point guard, Bettendorf’s DJ Carton.
Almost 50 sportswriters in the state cast ballots, and the two ended with exactly the same vote total. This is the third time there are co-winners of Mr. Basketball, the first since 1999, when Kirk Hinrich of Sioux City West and Nick Collison of Iowa Falls shared the award.
They ended up going to the University of Kansas together and enjoyed long careers in the NBA.
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“Pretty surreal,” Jake Hilmer said. “When you’re in the gym, working hard and stuff, I don’t think you ever consider anything this big. I know I didn’t. I always wanted to win a state championship, that was always a big goal of mine. Getting that done for the coaching staff and the guys I play with, a community that really supports our school and its athletics really well, is a really good feeling.
"Now winning Mr. Basketball, I guess, I would just say I worked really hard. I promise, I don’t think there’s anyone who works harder than me. I put in a lot of time, have been put in a really good situation. I’ve said all the time I’m in a really great situation here at North Linn, and it has just been an absolute blast.”
Hilmer and Carton met on the baseball field as younger kids, excelling in that sport as well. Carton decided he wanted to concentrate on hoops, while Hilmer continued to play both.
He’ll be a basketball and baseball player next year at Division II Upper Iowa University. Carton, of course, exploded onto the recruiting scene this past summer and ended up signing with Ohio State as a five-star player.
“DJ was a really, really good baseball player,” said Hilmer, who replaced him with the Iowa Barnstormers AAU program when Carton decided to play for the Quad City Elite. “It was surprising to me when he went just to basketball. Obviously, it worked out well for him.”
Hilmer isn’t the explosive athlete Carton is, but his ultra-quickness, court vision, basketball sense and ballhandling ability set him apart. He averaged 26 points per game this season, shooting 57 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line.
He led the state in assists the past three years and ended up setting state records for single-season and career steals and assists. He is the only player in Iowa history to surpass 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in his career, with 2,332 and 1,106, respectively.
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“It means a lot to me, just because I have seen all the work that he has put in,” Mike Hilmer said. “I have seen some of the naysayers that talk about what class he plays in. But, honestly, he has done some stuff that nobody has ever done before ... What Jake has done, to me, is incredible.”
Setting aside the numbers, most anyone who has met Jake Hilmer will tell you he’s an even better kid. It was noted by many that after North Linn’s championship game win this past Friday night over Boyden-Hull, Hilmer pushed fellow seniors Carter Johnson, David Seber and Trevor Boge to center court to pick up the winning trophy.
Then it was noted that before North Linn’s championship team photo was taken, he made sure to take off the medal he had received for being named all-tournament captain. That’s humility.
“What we’ve tried to teach him is that ‘OK, after that game, you saw how that kid acted. He was a great basketball player, but what do you think most people remember about him now?’” Mike Hilmer said. “My wife (Jaci) and I always drilled into him that you want to be known as a good person first before you want to be known as a good athlete. Because if you’re not a good person, no one will care that you were a good athlete.”
“Mom wasn’t really much of an athlete, but she instilled some morals and character things that have definitely helped me with sports,” Jake said. “Her presence does not go without recognition. My dad has shown me how to work, how to hold myself, how to be a man. The thing about my dad is he never let me settle for just being another good player. He always pushed me to get better and better. Once you accomplish one thing, you set the bar higher.”
The IPSWA all-state teams include three first-teamers in Class 4A in Cedar Rapids Prairie wing Keegan Murray, Linn-Mar forward Trey Hutcheson and Iowa City West forward Patrick McCaffery. Hutcheson is headed to Division I Albany (N.Y.) to play college ball next season, while McCaffery, of course, will play for his father, Fran, at Iowa.
Patrick McCaffery became West’s career scoring leader late this season, surpassing former Mr. Basketball Glen Worley.
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In Class 3A, West Delaware forward Derek Krogmann and Maquoketa’s A.J. Becker are first-team picks. Krogmann is WD’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Besides Hilmer, other first-teamers in Class 2A include Iowa City Regina junior guard Masen Miller. He led the state this season in 3-pointers made.
