These are not the state's official rankings, just how I voted for the Preseason Basketball Rankings in the South Dakota Media poll.Good luck to all the teams and players.
Class B BOYS
1. Aberdeen Christian
Aberdeen Christian is coming off a 21-5 season where they qualified for the state tournament with a lot of talent back on the court. They didn’t have a single senior. Malek Wieker, Ethan Russell, Jackson Isakson, Andrew Brennan and Kaden Clark make up a powerful senior starting five. This electric group is solid and balanced and has several options on offense.
2. Lower Brule
The Sioux had a great run last year at 22-4 and a miracle triple overtime win against White River in the state semis. They return four starters to the fold, all of which are potent double-digit scorers in Brian Laroche Jr. (15.7 ppg), Gavin Thigh (10.1 ppg), Lane Gray (9.9 ppg) and EJ Langdeau (10.3 ppg). “We are looking to make another run at the state championship game,” said Coach Brian LaRoche Sr. “Team chemistry should be solid coming off an all-nations football championship.”
3. White River
White River has been elite for a long time. They come into the season as the number one team in the inaugural media poll with the best player in the class, Joe Sayler. “Joe has put in the time and work to be where he is today and he is still very much improving,” said Coach Eldon Marshall. Sayler threw in nearly 30 points per game last season and the SDSU commit is ready to lead again this season. Nic Marshall and Gavin Folkers will play big roles again for the Tigers and keep defenses honest by increasing their scoring. TJ Beardt, Mackenzie Wike, Teagen Bouman, Logan Wright, Ryatt Wooden Knife are ready to step up and get White River back to the state tournament where they are one of the few teams with a legitimate shot to take home a title.
4. De Smet
The Bulldogs capped an epic season with a state championship. They’ll reload with two key starters back, Damon Wilkinson (6’10”) and Kadyn Fast. But De Smet has a strong core of players who have waited their turn to play, and Coach Jeff Gruenhagen is excited to get going, “Our JV has been 40-3 over the last 2 seasons and the younger guys will fill the varsity with size skill and a good level of experience.” Look for George Jensen, Kasen Janssen and Gannon Gruenhagen to fit nicely into the rotation with Tom Aughenbaugh, Trace Van Regenmorter and Britt Carlson supplying strong play.
Paul Raasch takes over in Castlewood after a long career in Langford. He has quite a team ready to run for him with four returning starters including dynamic guards Booker Schooley and Lane Tvedt and a scary-good frontcourt with Jackson Schofield and Bryon Laue. This team would be ranked even higher is Carson Kirwan hadn’t suffered another debilitating knee injury late in the football season.
Others to watch
Gregory – The Gorillas have a lot of good athletes to pair with one of the top players in the class Daniel Mitchell. They are very young with no seniors on the team but junior Daniel Mitchell has become a great leader on the court. They’ll need their talented sophomores and freshman to compliment Mitchell to make a run this year.
Howard – A tough exit in the playoffs to Chester last season could fuel the Howard Tigers to an improved campaign this year. Three starters return, Ryder Erickson, Kolt Koepsell (14.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Luke Koepsell will help the Tigers get off to a good start. “We will look to play through our posts again this year,” said Head Coach Nick Koepsell. “We should be a better shooting team this year and will be able to go 10 deep in the rotation if we need to.”
Deubrook – The Dolphins move back to Class B after a rotation in Class A last season. Despite not having any returning starters from last year they’ll have some experience leading the way with Cooper Holmlund who missed last year and Treven Grimsrud who played a lot of minutes last season. It will be tough to match last season’s 14-win total but if they get into the playoffs with a head of steam, they’ll be a tough out.
Ethan – A deep senior class should make Ethan competitive every night. Riley Endres, Wyatt Sinkie and Kody Klumb will lead the way along with juniors Drake Gustafson and Taite Klumb. Coach Bryce Roth hopes great team defense plays a big role in their success, “We want to hang our hats on our defensive performance while expanding our scoring threats to the perimeter this season. We are fortunate enough to have a difficult schedule that will test our squad throughout the year.”
