It’s time for a brand-new high school basketball season. And if you’re like me, you need a refresher course on the top teams and players in Class AA. Last season, Brandon Valley pulled out the rare double-dip, winning both the boys and girls title. This year, O’Gorman in the leading threat to achieve that same feat. These are not the official rankings, just how I will cast my ballot for pre-season rankings next week. Look for our Class A and Class B previews soon.
Returning Starters: 3
Jack Cartwright, Sr. (8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 41% 3FG)
Akoi Akoi, Sr. (9.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 23 blocks, 37 steals)
Zach Norton, Sr. (9.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
(Akoi Akoi leads a potent O'Gorman attack this season)
Other Players to Watch: Eddie Meylor, Cole Hardie, Jonah Wuebben, Cade Mikuska and Kade Moffitt
Coach Derek Robey: “We are certainly excited for the year and look forward to the many challenges that come with each new season, yet we have a very difficult schedule! I believe we have the potential to be in the thick of things night in and night out, but so will about seven other schools. THERE ARE SOME REALLY GOOD TEAMS AND PLAYERS OUT THERE!”
Bottom Line: The Knights come into the season with some of the best depth in the state to go with their stars like Jack Cartwright and Akoi Akoi who is an Augustana recruit with great size and an improved offensive game this year. They will be in the mix for a state title.
Last Season: 18-6
Returning Starters: 2
Matthew Mors, Jr. (22.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 45 steals, 41 blocks, 37% 3FG)
Cooper Cornemann Sr. (12.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 30 steals)
(Matthew Mors and the Yankton Bucks look to get back to the top with a new lineup.)
Other Players to Watch: Hunter Kotrous, Aiden Feser, Trevor Fitzgerald, Dylan Horn and Reggie Bruder.
Coach Chris Haynes: "We return two key starters from a year ago, but lost six seniors, four of whom played a ton of minutes for us that we need to replace. We will need to bring some guys along in a hurry, as our schedule is extremely challenging. We hope to improve as the season goes along and be playing our best basketball at the end of the season.”
Bottom Line: The Bucks did lose a lot of varsity experience, but they have the single best player in the state, Wisconsin commit Matthew Mors. He has 1,719 career points through his sophomore season and is poised to have one of the best careers in state history. He’ll need the help of Kotrous and Bruder to take some pressure off him in the post and another big year from point guard Cooper Cornemann to get where they want to go.
3. Brandon Valley
Last Season: 19-5 (State Champions)
Returning Starters: 1
Jackson Hilton Jr. (11.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.9 spg)
Other Players to Watch: Gavin Terhark, Jaxon LaBrie, Joe Kolbeck, Cole Syliaasen, Thomas Scholten, Hunter Marso
Coach Brent Deckert: “I really like our team this year. We are extremely different. We are returning a ton of experience, but are losing eight seniors from last year's state championship team. Last year, we started four seniors and most of our bench play came from underclassman. That gives us some hope for this year, but there is no way you can replace maturity of a team full of upperclassmen.”
Bottom Line: It’s hard to compare last year’s Lynx team to this year. They will be very different, but one thing they’ll have in common is that they’ll be contenders. Jackson Hilton will vault to the top of the class as one of the best players in the state and Gavin Terhark will build on his phenomenal March and become one of the best bigs in the state.
4. Sioux Falls Roosevelt
Last Season: 15-8
Returning Starters: 1
Tyler Feldkamp, Jr. (13 ppg, 40% 3FG)
Other Players to Watch: Tucker Large, Michael Paulson, Brady Dannenbring, Jack McCormick, Koor Kuol, Brandon Dannenbring, Marcus Phillips, Trey Horner
Coach Mitch Begeman: “Roosevelt will look to improve on last year's successful season. We add a lot of depth and quickness. A lot of multi-sport athletes on our roster and we are excited to see them perform on the floor. We will be a team that defends both in the half and full court, and look to push teams to player faster. On the offensive end, we will be a team that wants to get out and run and get a lot of looks in transition. We have shooters, guys that can put it on the floor and create opportunities for others.”
Bottom Line: It might be easy to dismiss a team with just one returning starter, but this Riders team has all the pieces covered. They’ll have some of the best guard play in the state and look for Brady Dannenbring to make a bigger impact in the paint this year.
