Fueled by some red-hot 3-point shooting, the Wapello boys basketball team is coming off a successful 14-9 season.
It appears this season could be more of the same.
The Indians return 94 percent of their scoring from last year, including all-stater and the Southeastern Iowa Conference's top scorer in Trenton Massner (22.9 ppg.) Massner also led the team in rebounds (122), assists (121) and steals (71).
“He’s a good player,” coach Ken Spielbauer said. “He worked hard this summer to get better and we have a couple of kids who have done that.”
Logan Belzer, Gage Witte and Jared Wiley were all a major factor in the Indians' offensive attack last season, and they figure to play a big role in what should be an effective attack again this season.
Belzer and Massner both shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc last season, and Wapello led the SEISC North in 3-point percentage at 39.2 percent.
With all of their top shooters back, the Indians are poised to be deadly from beyond the arc again. Even so, it is the possibility of improved inside scoring that has given Spielbauer more reason for excitement.
“We have kids who have worked and put the time into it,” Spielbauer said. “We can shoot it, and we have a couple of good big kids too. We have good balance.”
He already knows how deadly his team can be offensively, so its ceiling is contingent on three things -- defense, rebounding and sharing the ball.
Gerst fuels higher expectations: The Louisa-Muscatine boys basketball team wasn’t able to produce the kind of record it hoped for in 2016-17, but with six returning seniors, there is optimism the Falcons can improve on last season's 4-18 record.
For now, Brennan Gerst and the Falcons are focused on themselves.
“The expectations for me are kind of day-to-day,” Gerst said. “We have a lot of guys back, but you don’t know what other teams have and what they don’t have. You have to focus on yourself right now and I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen.”
The Falcons should once again have one of the top scorers in the SEISC North in senior Brady Walker. He averaged 17.9 points per game last season on 59.2 percent shooting from the field.
Gerst said Walker has a knack of making teammates around him better, and that’s something he’s shown more of a propensity for so far in practice.
Walker has some weapons around him with Zack Bieri and Brandon Burmeister returning, as they averaged 9.9 and 8.6 points per game, respectively.
The Falcons also have a solid batch of newcomers led by Brock Jeambey, and Gerst is excited to see how his blend of returners and newcomers gel in the upcoming season.
Columbus searching for new contributors: The good news for the Columbus Community boys basketball team is coach Dave Lekwa has been pleased with the progress his team has made in the opening weeks of practice.
The bad news, however, is the Wildcats lost their leading scorer in Carter Colby (13.2 points per game), and only return three players who have scored on the varsity level.
Lekwa knows there’s potential for early season growing pains but is encouraged that seniors Tommy Pretz and Abel Mena are still around to guide his young team.
“Those guys both saw some varsity minutes as freshmen three years ago,” Lekwa said. “We’re in good hands as far as having two guys to help the younger guys get adjusted to the varsity game.”
Lekwa identified junior Chance Colby, the third player with a varsity point to his name, as somebody who should contribute more this season.
Outside of Colby, nobody else has separated themselves to earn playing time, and Lekwa hopes that happens at some point this season.
“I’m still hoping some of these boys will start to stand out,” Lekwa said. “I think there’s potential to struggle early on because the speed of a varsity game is a lot faster than a junior varsity game. But the boys who don’t have a lot of experience are trying their best to prepare for that and that has me excited.”