Wall – The Eagles had great participation in summer basketball and hope to pick up where they left off after a 13-9 season. Head Coach Ryan Kjerstad has two starters back and many young and talented players. “We made some major improvements to an already solid foundation,” said Kjerstad. Brodi Sundall and Cedar Amiotte lead the way this season as all-conference returners.
Ipswich – Stewart Bohle takes over at Ipswich this winter. The long-time Warner girls basketball coach is excited for a new challenge, “We will have a very deep athletic team. The combination of experience and athleticism we should have a very successful season.” Ian Beyers is the only returning starter, but Trevor Heinz, Tyler Hettich, Jace Konsor Colby Sylte, and Carter Geditz can all play big roles.
Dell Rapids St. Mary – Just two starters return for the Cardinals under head coach Colby Fitzgerald. Nic Gaspar and CJ Smith are both double-digit scorers who can light it up. They’ll miss Dylan Mathis, last year’s leading scorer who tore his ACL during football. But there are some bright spots on the horizon. Look for Trimmier Hanson to move into the point guard spot with Trevon Beckmen, and Maverick LeBrun both transferring in with good experience. Coach Fitzgerald will meld this team into a winner despite a big frontcourt, “We will be an up-tempo team this season trying to use our speed to our advantage to offset our lack of size.”
Viborg-Hurley – The Cougars come back with two returning starters after a 14-9 season. Gage Goettertz (7.4 ppg), Kobee Sherman (3.7 rpg) , and Nick Hanson (6’6” C) could take on big roles this season. “We will have a challenging schedule and we lost around 85% of our scoring and rebounding, but I saw a lot of good things this summer,” said Head Coach Galen Schoenefeld. Look for the Cougars to be contenders especially if they heal from several football injuries.
Timber Lake – It will be a major reload for the Timber Lake Panthers this year. They lost their first six players from last season. Look for Tristan Dupris and Brady Sandquist to do much of the heavy lifting this year. Coach Cody Lawrence knows they have an uphill road, “We have an inexperienced group that wants to show what they are capable of doing now that they get their chance to play. They will be very scrappy and willing to do what it takes to win. Strengths include lack of fear and shoot the ball well. Weaknesses are their inexperience.”
Class B Top Players
Joe Sayler has been one of the best players in the state for years, but this year he has the chance to be THEE best in the state. The SDSU commit has continued to evolve and improve each year. He's a slasher, shooter, defender and dunker. He averaged 29.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 2.4 apg. His coach Eldon Marshall said,
"Joe has put in the time and work to be where he is today and he is still very much improving. Joe is a captain and a we will look to his leadership this year. He will be a major force for us this year and will be in the running for player of the year in South Dakota."
Class A BOYS
1. Dakota Valley
The Panthers closed out a magical season with a state title last season. They will try to follow that up with another contending team. It all starts with two all-state talents leading the way. Isaac Bruns (23.9 ppg) is a USD basketball commit who continues to improve each year. Randy Rosenquist is another all-state player who generates offense with 7.2 assists per game. Jaxon Hennies, Sam Faldmo and Jaxson Wingert all come back with significant experience too. They have the fewest weaknesses of any team in the class.
2. Sioux Valley
The Cossacks once again made a strong run into the championship game, but once again came up just short. They return two starters in Oliver Vincent and Alec Squires who may be the best one-two inside-outside punch in the class. Vincent is mentioned with the best guards in the state and the 6’10” junior, Squires, just verballed to SDSU. Hudsyn Ruesink, Patrick Carey and Jace Christensen are potential starters to fill in the deep Cossack team. “We have many players that have been contributing at the varsity level since a young age,” said Coach Bill Vincent. “We will be able to put an athletic team on the floor.”