Last Season: 13-11
Returning Starters: 3
Kobe Busch Sr. (16.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 45% 3FG, 2.7 apg)
Teegan Evers Sr. (17.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.6 spg)
Nathan Boehrns (7.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 44% 3FG)
Other Players to Watch: Cooper Fryberger, Hayden Hegg, Landon Hegg, Zach Kopfmann, Allen Bogh, Derick Siemonsma, Jaren Schley
Coach Jon Schouten: “We return several players from last year’s team that placed 7th at the state tournament. These guys gained very valuable experience making that run to the state tournament. We will look to draw on that as we enter the 2019-2020 with high expectations.”
Sioux Falls Lincoln
It will be hard to repeat last season’s success, but the Pats always figure into the state title chase. Max Burchill and a host of underclassmen should bring a solid team to the court for coach Jeff Halseth.
If there is a surprise team in this class, don’t count out the Golden Eagles. Brent Norberg has three starters back who are among the best players in the state. Andrew Bergan is a UND commit who can play inside and out at 6’7”. When he’s teamed with 6’8” Reece Burckhard, it will be tough to contain Central. Austin Huff and Colton Hansen provide some versatility as Aberdeen tries to bounce back from a 3-win season. “If our young kids can develop, we could be a very solid team by the end of the season,” said Coach Norberg.
Rapid City Stevens
Two returning starters for the Raiders fuel this deep lineup. Daniel Vigoren and Mason Steele balance out this roster with experience. There are a lot of great athletes on this team and they also have four frontcourt players at 6’4” and taller. “If we can stay healthy and improve, I believe we can compete with anybody in AA,” said Coach Chris Stoebner who is coming off a 15-9 season. “Offensively we will try to go inside out and work through our post player. AA is going to be very competitive this year, and like most years, there is a small margin for error when it comes to tournament time!”
After a couple of great seasons in Harrisburg, there is a little bit more hesitation for a return to the top of the class. “We will be looking to gain some experience at the varsity level with two players coming back with any playing time last year,” said Coach Scott Langerock. Just one returning starter is back and juniors Brayden Phipps, Conner Geddes and Blaze Lubbers will have to step into leadership roles this year.
Rapid City Central
Central has the pieces to compete this year, but they’ve got to get everyone clicking together to make a run. One of their top players, Isaak Williams, is out several months with an injury. They’ll look to Kohl Meisman, Micah Swallow and Eric Keohane to do the lifting on offense. “We are a very athletic team and return guys with a lot of experience. We’re much-improved as a shooting team from last year. With length and athleticism, we should be able to get up and down the court,” said Coach TJ Hay.
Sioux Falls Washington
Last year, the Warriors struggled to find consistency, this year they bring back two starters and some extra experience to try to crack back into state title contention. Ganin Thompson should be one of the best post players in the state. He’s headed to Michigan State to play baseball next year. Ganin is a very athletic big man who can run the court. Nate Gilbertson and Eli Williams should supply more offense this year with Dagen and Kemmer Schramm in the mix as well. There are also three or more sophomores who could make an impact for the Warriors this year.
The Govs graduated just two players off last year’s team and should be on track for improvement this year. Paul Adam, Garrett Stout and Grey Zabel give the team a great foundation to build on.
Zach Wevik brings just one returning starter back for the Arrows, Evan Falconer. But they have a lot of seniors who have waited in the wings and some good underclassmen ready to make an impact this year. “As the season progresses, we will have to find out our depth and slowly gain that experience,” said Coach Wevik. “The one thing that will be very noticeable will be our lack of size. A lot of the time we will have 5 guards out on the floor. We will have to get up and down the floor as well as be able to shoot the ball well from the perimeter which I think we have the potential to do.”
The Kernels return just one senior from a two-win team last year, but there’s hope on the horizon for this basketball-rich community. Carter Jacobsen, Caden Hinker, Zane Alm and Ben Helleloid build a foundation for a promising season. “We had a great offseason and hope that will pay off as we begin our regular season. We have some size along with some perimeter players,” said Coach Todd Neuendorf. “In my third year at Mitchell, I believe we are close to getting the program back to a level that is competitive night in and out.”
