Written by: Sven Alskog
1AD1 Western Idaho Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
2. Liberty Charter
3. Horseshoe Bend
4. North Star Charter
6. Victory Charter
9. Compass Charter
10. Greenleaf Friends
12. Idaho City
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ethan Christianson, Senior, Ambrose
Paul Yenor, Sophomore, Ambrose
Cole Hinnenkamp, Junior, Liberty Charter
Gavin Miller, Senior, Horseshoe Bend
Quade Renfro, Junior, Horseshoe Bend
Mikee Farrar, Junior, Horseshoe Bend
Graham Kelly, Senior, Greenleaf Friends
Trevan Baxter, Junior, North Star Charter
Bobby Lindner, Junior, Riverstone
Joshua Hanson-Kaplan, Senior, Riverstone
As a 12-team conference with three spots available to the state tournament this year, the 1A WIC should have a competitive battle for district tournament positioning this season.
Similar to recent years, Ambrose appears to be in the driver’s seat despite the loss of star guard Jaxon Hughes, a dynamic scorer now playing at Corban University in Oregon.
A lot of that has to do with what the Archers bring back from a program that has made four consecutive trips to the state tournament, three at the 1AD1 ranks and another in 1AD2 back in 2014.
Senior forward Ethan Christianson looks to be the go-to scoring option, while Paul Yenor is a nice interior presence.
Ambrose will have multiple quality challengers this season in a pack led by Liberty Charter and Horseshoe Bend, the latter of which made a state tournament appearance a season ago.
After winning 16 games but falling short in the district tournament last year, the Patriots and junior Cole Hinnenkamp are going to be hungry to more than make up for it this season.
With teams like Wilder and Riverstone that knocked them off in that district tournament having lost some key pieces, the path to state appears a little clearer for Liberty Charter this time around.
Horseshoe Bend played a roster full of young talent during a run to state last season and should benefit greatly from that now.
The Mustangs have quality talent all-over the floor, led by First Team All-Conference guard Gavin Miller and Second Team All-Conference wing Quade Renfro.
For a team like Horseshoe Bend, one of the things that may separate them is depth.
“I believe depth is a critical component to win the league this year. Tons of talented players across the league with strong leaders at the helm,” said Riverstone head coach Jon Neulist.
Mikee Farrar is a junior post to watch on the roster as well.
Beyond the top three, the conference could go in a wide-array of directions, with multiple teams replacing key talent (Wilder, Riverstone, North Star Charter).
The North Star Charter Huskies welcome in first year head coach Adam Rankin, who takes over for a seven-win team from a year ago.
Juniors Trevan Baxter and Jalen Chan, along with senior Christian Urwin will lead the Huskies.
“We have a very high character group of kids with great attitudes. We need our younger guys to step up and fill the void left by graduating seniors,” said Rankin.
With some of the athletes in place, he thinks they can do just that.
“We have some quick players that can move around the court well. We will need to establish an inside presence and hit the boards hard to be successful.”
Riverstone also has a first year head coach with Jon Neulist on the sideline.
Four year starting guard Dedi Seme is now playing collegiately at Blue Mountain Community College, and will be tough to replace after leading the Otters in every statistical category.
Guard Josh Hanson enters this season as the only senior on the roster.
“The team this year is comprised of nine underclassmen with one lone senior. [We are] excited to develop and grow as a team on and off the court. With some returning players and the addition of four freshmen, it will be competitive in practice, which will result to depth come game time,” said Neulist.
Incoming freshman Charlie DeBoer is 6-foot-3 and should give opposing defenses a difficult frame to guard, while also creating mismatches on the defensive end.
Bobby Lindner and Josh Hanson-Kaplan are a couple of the returners who should see good increases in minutes this season.
“With this being year one at Riverstone, and new coaches on staff, we are excited to utilize our length and athleticism to increase and dictate tempo. We are adopting a high-intensity defense with a number of presses, traps and a focus on team rotation. Our offense will be a byproduct of our defense. We want to get out and run in transition with a knowledge of our primary and secondary break,” added Neulist.
Effort will be a staple.
“Our team will pride ourselves on our toughness and grit. We have the student-athletes that aren’t afraid to take charges, dive on the ground for 50/50 balls and battle on the boards. In order to be successful this season we need to improve on empty possessions and shot selection.”
Greenleaf Friends is a team that has the potential to surprise some opponents this season after a 2-18 mark last year.
Seniors Ben Craft and Graham Kelly are a couple of the returners to note for the Grizzlies, who also have a first year coach in Trevor Douty.
“We have a lot of returners who have really worked hard and improved over the summer. Ben Craft and Graham Kelly can dominate the paint, while Titus Carson will be ready to control the court and shoot from outside. Colton and Garrett Sedlacek are both impact players that can score outside and take their opponent to the hoop. The thing that excites us the most is this team’s commitment to defense. They are working hard and really want to be a defense that cannot be beaten,” said Douty.
It will be run-and-gun look for Greenleaf.
“Our team will be a tough defensive team, giving teams many different looks so that we are not predictable. We will be running all the time. Forcing turnovers is our number one priority. On offense we will be looking to fast break. Whenever we do have to slow down we want to move the ball quickly and always be looking to score,” added Douty.