3. Red Cloud
All five starters are back after a 16-6 season under head coach Christian McGhee last year, “I am very excited about this group! They have been together for a long time.” Adriano Rama is one of the best players in the state and leads a very versatile team including: Josiah Cottier, Jules Ecoffey, Haedyn Hass, Gabe Brooks, Monty Montileaux and Nick Zuniga. This is a fast team that prioritizes defense and shooting. It’s going to be an exciting year for Red Cloud.
4. Dell Rapids
Last season Dell Rapids went 14-8 and return three starters including all-state guard Brayden Pankonen. The head coach will be a familiar face to South Dakota high school basketball fans, Ty Hoglund. In his first year leading this team as a coach Hoglund likes his team, “We've got a veteran crew this year with about 10 seniors. A lot of them will be new to the varsity but are looking to compete and prove themselves in practice.”
5. St. Thomas More
The Cavs made finished third at the state tournament last year. Caleb Hollenbeck, Jordan Uhlir, Matthew Larson, and Will Green played a lot of minutes last year and should be leaders again this year. Hollenbeck is a riser who is a scoring threat and Uhlir is a presence in the paint.
Others to watch
Lennox – Many have heard of Porter Ihnen (18.8 ppg), the team’s leading returning scorer, but they also return five of their top six scorers from last season. Conner Eich, Jaxon Plank, Talan Diericks and Braeden Wulf make up a dynamite group on the court. This team could easily turn into one of the best in the class.
Sioux Falls Christian – The Chargers played an extremely difficult schedule last season and found a way to grind out a 16-10 mark and win a consolation championship. Just two starters are back in Ethan Bruns (14 ppg) is an all-state caliber player and Tate Snyder (5 apg) who is a great floor general. If their younger talent emerges this season, they could make a return trip to the state tournament.
Winner – Just two starters return from their 23-3 campaign last year, but coach Brett Gardner thinks the Warriors are ready to fight again especially with defense, “We pride ourselves on the defensive end. We held teams to 42 ppg last year. We have good guys in our program that care for one another.” Black Volmer (16.3 ppg) leads a charged-up crew.
Hamlin – This might be the year that it clicks for Hamlin. Last season they made strides under head coach Todd Neuendorf and finished 15-7. This year they return all five starters and look to make a charge, “We are excited about our season. We have a very athletic group of kids,” said Neuendorf. “We should be able to play an up-tempo style of basketball. We hope to have our full court defensive pressure as a staple of this year’s team.”
Tea Area – The Titans are coming off a 16-win season under Head Coach Drew Weber. They have five key players who earned a letter last year coming back. Reis Kirschenman is a physical inside player to lead the way in the frontcourt with guards Jonah Kocer, Blake Thompson, Jackson Smythe and Sam Almas.
Belle Fourche – Anthony Budmayr is one of the top guards in the area. He’ll lead a solid team on the court for Coach Clay Pottorff, “I am excited to work with this group of young men because they have a fun bond where we care for each other and have each other’s back but also aren't afraid to compete against each other and make each other better from it.” The Broncs will compete in a very good BHC.
Clark/Willow Lake – This is the kind of team that can beat anyone in the class when they’re hitting from the outside. The Cyclones have some deft outside shooting from some experienced guards. “We are going to have to get up and down the court looking for some transition buckets, we don’t have the size or strength to grind it out at the half court setting,” said Head Coach Jerome Nesheim. “There are 7 guys that can put up double digit scoring on any given night.” Kaplan Felberg, Trey Huber and Brady Jordan are all back for their senior year to get it done.
Hot Springs – This team might be the favorite for surprise team of the year. Aaron Noteboom’s crew went 13-8 last year but return a bulk of talent with four starters back including seniors Preston Iverson, Landon Iverson, Will Gilbertson and Tyler Remington. Juniors Camron Maciejewski and Matt Close will also pick up much of the load for Hot Springs. Coach Noteboom likes the way this team is put together, “I feel we have an opportunity to be a very competitive basketball team. We will look to continue our growth from last season and hope to be playing our best basketball come tournament time.”