Trent Broksieck is the lone impact player returning for Brookings this year. Broksieck is a versatile guard who averaged 10.8 ppg last year and should continue to improve on that number. “With only one player returning, the Bobcats are going to be counting on a lot of new faces,” said Head Coach Travis Engebretson. “Defensively, the Bobcats will lack size and need to focus on playing team defense and keeping the ball out of the post. Another major concern will be the Bobcats' ability to rebound the basketball.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN BOYS AA
PRE-SEASON TOP FIVE
1. Matthew Mors, Jr. 6’7” F Yankton
Matthew continues to amaze with his versatility and improvement. He has been on the varsity team since he’s been a seventh grader. He led the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists and steals last year. He is already the career leader at Yankton in points with 1,719 and is fourth all-time in Class AA history in that category. He has won the MidcoSN AA Player of the Year award two consecutive seasons. Matthew recently verbally committed to continue his basketball career at the University of Wisconsin after high school.
2. Kobe Busch, Sr. 6’5” G/F Huron
Kobe is the number one recruit in the 2020 class in South Dakota and recently signed with Northern State to play basketball next year. He averaged 16.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 4.7 apg last year while hitting 45% from the 3-point line as a junior. He was named All-ESD as sophomore and junior, All-Tournament Team as a junior, 2nd Team All State as a sophomore, 1st Team All State as a junior, Argus Leader Second Five as a junior. Kobe’s versatility and improved outside shot make him one of the best players in the state.
3. Akoi Akoi, Sr. 6-6 F O’Gorman
Akoi is a three-year contributor for the Knights and continues to build his repertoire each year. Last season he averaged 9.1 ppg and 5.8 rpg and earned all-state honors. Akoi is also a great defender and an adept passer for a big man.
4. Jackson Hilton, Jr. 6’3” Brandon Valley
We’ve only seen one season of Jackson Hilton at the varsity level, but it’s enough to know he’s one of the best scorers, leapers and defenders in the state. As a sophomore, he averaged 11.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, and 1.9 spg. He was a starter for the state champions last year and will continue to improve this season.
5. Tyler Feldkamp, Jr. SF Roosevelt
One of the quickest guards in the state is back at Roosevelt. Tyler is a returning starter who put up 13ppg, 40% from 3pt and was an 80% free throw shooter as a sophomore last year. Feldkamp earned All-Conference, and was selected as top performer at 2019 State Tournament. Look for Feldkamp to take another step up as a junior this year.
More TOP Players
- Andrew Bergan, Aberdeen Central
- Reece Burckhardt, Aberdeen Central
- Jack Cartwright, O’Gorman
- Teegan Evers, Huron
- Cade Hinker, Mitchell
- Gavin Terhark, Brandon Valley
1. SF Lincoln
Last Season: 16-7
Returning Starters: 4
Morgan Hansen Sr. (14.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 apg)
Emma Osmundson Sr. (13.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 50 steals)
Brooke Brown Sr.
Mya Wilson Sr.
(Morgan Hansen and the Lady Pats have four starters back from a runner-up team last year.)
Other Players to Watch: Valerie Higgins, Jaydyn Fikse, Cheyenne Miller, Kaia Jensen
Coach Matt Daly: “We have a roster that is returning nine seniors from our State Runner-Up Finish last year. We have a ton of veteran players returning at the perimeter positions, but will have to find a way to fill lost talent in the post.”
Bottom Line: The Pats have the roster to get it done this year. Two years ago, they lost in the semis. Last year, they lost in the finals. This year, they’re primed for a title run with Morgan Hansen and Emma Osmundson leading the way. Watch out for junior Jaydyn Fikse and sophomore Kaia Jensen to make an impact with this senior-dominated roster.
Last Season: 19-5
Returning Starters: 2
Emma Ronsiek Sr. (15.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.6 spg)
Carly Kunkel Sr. (5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
(Emma Ronsiek could set the school record for most points this season at O'Gorman.)
Other Players to Watch: Izzy Moore, Hannah Ronsiek, Raegen Reilly, Allison Crouch, Sophonise Nielson, Bergen Reilly
Coach Kent Kolsrud: “We are very excited about the upcoming season! We return seven veterans who know what varsity basketball is about. We won't have the same size we have had in the past, but we will be athletic and have some solid shooters. Defensively, we need to be good and will need to rebound.”
Bottom Line: The Knights may not start the season out as the top team, but they have a strong chance to finish there. They have Creighton-signee, Emma Ronsiek leading the way on a strong team. Izzy Moore will provide a great secondary scoring punch for the Knights and they’re depth should be stronger with a solid young group coming up.