Sophomore Trey Shearer of Montezuma is among the first-team selections in Class 1A. So is Central City junior Nick Reid, who led the state in scoring average (32.5 points per game) this season, including a 76-point outing against East Buchanan that was tied for the second-highest scoring output in a game in state history.
Below are all of the IPSWA all-state teams.
DJ Carton (Bettendorf), senior
Tyreke Locure (Des Moines North), senior
Patrick McCaffery (Iowa City West), senior
Noah Carter (Dubuque Senior), senior
Logan Wolf (Cedar Falls), senior
Aidan Vanderloo (Sioux City East), senior
Keegan Murray (Cedar Rapids Prairie), senior
Trey Hutcheson (Linn-Mar), senior
Tyrese Nickelson (Waterloo East), senior
Ty Anderson (North Scott), junior
Dylan Jones (Waukee), senior
Kris Murray (Cedar Rapids Prairie), senior
Evan Gauger (Indianola), senior
Tamin Lipsey (Ames), freshman
Keshawn Pegues (Davenport Central), senior
Cliff McCray (Sioux City West), senior
Japannah Kellogg (Ames), senior
Peyton Williams (Johnston), senior
Trayvon Williams (West Des Moines Valley), senior
Cortaviaus Seales (North Scott), senior
Mick McCurry (Cedar Rapids Washington), senior
Matt Stilwill (West Des Moines Dowling), junior
Jack Wetzel (Cedar Rapids Kennedy), junior
Noah Hart (Waukee), senior
Bowen Born (Norwalk), junior
Cole Henry (Oskaloosa), senior
Xavier Foster (Oskaloosa), junior
Collin Lister (Carlisle), senior
Owen Coburn (Spirit Lake), senior
Derek Krogmann (West Delaware), senior
Jackson Molstead (Charles City), senior
A.J. Becker (Maquoketa), senior
Conner Groves (Sergeant Bluff-Luton), senior
Easton Darling (Winterset), junior
Goanar Biliew (Denison-Schleswig), junior
Drew Enke (Clear Lake), senior
Dylan Peeters (Davenport Assumption), senior
Alex Irwin (Le Mars), senior; Kylan Smallwood (Creston), senior
Christian Stanislav (Glenwood), senior
Daniel Wright (Sergeant Bluff-Luton), junior
Macklin Shanahan (Maquoketa), senior
Jacob Schockemoehl (Dubuque Wahlert), junior
Kieren Nichols (Knoxville), sophomore
Rian Yates (Oskaloosa), senior
Keaton Kutcher (Mount Vernon), sophomore
Nate Michels (Benton Community), senior
Jake Hilmer (North Linn), senior
Conner Hill (South Hamilton), senior
Ryan Schmitt (Van Meter), senior
Jace Davidson (Pocahontas Area), senior
Beau DeJongh (Boyden-Hull), senior
Ben Heeren (Ogden), senior
Masen Miller (Iowa City Regina), junior
Cooper DeJean (Ida Grove OABCIG), sophomore
Keaton Mitchell (Wapello), senior
Cade Fuller (Dike-New Hartford), senior
Caleb Delzell (Camanche), junior
Andrew VanRyswyk (Monroe PCM), senior
James Betz (Garner GHV), senior
Carter Cuvelier (Aplington-Parkersburg), senior
Hunter Dekkers (West Sioux), junior
Avery Busta (Forest City), senior
Curran Ingram (Des Moines Christian), junior
Ben Wolgemuth (Mediapolis), senior
Cameron Soenksen (Camanche), junior
Trey Hinote (Greene County), senior
Logan Peters (South Hamilton), senior
Haris Hoffman (Cascade), senior
Justin Recker (Monticello), sophomore
Zane Neubaum (South Central Calhoun), junior
Zach Martinek (West Fork), senior
Issa Samake (Grand View Christian), senior
T.J. Schnurr (Algona Garrigan), senior
Codey Hicks (Janesville), senior
Brennan Sefrit (Bedford), junior
Andrew Gibb (Fort Dodge St. Edmond), senior
Trey Shearer (Montezuma), sophomore
Nick Reid (Central City), junior
Brady Happel (Dunkerton), senior
Hunter Decker (Sioux Central), senior
Cole Burmeister (Exira-EHK), senior
Nik Coble (WACO), junior
Bryce Coppock (Newell-Fonda), junior
Izic Mackey (Alburnett), senior
Jackson Louscher (South O’Brien), junior
Kaidon Larson (Clinton Prince of Peace), senior
Caleb Grizzle (Ankeny Christian), senior
Angelo Winkel (Algona Garrigan), sophomore
Spencer Schorg (Remsen St. Mary’s), junior
Hunter Rickels (Calamus-Wheatland), senior
Jack Kelley (Don Bosco), senior
J.D. Stout (Keota), junior
Parker Hitt (Mormon Trail), senior
Jared Gast (Council Bluffs St. Albert), senior
Here is a historical list of Iowa Mr. Basketballs.