Flandreau – Flandreau won 20 games last season and will try to rebuild quickly with just one starter back. “We will need to replace 4 seniors who took us to our 1st state tournament in 18 years,” said Coach Brendan Sheppard. “Our team will be extremely young going forward.” The talent level is high despite their youth. Paul Parsley a sophomore guard will be important as well as freshman wing, Luke Sheppard. This is the kind of team that could compete with anyone but will have to learn to win in a tough Class A field.
Waubay/Summit – Damon Opdahl leads a potent group for Coach Mark Amdahl’s Mustangs. They’ll move up to Class A from B this year. “We feel we have a team that can compete with anyone on our schedule,” said Coach Amdahl. “We will look to build our role players and bench and be ready to be our best com post season. Opdahl, Jonathan Johnston and Jackson Wohlleber are back in the starting lineup with a good supporting cast coming back.
Mount Vernon/Plankinton – Coach Eric Denning has some talent, “We look take the next step and be in the mix with the elite teams in the state,” he said. “We will have good size and good athleticism. We have some kids who have improved tremendously this offseason.” They also have one of the top players in the state in Reed Rus (20 ppg, 9 rpg). He can score in many ways and has gained a lot of strength. Jordan Stoltz is a big man who can be explosive. Mason Hetland, Zach Baker, Blaine Bohr, Chris Mayer, Rylan Bush, Brady Fox, Cain Tobin, Trevor Sweet, Spencer Frost and Isaiah Olson fill out a deep roster.
Hanson – The Beavers hope to be on the way up with just two key losses from last year’s 16-6 team. However, they have some injuries that may slow them from coming out of the gate. “We need to focus on rebounding and playing well inside to compete with the teams that have some size,” said Coach Josh Oltmanns. “We are athletic and hope to be able to shoot the ball well from range.” Ethan Cheeseman (15.1 ppg) makes things go for Hanson. Jayce Slaba and Jackson Jarding will play big roles on the team too.
Chamberlain – Head Coach Steve Schoenhard will try to keep Chamberlain in the mix with a young team, “We will have to do the little things extremely well to be competitive.” They’ll miss Cruz Soulek who was hurt during the football season but welcome back Collin two Strike and Dakota Munger who will be big for the Cubs.
Vermillion – Coach Jay Drake has built winners in the past. He’ll be starting from the ground up this season, “We graduated 5 senior starters from last season. Those 5 guys combined for 85 percent of our scoring and rebounding production last season. We will not have very much varsity game experience coming back and will need to find guys that can step in and fill the roles from past years. As always, though, we expect our guys to play hard and improve as the season goes on and we hope to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season when the region tournament rolls around.” Zoan Robinson, Carter Hansen and Carter Skogsberg are likely to be leaders on this team.
Class A Top Players
Isaac Bruns was the player of the year last season as a junior and led his team to an undefeated season and state championship. He averaged 23.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg last year and is even stronger this year. In the offseason he committed to play at USD and will play alongside his brother who was our player of the year before Isaac.
CLASS AA BOYS
The Cavs have their top seven from last season’s rotation back this season. Three double-digit scorers will headline the Jefferson lineup. Kaden Year (15.1 ppg) is a threat from the wing and beyond the arc (40%). Taylen Ashley (13.1) is a USF basketball commit and leads as a true point guard and Griffin Wilde (12.6 ppg) ended last season as one of the biggest impact players in the state. Beau Giblin will once again be asked to d-up on the opponents’ top player and Mason Riley (6’6”) and Ethan Koltz (6’10”) are luxuries in the frontcourt. Head Coach Tim Reck feels the experience they gained last season will be huge, “We ran into state tournament experienced teams last year and learned what it takes to play in a state tournament.”
