With boys basketball season starting across the state Monday, here is a look at the season to come for teams across The Times coverage area.
Editor’s note: Season previews for Ottawa, Streator, Marquette Academy, Woodland and Seneca’s boys basketball teams appeared in separate articles.
Coach: Brian Yoder (15th season)
Last season’s record: 14-19, 3-9 Heart of Illinois Conference
Top returning players: Kesler Collins, F, sr.; Seth Jones, PG, jr.; Connor Reed, G, jr.; Emerson Weber, C, sr.; Rudra Patel, G, jr.; Logan Ruddy, G, so.
Top new players: Brennan Edens, G, sr.; Mason Rich, G, jr.; Riley Wallace, G, so.; Dallas Rios, G, sr.; Blake Ruddy, F, jr.; Josh Lane, F, sr.; Elyah Detwiler, F, jr.
Worth noting: The Falcons graduated three seniors but have most of their core returning. Collins (Times All-Area second-team and Heart of Illinois Conference first-team selection a year ago after averaging 20.7 points, 15.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.8 steals) and Weber return in the front court, while their classmate Edens is returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season. Yoder said it is also comforting to bring back his two main guards “who do a great job of taking care of the ball” in Reed (11.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg) and Jones (5.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.3 apg). “Our focus has been on the defensive end with a main focus on offense of making good decisions,” Yoder said. “This group is fun to be around and is excited to start competing.”
Coach: Jeremy Hahn (2nd season)
Last season’s record: 23-9, 9-3 Heart of Illinois Conference
Top returning players: Dallas Cook, G, sr.; Nathan Cook, G, sr.; Jozia Johnson, G, sr.; Koltin Kearfott, F, sr.; Connor Reichman, G, sr.; Brady Ruestman, G, sr.; Jackson Hakes, C, jr.; Jordan Heider, G, jr.; Ed Lorton, G, jr.; Kash Klendworth, C, so.
Top new players: Kade Kearfott, F, jr.; Isaac Kpa, F, jr.; Maddux Modro, G, jr.; Kam Widmer, F, jr.; Layton Gerdes, G, so.; Braden Hahn, G, so.
Worth noting: The Knights return a deep and experienced roster with eight players that logged meaningful floor time last season, led by Ruestman, who was a Heart of Illinois Conference first-team honoree after posting 10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game and sinking 45% from beyond the arc. Reichman (10.5 ppg, 71 made 3s), Lorton (6.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg), Heider (All-HOIC Defensive Team, 4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.9 apg), Dallas Cook (2.7 ppg), Nathan Cook (4.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.4 apg), Johnson (5 ppg) and Koltin Kearfott (2.8 ppg) will provide coach Hahn with plenty of combination options. “A deep roster will demand extraordinary team play and unselfishness as there is good basketball skill throughout the roster,” Jeremy Hahn said. “Aggressive defense and efficient offense hopefully lead to a longer postseason run, a common goal among all in the program.”
Coach: Patrick Torman (3rd season)
Last season’s record: 2-24, 0-10 Little Ten Conference
Top returning players: Dalton Hannel, sr.; Evin Hensley, sr.; Gunnar Nelson, jr.; Geno Schwager, jr.; Austin Todd, jr.
Top new players: Hayden Spoonmore, fr.; Declan Brennan, fr.; Larson Huss, fr.; Tristan Garcia, fr.
Worth noting: The Panthers return Nelson (6.8 ppg), Hensley (5.5 ppg) and Schwager (5.3 ppg). Torman feels his team vastly improved over the offseason and that better defense and rebounding will be the biggest keys to a successful season. “There has been a lot of growth during the offseason in terms of player development from the team,” Torman said. “We are ready to play and compete night in and night out. One of our keys to success this year will be how much we can turn up the defensive intensity from previous years when giving up an average of 60 points per game. There is a lot of room for improvement in that area, and it has been a big focus. We will also need to win the rebound battle every night to be competitive. The team is up for the challenge and ready to make a statement this year.”
Coach: Dain Twait (10th season)
Last season’s record: 27-9, 10-0 Little Ten Conference
Top returning players: Carson Baker, G, sr.; Tanner Faivre, G, sr.; Richie Armour, F, sr.; Hunter Staton, F, sr.; Jimmy Falz, G/F, sr.
Top new players: Matthew Farrell, G, jr.; Beau Raikes, F, jr.; Aedan Weiss, G/F, jr.; Payton Twait, G, so.; Finn Rosengren, G/F, so.
Worth noting: The Huskers are coming off a season in which they played in the program’s third sectional title game and first since 1998, fell one win short of the school record of 28 victories set by the 1959-60 squad and captured the LTC regular season (first since 2006) and tournament titles (first since 2007). Of the nine losses for the Huskers last season, seven were by a total of 15 points. Gone to graduation are LTC first-team selections Camden Figgins (Associated Press Class 1A All-State honorable mention) and Braxton Hart, as well as Bradley Armour, but a wealth of experience returns. Armour (10.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, Times All-Area second-team) is the leading returning scorer and rebounder, followed by Faivre (7.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.7 spg), Baker (7.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.2 spg) and Staton (7.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 apg) as the Huskers will be looking to put together another strong season. Dain Twait seems to have all the pieces they would need to make that happen.