3. RC Stevens
Last Season: 17-7
Returning Starters: 4
Kyah Watson Sr. (13 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg)
Grace Martin Sr. (8 ppg, 3 rpg)
Kenadi Rising Jr. (5 ppg, 3 rpg)
Bailee Sobczak So. (7 ppg, 7 rpg, 1 bpg)
Other Players to Watch: Jayda McNabb, Ella Peterson, Grace Ellis, Julia Lee, Jill Delzer, Jaden Matkins
Head Coach Travis Swartz: “We look to be competitive in every game. We return four starters from last year's consolation championship team and nine of our top 11 from last year.”
Bottom Line: Stevens has a new coach this year, Travis Swartz. He’s been an assistant coach for Stevens for the past 5 years. He has a full cupboard with seven players from last year’s rotation back in the fold including USD signee, Kyah Watson. The Raiders will be in contention for a March run late in the season.
4. SF Washington
Last Season: 14-9
Returning Starters: 1
Sydni Schetnan Jr
Other Players to Watch: Brielle Biteler, Eden Hullinger, Ndjakalenga Mwenentanda, Rylyn Fink, Leah Barber, Jordyn Waltman, Gabby Reck, Jaden Warner, Ellie Walker
Coach Jamie Parish: “We have three very experienced juniors coming back this year with Schetnan, Hullinger, and Biteler. Their experience will be key to leading an inexperienced team this season. Our girls need to have a big summer making sure we get shots up and get better on the perimeter. We love the potential of this group but understand that it will be a work in progress, especially early in the year.”
Bottom Line: Don’t expect the Warriors to dominate early on. They’ll need to find a rhythm with this young group of dynamic players. But once Ndjakalenga Mwenentanda gets comfortable and the offense gets going, the Warriors will be able to compete with anyone in the state.
Last Season: 10-11
Returning Starters: 4
Madison Wuebben Sr (14ppg)
Payton Wolfgram Sr. ( 7ppg)
Kelsey Oswald Sr. (6ppg)
Sadie Fedders Sr. (5ppg)
Other Players to Watch: Hannah Muth, Morgan Strahl, Ellie Karolevitz, Paige Gullikson, Katie Beeman, Jordynn Salvatori, Molly Savey, Britta Pietila, Jillian Eidsness, Annika Gordon
Coach Trey Kreier: “We are excited to see what our experienced group can accomplish this winter. We need to find a way to get on the right side of close games. We battled the top of the state teams all year last year but never were able to have anything to show for it in the win column.”
Bottom Line: It might be a little leap of faith putting the Gazelles in the top five, but they have the potential to make big strides. They didn’t beat any teams last year that finished ahead of them in the final standings, they’ll need to change that this year in order to move into the next tier. Madison Wuebben should be able to become one of the top players in the state this year.
This is the team that could make me look silly by not having them ranked. The Tigers have the talent to compete with anyone in the state. Last year, they went 19-5 and have three starters back. Aby Phipps, Faith Van Holland and Brecli Honner give this group a lot of experience. They’ll miss Jeniah Ugofsky who is now playing at USD, but they’ll could vault up the rankings if things go their way. Look for Carolyn Haar and Emilee Boyer to step up into the rotation this year. Head Coach Nick Mayer is excited again, “Our kids have put an incredible amount of time this offseason to better their individual games. We have a great blend of experience and youth that we feel will be a great benefit to us in our practices.”
The state champs return to the court with a whole new look. Just one starter is back for the Lynx and Mike Zerr takes the reins as the head coach. Don’t mistake a lack of consistency for a lack of talent. Hannah Behrens played a key role on last year’s title team and will become even more of a leader on and off the court for BV. Mara Schaap, Emma Jarovski and Andrea Cain will also see big boosts in responsibility this year.
The Tigers made huge strides last year and hope to continue that upward trend this season. Four starters return including Havyn Heinz, Bella Shreeve and Tenley Buddenhagen. “We improved last year and were able to notch six wins. This year, we will be more offensively gifted. Our guards can shoot and handle the ball, which should put some pressure on the defense. We want to play fast, so we will have to be good on the defensive end of the floor. We are undersized so we need to be quick to the ball to be successful,” said Head Coach Tim Buddenhagen.