Last season Pierre was close in several games but didn’t have the experience to close games out. Head Coach Brianna Kusler hopes to change that this season with a much deeper roster and four returning starters, “We are looking forward to our experienced depth and will continue to utilize our defense and rebounding to kick-start our offensive transition providing us with multiple ways to score.” Lincoln Kienholz averaged 20.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 2.4 apg a season ago. He’ll be one of the top guns in the class again this year. Jackson Edman is one of the top rim protectors in the state. He’s healed up from a football injury and should be good to go for a big season. Christian Busch and Ben Heisler give the frontcourt some depth and Brecken Krueger and Jack Merkwan bolster the backcourt.
The Tigers could show some major improvement from last season’s 15-9 squad. Coach Scott Langerock is pumped to be working with so many upperclassmen this year, “We have a nice balance of experience on all levels of the floor. We have some length and physicality. If we can find some rebounding toughness and defend the dribble, we can compete with everyone on our schedule.” Ethan Determan (19.8 ppg) and Jacoby Mehrman (15.9 ppg) make up a great one-two scoring combo with Max Knutson, Cam Phipps and Ian Jordan all back as well. There are several players in the mix for playing time beyond that too. This team could be one of the best that Coach Langerock has had.
The Patriots are hopeful to contend this year with two returning starters and a solid group of up-and-comers. They lose some leadership from last season, but Coach Halseth thinks they have what it takes, “We believe we have the players to fill those holes with Eli Olson and Jack Hilgenberg, but like every year it may take some time for everything to fall into place,” said Coach Jeff Halseth. “By season’s end we feel we can match up with anyone.” The Patriots have two stars in the lineup. JT Rock is the most noticeable player in the state with several D1 offers. The 7’1” junior can shoot and changes the game in the paint on defense. Elliot Whitney is another great shooter for the Pats and has progressed nicely from his junior to his senior year. If this team finds a good rotation and turns it up on defense, they could be playing for a title in March.
The Knights have been strong each year despite who they have coming back. This season just a single starter returns, Matt Eng (15.8 ppg), from last season’s runner-up team. Gavin Muirhead and Radley Mauney are both high-level players who return to the rotation and will be key for the Knights. “We have potential, yet have to stay disciplined and play team basketball,” said Coach Derek Robey.
Others to watch
Roosevelt – The Riders put together a perfect season and overachieved expectations last year. However, they don’t return any players who played in last season’s championship game. In fact, just three seniors are on the roster this season, Abraham Kamara, Jack Radel and Rilpuou Machol. However, they still have explosive juniors including Jackson Brouwer who are looking to make their mark.
Mitchell – Obviously the loss of Caden Hinker will impact the Kernels this season, but they do return four starters and have a bright outlook on the season, “We lost 3 seniors to graduation, one of those being Caden Hinker,” said Coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “But we feel that we have guys who can fill those spots for us. We are looking to play much faster this year due to having much more depth than we did last year.” Dylan Soulek and Steele Morgan are great all-around players who can pick up some of the scoring they’ll need. Charlie McCardle, Aiden Myers, and Gavin Soukup could make a major impact as well. Don’t be shocked if Mitchell spends a lot of time in the top five this season.
Brandon Valley – Coach Craig Nelson played a lot of young players last season and hopes it will pay off with more success this season. Josh Olthoff (6’8”) is their leading returning scorer but they have very balanced scoring with Nathan Vandeberg, Dylan Langerock, Lukas Morgan and Landon Dulaney in the fold. Cole Dekker and Jameson Kreutzfeldt give the team some more senior leadership too. “We will have the talent to make some noise,” said Coach Nelson. “But we weill have to replace a lot of leadership and intangibles, so I’m very curious to see how that comes together.”
