CEDAR RAPIDS — Here is a look at some of the potentially top individuals and teams from The Gazette area in boys’ basketball as the 2019-20 season gets underway.
Players to watch
Noah Beck (BGM): Do you know who led the state in steals last season? No, it wasn’t co-Mr. Basketball Jake Hilmer of North Linn. It was this kid, all 5-foot-5 of him. The senior guard also averaged 15 points a game and was second in Class 1A with 182 assists.
Andre Brandon (Iowa City Liberty): The springy 6-foot-5 senior averaged 14.4 points and 8.3 rebounds last season, his second as a starter for the Lightning. Liberty has its entire team from last season returning. Could this be a football-esque jump this season?
Even Brauns (Iowa City West): The 6-foot-9 senior post had to adjust to a higher level of competition after transferring from Iowa City Regina. Averaged 11 points and 5.5 rebounds and a blocked shot per game, shooting 67.8 percent from the field, with every shot coming from inside the 3-point arc. Has signed with Division I Belmont in Nashville, Tenn.
Will Henricksen (Marion): Senior guard with a high motor who averaged 16.9 points per game for an Indians team that took eventual champ Oskaloosa to the wire in their Class 3A state tournament quarterfinal game. Also an excellent free-throw shooter at 82.3 percent.
Kyle Kelley (West Delaware): A third-year starter as a junior. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 13.5 points per game for a team that averaged just 54.5. Expect his production to take a big upswing this season.
Keaton Kutcher (Mount Vernon): You can describe the junior guard simply as a shooter. Over half of his 322 shots last season came from 3-point range, and he made 41.7 percent of them. Averaged 20.5 points per game and was a third-team all-state pick in Class 3A.
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Masen Miller (Iowa City Regina): The 6-foot-1 senior guard averaged 20.4 points and a smidge over three assists per game last season, as Regina made it to the state tournament. A first-team all-state pick in Class 2A by the Iowa Professional Sports Writers Association, he will play college basketball at Division II Truman State in Missouri for former Iowa Hawkeyes guard Jeff Horner.
Zack Lasek (Highland): The 6-foot-8 senior has been a starter for the Huskies since he was a freshman. Last season saw him average 20.5 points per game and 11.1 rebounds. He has an inside-outside game, as evidenced by his 34 3-pointers made.
Ozzie Meiborg (Cedar Rapids Jefferson): Senior guard is a third-year starter for the J-Hawks. Averaged 12.9 points and 2.5 assists per game. Has committed to play juco ball at Iowa Lakes Community College.
Jaylon Moses (Cedar Rapids Xavier): Don’t look at his numbers from last season, look at his potential. The 6-foot-8 junior, son of former Iowa guard James Moses, continues to work his way back from two surgeries for torn knee ACLs. Averaged 7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Saints last season, missing the first five games as he worked his way back from his second ACL tear.
Justin Recker (Monticello): The 6-foot-5 junior led the Panthers in scoring (18.5) and rebounds (7.2) last season as a sophomore. That was good enough to pick up IPSWA third-team all-state honors in Class 2A.
Nick Reid (Central City): The senior has grown to about 6-foot-7. A first-team all-state pick in Class 1A by the IPSWA, Reid led the state last season with a 32.5 point-per-game scoring average. That included that 76-point outing in an early February win over East Buchanan. Has signed to play with Division II Emporia State in Kansas.
Caleb Schlaak (Cedar Rapids Kennedy): Like Moses, a kid whose numbers last season belie his potential. The 6-foot-7 junior averaged 7.9 points, 4.4 points and a blocked shot per game. He should be the focal point of the Cougars’ offense this season, considering leading scorers Jack Wetzel and Tyler Andrews both transferred to prep schools.
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Trey Shearer (Montezuma): The junior point guard led Montezuma to the state tournament in Class 1A last season. Averaged 22.4 points and four assists per game. First-team all-stater has committed to play for Truman State.
J.D. Stout (Keota): Here’s another high-scoring guard out of the South Iowa Cedar League. The 6-foot guard averaged 28.4 points per game last season, shooting 54 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range. Third team all-stater in 1A.
Teams to watch
Dyersville Beckman: The Blazers went 16-6 last season, playing in the mostly Class 3A Wamac Conference, giving eventual champ North Linn a scare (they led at halftime) before falling in their 2A district final. Leading scorer Michael Keegan (a 6-foot-4 senior) is back after scoring at an 18.2 clip a year ago. Luke Goedken, Tom Jaeger and Jack Westhoff also return as starters.
Iowa City Regina: The Regals went 20-3 last season and advanced to the state tournament in Class 2A. Returning starters are all-state guard Masen Miller and forward Ashton Cook. Jack Keller and Nick Wagner saw a lot of playing time off the bench and should contribute to a very good team.
Iowa City West: The Trojans lost to Dubuque Senior in the Class 4A state tournament quarterfinals last season and graduated leading scorer Patrick McCaffery, now at the University of Iowa. But you can’t get a better coaching staff than head man Steve Bergman and assistants Paul and Gordon Rundquist, and the cupboard isn’t bare, with the return of senior center Even Brauns (a signee of D-I Belmont) and starting guards Nicholas Pepin and Marcus Morgan.
Marion: Pete Messerli is in his first season as Indians head coach, and he has some talent to work with. Guard Will Henricksen led Marion in scoring last season (16.9 ppg), and he is back, as is starting guard Jaffer Murphy (9.3 ppg). Senior Connor Whalen and juniors Gage Franck and Owen Puk also played in every game for a team that pushed Oskaloosa to the limit in the first round of last year’s 3A state tournament. There are some good younger players coming up, too.
Montezuma: The Braves qualified for the state tournament last season for the first time since 1990, winning their quarterfinal game and finishing with a 22-3 record. All-state point guard Trey Shearer returns, and he’s a dynamic player. Cole Watts, Brayden Arendt and Eddie Burgess also have playing experience.
Monticello: No one was hurt more by the spate of weather postponements in the middle of last season than the Panthers, who had an all-sophomore starting lineup that couldn’t even get much-needed practice time together. They ended up playing only 17 games (going 12-5) and went over two weeks at one point in late January/early February between games. All five starters (all-stater Justin Recker, Luke and Connor Lambert, Tyler Luensman and Brayden Cleeton) are back, as are the top two guys off the bench (Devin Kraus and Jeff Carlson).
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North Linn: The Lynx will be interesting to watch just because they are coming off a Class 2A state championship, a 26-0 record and lost Mr. Basketball Jake Hilmer and fellow starters Trevor Boge and David Seber to graduation. That’s a ton of production. This probably will be more of a reload than rebuild, though it could take time, as it’s likely four underclassmen will start. Key players will be senior forward Austin Miller (10.8 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game last season) and sophomore guard Austin Hilmer (10.4 ppg).
Conference championship picks
Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division — Cedar Falls
Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division — Iowa City West
River Valley Conference North Division — Camanche
River Valley Conference South Division — Iowa City Regina
South Iowa Cedar League — Montezuma
Tri-Rivers Conference East Division — Easton Valley
Tri-Rivers Conference West Division — North Linn
Upper Iowa Conference — Turkey Valley
Wamac Conference East Division — Dyersville Beckman
Wamac Conference West Division — Center Point-Urbana
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