Last season, Johanna Miller and Mikayla Jewitt presented a unique combo that was hard to stop. Head Coach Mitch McLagan has Miller back, but she will be the only returning starter from a 14-4 team. “We are going to be inexperienced in terms of our girls playing varsity minutes. We are going to have to get creative on different ways to get Johanna Miller the basketball,” said McLagan. “Hopefully we find that pace soon. We will rely on our defense to keep us in games. If we can get to the 4th quarter this team can be successful.”
The Golden Eagles finished 8-12 last year as they continue to rebuild toward becoming a top team in the class. They have a promising group of juniors including Abby Kopecky, Mel Jacobs and Brooklyn Kusler. Dawn Seiler is back from her brief retirement as head coach to lead this team once again.
Last season, the Pats went 9-11 but relied a lot on senior Jordyn Toliver. This year, they’ll look to Makayla Marie Grim to shoulder the scoring load. They also have talented-shooting sophomore Lamara Castaneda and junior Chantell Jones ready to make an impact.
The Kernels relied heavily on a solid senior class last year on their way to a 15-9 season. This year, with no returning starters and Cole Knippling taking over as head coach, there will be some adjustments. “This group may not have a lot of varsity experience, but there is plenty of talent to work with. There are as many as five or six girls on the team that have the potential to play college basketball down the road. We are hoping to be an up-tempo team that plays fast and is fun to watch,” said Knippling. Avia Haley, Camryn Krogman, Macy Kempf and Haley Hohn all look to be big contributors as juniors this year.
This relatively young team will be looking for improvement from a 4-16 year. There are no returning starters, but Kodi Severyn, Kylee Thorpe and Caytee Williams all came on strong late last year. Look for another year for this team to rebuild before they become contenders again.
Kraig Blomme returns two starters from a 9-11 team to try to rebuild Central into a contender. Adison Young, Emma Avery and Jordon Heckert bring some experience to the backcourt and Kenya Merrival returns from an ACL injury to patrol the frontcourt. The Cobblers will rely on some newcomers to bolster their roster this year.
The Watertown girls are coming off a volleyball championship season and a few of those players will now transition to basketball. Last season the Arrows went just 2-18 but with Megan Fannin, Meghan Heggelund and Maggie Heesch back they should be in position to make some strides. Head Coach Tommy Mattingly likes the makeup of this year’s team, “We enter the season healthy this year, as last year we had 3 starters out with injuries for all or most of the season. We have a good mix of length, which should present matchup problems for our opponents.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN GIRLS AA
PRE-SEASON TOP FIVE
1. Emma Ronsiek, Sr. 6’1” F O’Gorman
Emma has been a varsity starter since her freshman year. She is a two-time all-state selection and last year’s MidcoSN player of the year in AA. She is currently 184 points away from setting the all-time school record for points in a career. Emma has signed her letter of intent to continue her basketball career at Creighton next season.
2. Morgan Hansen, Sr. 6’1” G/F SF Lincoln
Morgan has been outstanding in her career so far. Last year she averaged 14.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, as she helped her team to its first state championship game appearance since 2013. Hansen is on pace to break the Patriots' career rebounding mark and signed her NLI to play at the University of South Dakota next season.
3. Kyah Watson, Sr. 5’10” G RC Stevens
Kyah is one of the most tenacious defenders in the game. She can score, but used her athleticism to help the team any way she can. Kyah is committed and signed to play at the University of South Dakota next season.
4. Havyn Heinz, Sr. PG Huron
Havyn may be more known as a volleyball player, as she signed to continue her volleyball career at Northern State, but she is a great playmaker on the basketball court, too. Havyn is an All-ESD and 2nd team All-State recipient who averaged 18 ppg, and 5.2 rebounds last year. Havyn is a dynamic player and has excellent range. She has 974 career points and will break 1,000 this year.
5. Sydni Schetnan, Jr. 6’4” SF Washington
Sydni has had injuries that have slowed her down in her short varsity career, but she has still managed to put up some impressive numbers. She is a great shot blocker with improved offensive moves. Sydni has had some division one offers to play basketball and will continue to improve on her already impressive 11 points per game and 7 rebounds per game from last year.
More TOP Players
- Hannah Behrens, Brandon Valley
- Brooke Brown, SF Lincoln
- Megan Fannin, Watertown
- Brecli Honner, Harrisburg
- Johanna Miller, Brookings
- Emma Osmundson, SF Lincoln
- Aby Phipps, Harrisburg
- Madison Wuebben, Yankton