Washington – The Warriors will get back two key contributors from last season, Zharic Sheppard (6.3 ppg) and Mandalla Mohamed (7.3 ppg) but to have a great season they’ll need to get more from their backcourt to replace Mikele Kambalo and Joe Uttecht. Cole Peterson and Tryg Auten hope to see increased roles to give them a stable backcourt. “With size and skill both inside and outside, we hope to take advantage of mismatches be effective on both the offensive and defensive boards,” said Coach Jeff Tobin. “The biggest emphasis will be placed on the defensive side of the ball where the Warriors look to apply pressure and force difficult shots.”
Rapid City Stevens – The Raiders lose a lot from last year and will see if their new faces can get the job done. “We have a very athletic group but with most of them playing JV last year they will have to learn quickly,” said Coach Chris Stoebner. “Not having experience is not ideal but what will be ideal is boys will be competing for playing time every day in practice and we should be able to play several kids which will make us a deep team.” Nash Sobczak (Sr.), Hayden Gebhart (Sr.), Caden Dowling (Sr.), Will Dorch (Sr.), Jiven Maharajh (Jr.), Madinko Hawley (Jr.), and Thomas Martian (Jr.) are the guys in the mix to get this team going.
Aberdeen Central – Coach Brent Norberg is excited to get things rolling this season, “We had a lot of kids playing throughout the summer and I thought we showed great improvement from thew beginning of the summer to the end.” Spencer Barr is one of the best guards in the state. Carter Dingman is another key returner for the Golden Eagles. Grant Fritz, Parker Lemer, Ollie Rife, Camden Fauth and Jett Carlson all should see increased roles.
Yankton – The Bucks have as much senior-leadership as they’ve had in quite some time. “It is a group that is very close as they all are multiple sport athletes and have spent their whole lives competing together,” said Coach Chris Haynes. Rugby Ryken, Mac Ryken, and Cody Oswald will be key returning starters with Drew Ryken and Michael Mors both back with a lot of varsity experience too.
Huron – Tim Buddenhagen returns to the bench after taking a few years to coach the girls basketball team. They return several key players including Reilyn Zavesky (9.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) who should get the tough baskets when the Tigers need them. Dylan Lichty, Blake Ellwein, and Dawsyn Rogers are all capable players with varsity experience. “Our goal is to get shots early in the shot clock before our opponents’ can set up their defense,” said Coach Buddenhagen. “We want to constantly put as much pressure on the defense as possible. The key to our success will be our 3-point shooting.”
Watertown – Pat McClemans takes over the Arrows team this year. “We return two guys that saw minimal varsity action,” said Coach McClemans. But he hopes to mold last season’s JV players into varsity contenders by the end of the year. Seniors Dalton Baumberger, Jack Heesch, Stephon Lechner and Izzack Redfield lead this group of up and comers. Kohen Kranz, Jake Olson and Marcus Rabine lead a strong group of juniors who hope to trend up through the season.
Brookings – David Rohrbach makes the move from Aberdeen Christian to Brookings this season. The Bobcats will start fresh with a lot of fresh faces, “We are not tall, but have guys that are quick and work hard. We will look to use our quickness to push the tempo. Ball movement and player movement will be important for us. Defense will be a focal point for us as well as we look to build.” Nathan Lease, Owen burns and Sam Conrad all come back with varsity experience and will be likely starters this winter.
Douglas – The Pats are hoping their young players getting experience last year will pay off this season, “We will have seven seniors coming back this season,” said Coach Travis Miller. Jesse Hand is going to be one of the top players this year. Tucker Paris is returning after starting most of the varsity games last year. The other seniors are Landon Cast, Andrew Divis, Anthony Jindra, Jacob Blaisure and Keyon Motley. “We will play an up-tempo style of basketball this year. We will be undersized a lot of the games and will need to play at a quicker pace.”
Class AA Top Players
JT Rock may have more potential than anyone in the state. The 7'1" junior has offers from Creighton, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado as well as SDSU and USD. On the court he's taken strides every year to fill in to his lanky frame. He's bulked up to over 200 pounds and continues to improve his outside shot. Rock should elevate his 12.0 ppg average from his sophomore season and has improved on defense as well.