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CNA preseason players to watch for 2020

Creston's Colby Burg is set up for a big season with the Panther's loss of Cael Kralik. Burg has a chance to help Creston in the close games they weren't able to win a season ago. Burg, along with Brance Baker, could be one of the top guard combinations in the Hawkeye 10.
Creston's Colby Burg is set up for a big season with the Panther's loss of Cael Kralik. Burg has a chance to help Creston in the close games they weren't able to win a season ago. Burg, along with Brance Baker, could be one of the top guard combinations in the Hawkeye 10.

The CNA sports staff has compiled a list of breakout, and important players for our area teams of the upcoming 2020-21 boys basketball season.

Players were selected by evaluating the current state of the program, the team’s success with each respective player, and how they are forecasted to improve or play with the team in the upcoming season. We also took into account their success from a year prior, and whether it will carry over into the new season, or not due to potential changes in the team’s roster, coaching or strategy.

Colby Burg, Creston

Tyler Hetu – The emergence of Colby Burg as one of the top boys athletes for Creston started last season when he went from a 5-6 to a 5-10 point guard in one offseason. A year where he grinded out 200 points and a team-high 46 assists locked him in as more than someone who feeds the post, now acting as a valuable threat to other teams.

Now standing at 6-0, Burg stands opposite Brance Baker at the guard position as two very good guards in the Hawkeye 10. Both are similar, but Baker’s tendency to crash the boards for rebounds and reach for steals make him a good complement to Burg. Burg shot better from 3-point range, albeit with less attempts, and could get more chances with opposing defenses honing in on Baker, who has a chance to reprise his role as leading scorer of the Panthers.

With Cael Kralik out for part of the season due to a knee injury from the football season, Burg may be a bigger part of the Panthers’ game plan. I like his chances of taking a considerable share of what would be Kralik’s duties were, which includes scoring, rebounding and man or zone defense. There’s guys that will fill Kralik’s position just fine until he comes back, but Burg will still be a better option to fill much of his workload.

Brennen Normand – Burg is certainly going to be a major part of what Creston does with Kralik being out for the beginning of the season, but that will extend throughout the remainder of the year. As a junior, Burg had some big nights, and he’ll need to do that again as part of an eight-man senior class to help carry the load with Baker for the Panthers.

Last season, Burg shot 40% from beyond the arc, giving Creston an option from the outside. He was also able to attack the basket, using his athleticism to put up points or get the ball to a teammate. He had 49 assists, second on the team behind Baker last year.

Seeing Burg’s progression as the season went on last year gives no reason to believe that won’t happen again. Creston was in a handful of close games that it ultimately lost, and without Kralik, Burg is going to have to step up big time to become a top one-two punch in the Hawkeye 10.

Jaixen Frost, Mount Ayr

Tyler Hetu – After an unbelievable freshman baseball season, the all-Pride of Iowa honorable mention should have no worries picking up where he left off with Mount Ayr last basketball season. Now without Cole Clymer, Dawson Frost, Isaac Grose or Cayden Lambert, Jaixen’s role may get bigger as he plays opposite savvy vet Payton Weehler. The two have chemistry from the year before and finished seven points apart from one another in scoring for the Raiders, despite Jaixen coming off the bench in all but one game.

A big question will be surrounding who replaces the four mentioned earlier, especially with a rather small pool of underclassmen coming back. One thing is for sure though, Jaixen Frost will be putting up points in the bunches. After seeing what it takes to go point-for-point against conference favorite Martensdale-St Marys, I think he can find another gear like he did in baseball and fully emerge as a top player in the conference.

Brennen Normand – Mount Ayr had a ton of veteran leadership in 2019-20, so Jaixen Frost came off the bench as a freshman. This season, after losing nine seniors to graduation, Frost will seemingly step in as “the guy” for basketball the same way he did during baseball and football season.

An athletic 6-2 sophomore guard, Frost’s ability to get to the rim and shoot from the outside makes him a scoring threat from the moment he walks on the floor. As a freshman, he led the team in shooting percentage, going 101-for-171 (59.1%), going 38-for-66 (57.6%) from three-point range.

The question remains as to how much help Frost will have, seeing Payton Weehler as the only other bench player from last season returning with more than 15 games played. If Weehler has to put a young team on his back, he has the ability to carry the load, despite being a young player himself.

Boston DeVault and Avery Phillippi, Nodaway Valley

Tyler Hetu – Head coaches Darrell Burmeister and James Larson had a lot of faith in these two freshmen last season, giving them floor time when necessary in 24 contests. Both had almost identical stat lines as freshmen (even in steals, four assist difference, one point difference), with the only glaring difference being Phillippi having 16 more rebounds.

Burmeister and Larson usually find the best of kids when they need it, and do what they need to along side returning seniors Mason Menefee and Toby Bower in order to win for the Wolverines.

Brennen Normand – Nodaway Valley has been a dominant force in the Pride of Iowa for years, finding ways to replace those before them and implement coach Burmeister’s press. This year is no different as the Wolverines lost four seniors, three instrumental, in 2019’s Substate Championship appearance.

Now, Boston DeVault and Avery Phillippi look to take over as one of the next generations for Nodaway Valley. DeVault and Phillippi found playing time last year, both appearing in 24 of 25 games played as freshmen. Both of their stats are nearly identical, with Phillippi scoring 63 points and DeVault putting up 62 points. Phillippi’s height allowed him to grab 16 more rebounds, totaling 30 on the year.