Coach: Curt Alsvig (5th season)
Last season’s record: 11-22, 5-5 Little Ten Conference
Top returning players: Carson Bahrey, G, sr.; Mitchell Haag, F, sr.; Chase Lafferty, G, sr.; Weston Hannibal, F, jr.; Brock Sexton, G, jr.; Silas Johnson, F, jr.; Aldo Resendez, F, jr.; Landin Stillwell, F, so.; Isaac Joseph, C, sr.
Top new players: Lucas Fox, C, sr.; Aiden Hopkins, F, jr.
Worth noting: The Bobcats lost Colton Eade (15.6 ppg, 5 rpg) to graduation but return All-LTC guard and Times All-Area third-team selection Bahrey (15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.3 spg), as well as a number of other players who saw significant floor time last season. “We were pretty young last year and will return a much more experienced squad, so hopefully that will translate into competitive games and more wins,” Alsvig said. “We will look to compete in what looks to be on paper a very tough Little Ten Conference. Last year was a learning experience, and a lot of guys gained very valuable experience from it. Playing up-tempo and finishing in transition will be a focus for us. We had some guys put in some serious work this offseason and it has been showing in the start of the practices.”
Coach: Kyle Anderson (2nd season)
Last season’s record: 18-14, 7-3 Little Ten Conference
Top returning players: Lance Pasakarnis, G, sr.; Blake Wallin, F, sr.; Nate Kath, G, sr.; Clay Friestad, G, sr.
Top new players: Jackson Leggett, F, jr.; Dylan Long, G, jr.; Payton Wills, F, jr.; Aidan Brummel, G, jr.; Reggie Chapman, G, so.; Cody Kulbartz, F, so.
Worth noting: The Norsemen return only one starter from last year’s squad after the graduation of mainstays Zach Carlson (All-LTC), Joe Martin, Jake Kruser and Cole Reibel. Pasakarnis (5 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg), who was the fifth of that starting quintet, will be asked to lead the way along with classmates Friestad and Kath. Leggett, Long and Willis, who range in height from 6-foot-2 to 6-4, will provide some key size into the mix. “We are a very inexperienced team who have a lot of learning to do but have a lot of length and shooting,” Anderson said. “We return one starter and one other player who played varsity minutes but had a solid sophomore group who are ready to contribute now as juniors. We hope to continue to get better throughout the year and improve our mental and physical toughness to peak at the postseason. I think we can surprise a lot of teams.”
Coach: Gerald Fruit (6th season)
Last season’s record: 17-13, 7-2 Little Ten Conference
Top returning players: Ryan Browder, G/F, sr.; Griffin Cook, G/F, sr.; Adam Waite, F/C, jr.; Trenton Fruit, G, sr.; Easton Fruit, G, jr.
Top newcomers: Carlos Gonzalez, G/F, sr.; Juan Vazquez, G, jr.; Gavin Guelde, G, jr.; Oliver Munoz, G, so.; Landen Tirevold, G, so.; Jonathon Anderson, F, so.; Scott Brandt, G/F, so.
Worth noting: The Red Raiders lost All-LTC point guard Garett Cook to graduation but have a solid returning core in Browder (13.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, All-LTC, Times All-Area second team), Cook (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.2 spg in 18 games, All-LTC as a sophomore) and Waite (10.3 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg) along with Trenton and Easton Fruit. Gonzalez, Munoz and Guelde should give coach Fruit some added depth off the bench. “We have more depth this year than in the past, this team has a good amount of experience and is a smart team,” Gerald Fruit said. “These kids are a self-motivated team and hard workers.” The Red Raiders look to improve defensively. “We did lose two really good defenders to graduation, but I believe with the maturity of our returning seniors that we can play strong defense and keep our average points allowed to under 47 points a game,” Gerald Fruit said.
Coach: Kevin Kozan (3rd season)
Last season’s record: 20-13, 10-4 Interstate 8
Top returning players: Chance Lange, G, sr.; Dom Rome, F, jr.; Quinn Rome, C, jr.
Top new players: Simieon Harris, G, jr.; Griffin Somlock, G, so.; Drew Sullivan, G, sr.
Worth noting: The Indians, who are now members of the Kishwaukee River Conference, return only one starter in Lange (12 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 spg, All-Interstate-8 selection, Times All-Area honorable mention), as well as Dom Rome (5 ppg, 3 rpg) and Quinn Rome (4 ppg, 3 rpg). “We will be younger, but I believe we have the pieces to be a great defensive team,” Kozan said. “Other than the defensive side of the ball, I believe our strength will be having guys such as Chance and Dom, the only returning players who averaged more than two minutes of playing time each game last season. Early on we may experience some bumps in the road due to having multiple guys having no varsity playing time, but I believe in the guys on this team, and I feel that we can really get after it on the defensive end of the floor.”