2018 — Joe Wieskamp (Muscatine) Iowa
2017 — Joe Smoldt (Gladbrook-Reinbeck) Upper Iowa
2016 — Jordan Bohannon (Linn-Mar) Iowa
2015 — Daniel Tillo (Sioux City North) Kentucky (baseball)
2014 — Wyatt Lohaus (Iowa City West) Northern Iowa
2013 — Peter Jok (West Des Moines Valley) Iowa
2012 — Marcus Paige( Linn-Mar) North Carolina
2011 — Jarrod Uthoff (Cedar Rapids Jefferson) Wisconsin/Iowa
2010 — Harrison Barnes (Ames) North Carolina
2009 — Brennan Cougill (Sioux City Heelan) Iowa/Green Bay
2008 — Matt Gatens (Iowa City High) Iowa
2007 — Clayton Vette (Waverly-Shell Rock) Iowa State/Winona State
2006 — Jason Bohannon (Linn-Mar) Wisconsin
2005 — Josh Van Es (MOC-Floyd Valley) Northwestern College
2004 — Carlton Reed (Waterloo East) Northern Iowa/Iowa
2003 — Brooks McKowen (Wapsie Valley) Northern Iowa
2002 — Jeff Horner (Mason City) Iowa
2001 — Tyler McKinney (Urbandale) Creighton
2000 — Glen Worley (Iowa City West) Iowa
1999 — (tie) Kirk Hinrich (Sioux City West) Kansas
......... Nick Collison (Iowa Falls) Kansas
1998 — David Newman (Des Moines Hoover) Drake/Northwestern
1997 — Dean Oliver (Mason City) Iowa
1996 — Justin Wessel (Cedar Rapids Prairie) Arizona
1995 — Adam Spanich (Cedar Rapids Regis) USC/Oral Roberts
1994 — Raef LaFrentz (MFL/Mar-Mac) Kansas
1993 — Jess Settles (Winfield-Mt. Union) Iowa
1992 — Eric Pothoven (Pella Christian) Liberty
1991 — Fred Hoiberg (Ames) Iowa State
1990 — Mike Davis (Waterloo East) Southwest Missouri State
1989 — Mike Bergman (Waverly-Shell Rock) Iowa State
1988 — Wade Lookingbill (Fort Dodge) Iowa
1987 — Robert Johnson (Des Moines Lincoln) Iowa State
1986 — Chris Gaines (Waterloo West) Hawaii
1985 — Brian David (Carroll Kuemper) Arizona
1984 — Al Lorenzen (Cedar Rapids Kennedy) Iowa
1983 — Todd Lumsden (Linn-Mar) Northern Iowa
1982 — (tie) Randy Kraayenbrink (Paullina) Northern Iowa
....... Ted Burbach (Dubuque Wahlert) Iowa State/Western Illinois
1981 — Todd Berkenpas (Maple Valley) Iowa
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