DeVault was more of an outside threat for the Wolverines, going 16-for-39 from beyond the arc, while Phillippi was 6-for-20. The sophomore tandem looks to be part of a rotation that features both this season. Both were tied with 10 steals last season, so seeing how each implements the press could be the deciding factor.

Tucker Tepoel, Southwest Valley

Tyler Hetu – Tepoel was the only player for Southwest Valley to hit triple digits for rebounds, grabbing 204 board while scoring 234 points. The 6-4 leading rebounder and scorer for the Timberwolves will be the lifeblood of a SWV team that struggled in conference play, but brings back Blaine Venteicher (189 points, 38 steals) to join him. It’ll be a challenge for SWV to get into the top half of the Pride of Iowa, and they’ll need to limit double-digit losses. It had just two single digit losses a year ago.

Brennen Normand – Southwest Valley’s success is going to run through TePoel this year. The length from his 6-4 frame will once again make him a force on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Using his height on defense, TePoel will force shots to the outside on matchups he has the advantage. So, if he can get help from guard play, the Timberwolves have a chance to improve on six-win seasons the last two years.

Skyler Stamps, Diagonal

Tyler Hetu – Skyler Stamps returns to the Maroons as the most experienced player from last year’s team. He was fourth in points (129) and second in assists (44), and has a fairly good chance to double both those numbers and become the team leader in most stats. Kade Klommhaus was their guy for the better part of two seasons, and they’ll need to find someone who can fit the same rule. Stamps has shown early signs of being exactly the person Diagonal needs.

Brennen Normand – Diagonal’s loss of three seniors is going to hurt the program as they were the top-three scorers for the Maroons, but Skyler Stamps is an athletic replacement to help fill those shoes. Stamps was the only non-senior to start in double-digit games, and he’ll have to be the leader this year. He returns as the leader in points (129) and assists (44) from a season ago

Samson Adams, Lenox

Brennen Normand – As a team, Lenox struggled last season. The Tigers went 4-18 overall in a Pride of Iowa Conference that featured a ton of veteran groups. Lenox boasts four seniors this year, only one starting double-digit games. The availability gave Samson Adams a chance, seeing him start in 16 of 19 games.

During his freshman campaign, Adams was second on the team in rebounds (74), fourth in scoring (90 points) and fifth in assists (20). As a sophomore, it looks like he’ll have a chance to start more games. Adams shot 30.2% from the field, so that will have to improve if the Tigers look to move up in the conference.

Adams has a legitimate chance at being one of the strong players in the conference solely from his athleticism. He displayed his abilities this fall, playing football all year, then running in the Pride of Iowa cross country championship and finishing in 27th place. He’ll need to use that athleticism on both sides of the ball for basketball this season.

Cale Ecklund, East Union

Tyler Hetu – East Union came out of nowhere at the end of the season, going 7-1 across eight games before a first-round Substate loss to Lamoni. In that stretch, we saw a round table of scorers emerge, one of which being sophomore Cale Ecklund.

While Kaden Kirkland was lighting up the board on his way to a 300-point season, Ecklund posted a quiet 237-point season (20th in POI) for second on the team. The rebounds weren’t high, but he was second on the team in assists and first in steals while still an underclassman. Kirkland, the lone senior regular is no longer on the team due to graduation and there’s several older kids on the roster who will be good guidance as Ecklund navigates his junior season.

EU may still be on the outside looking in when it comes to going go toe-for-toe with teams like Martensdale. But, it could have no issue with Bedford, Lenox and Southwest Valley. Things are looking up in Afton.

Jace Rodecker, Murray

Tyler Hetu – Gone are the days of Reece Held, the prolific scorer who was a unanimous Bluegrass Conference first-team team selection for three straight seasons. Now, head coach Darin Wookey will look to several other players on the roster who have put together serviceable careers – Jace Rodecker included.

Rodecker was second in rebounding, scoring, steals and blocks last season. Obviously, a different strategy may not mean he does it again, but he has a pretty good chance on being up there in rebounds and scoring. Playing under the basket will be Rodecker’s main location, as dictated by his 56.5 and 53.3% field goal percentage in the last two seasons. Murray was not a poor shooting team, ranking .1% behind conference leader Ankeny Christian, and even without Held could be up there again.

With Colton Siefkas also coming back off a 245-point season last year, Rodecker will have good company with him. There’s a number of underclassmen from a year prior coming back as well and will all progress with the two playing big roles.

Colton Siefkas, Murray

Brennen Normand – Rodecker is important for the Mustangs this year, but Colton Siefkas’ ability to pass the ball might be the difference in replacing now-Iowa Wesleyan guard Reece Held. Siefkas and Rodecker were similar in their ability to score and rebound, but Siefkas registered 62 assists, second behind Held. If Murray can find consistent outside shooting, Siefkas could use his size at 6-1 to its potential.

Wiley Ray, Orient-Macksburg

Brennen Normand – Wiley Ray is a do-it-all athlete for Orient-Macksburg, and he’ll need to have a solid season, pairing with Blake Thompson, if the Bulldogs look to make a jump in the Bluegrass Conference. Ray was second on the team in scoring and rebounds, putting up 110 points and grabbing 77 boards. O-M is going to need a big season from Ray if they want to bounce back from an 0-21 year in 2019-20.

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