ANDOVER TROJANS

HEAD COACH: Martin Shetlar (third season)
CLASS: 5A
CONFERENCE: AVCTL-II
LAST YEAR: 11-10

The Andover Trojans haven’t won more than 11 games since 2013-14. For head coach Martin Shetlar, he’s been doing the job, keeping the Trojans with 11-win seasons each of his first two seasons. This season, the expectations are above those 11 wins.

“We return 4 starters and 7 of our top 8 from last year,” Shetlar said. “We will be led by senior Harper Jonas and junior Jack Johnson.”

The Trojans return a plethora of starters and welcome back junior Jack Johnson. As a sophomore, Johnson was a catalyst at such a young age. He averaged 15.1 points per game last season as he took home second team all-league honors.

Harper Jonas is also back. He’s one of the four starters. Jonas averaged a shade over 11 points per game last season and has been known to display great leadership on and off the court.

Isaiah Maikori and Jack Taylor also will step back into the starting roles. They averaged 14.2 points per game together last season.

“Three-point shooting and pressure defense will be the focus of this team,” Shetlar said.

Kaleb Gaddis is expected to slide into that final starting role. He averaged 4.0 points per game as a sophomore.

The Trojans open against No. 7 McPherson to start their season. Then, they’ll get a home showdown with 4A state team, Andale. They’re preseason No. 4 in 4A. Then, the following week the Trojans will get to play at Koch Arena in the always entertaining GWAL/AVCTL Challenge against Kapaun Mt. Carmel on Friday, Dec. 13.

The Trojans get their in-city rivals, Andover Central for the first time this season on Jan. 14 at Andover High. They will go to Central on Feb. 25.

ANDOVER CENTRAL JAGUARS

HEAD COACH: JESSE HERRMANN (19TH SEASON)
CLASS: 5A
CONFERENCE: AVCTL-II
LAST YEAR: 22-3 (Class 5A State Champions)

When you lose three starters from a state championship team, many think you might be rebuilding.

Not for Andover Central.

Led by Xavier Bell, the Jaguars are locked and loaded heading into the 2019-20 season. Head coach Jesse Herrmann has his team set up nicely as they are preseason No. 1 according to the 5A coaches.

“We bring back quite a bit of experience but players will obviously be asked to do more offensively to fill the void left,” Herrmann said.

Bell is the name known but the ones you should watch for are Jerome Washington. A 6-5 forward who provides some real size. Shomari Parnell, Kaden Wilson and Ty Herrmann played a ton of minutes last year as juniors and will be asked to adapt their roles to fit this season’s team.

“This is one of the most competitive and confident groups I have coached,” Herrmann said.

Like most levels of basketball, the Jaguars are adopting positionless basketball. Instead of having your traditional positions, such as point guard, power forward, small forward, etc., the Jaguars are going positionless. This allows Andover Central to adapt to their opponent, matching their strengths against their opponent’s weaknesses.

“We will play positionless once again which means rebounding and defending opposing posts will be areas of concern,” Herrmann said.

Central will get their shot main event game of the GWAL/AVCTL. This year, they get Bishop Carroll on Friday, Dec. 13 at Koch Arena.

AUGUSTA ORIOLES

HEAD COACH: JAKE SIMS (4TH YEAR)
CLASS: 4A
CONFERENCE: AVCTL-III
LAST YEAR: 18-7 (Class 4A State Runner-up)

Augusta may have lost in the Class 4A state championship game to Piper but there are going to be winners this season with all of that is returning for the Orioles.

Jake Sims is set up pretty good. He returns five of his top 10 from a year ago. Jaren [Jackson] and Zach [Davidson] will be the 1-2 punch that fuels the Augusta offense.

“Although we have experience, everyone will have to expand their roles in order for us to continue the success from last season,” Sims said.

With Ely Wilox and Davidson, the Orioles have unique size, especially for Butler county.

“We will have size and length to rely on the inside game, but we will also have the ability to shoot the ball well from the perimeter,” Sims said. “This is probably the first year that I’ve been here that we have the ability to do both equally well.”

Ryan Andrews is a banger for a guard. Junior Brendan Parker is a sharp shooter from range. The Orioles will have to replace Zac Burton, who’s at Butler now, and Blake Altenhofen.

Jackson is a preseason all-county pick and basketball may not even be his best sport. The senior has already committed to play baseball at Butler in the fall.

“The opportunity of improving throughout the season is something I hope we learned last year, and that playing our best basketball at the end of the season is just as important as anything,” Sims said.

The Orioles open up at home against Mulvane. They don’t return home until Jan. 10 against rival El Dorado.

BEREAN ACADEMY WARRIORS

HEAD COACH: LEWIS WIEBE (26TH YEAR)
CLASS: 1A
CONFERENCE: HEART OF AMERICA
LAST YEAR: 21-4

Berean Academy may have lost a handful of experience from last year’s 21-win team. Do not discount these Warriors. There are five returning letter winners from last year’s team and that’s why they’ve garnered such a high preseason ranking, No.8 in the coach’s preseason rankings.

Senior Zach Koontz is the only returning starter from last year’s team. Chase Wiebe is the highest returning scorer from last year’s team. Wiebe averaged 6.9 points per game. Jake Landis, Zach Dugger and Sam Snook should be big time contributors on the team this season.

“We should have a solid team if we can rebound and shoot the ball well,” head coach Lewis Wiebe said. “We have good quickness and good experience coming back.”

In his 26 years of coaching, Wiebe has taught his team how to win and how to win big. He’s won 459 games in his 26 seasons at Berean, He’s won over 600 games at three different schools. They’re a small school powerhouse that has multiple state championships. He’s taken the Warriors to the big show seven times, including the back-to-back rings in 2010 and 2011.

The Warriors have won at least 13 games every season dating back to the 2005-06 season. They’ve won 20 games the last two seasons.

Berean kicks off their season against Sterling on Friday, Dec. 6. They’ll try to get back to state for back-to-back seasons for the first time since winning those trophies in 2010 and 11.

BLUSTEM LIONS

HEAD COACH: BRANIGUN GOMEZ (2ND YEAR)
CLASS: 2A
CONFERENCE: TRI-VALLEY
LAST YEAR: 7-12

Second year head coach Branigum Gomez is trying to fix the attitude and the outcome of Bluestem basketball. Thankfully, the Lions are going to be stacked with experience when they kick off their season next week. 11 of their 12 varsity players return from a season ago.

The Lions have only seen 10 wins once in the last decade and with this much experience back, it could happen again. 

“We have high expectations and are looking to rely heavily on our strong senior class leadership” Gomez said. 

There are eight seniors that will see significant varsity minutes this season.

Nick Laidler, the quarterback for the football team will also step in and see time on the basketball court. Bluestem is returning four of their five starters. They will be without Hunter Clift, who’s down the road playing college basketball at Southwestern College.

Landen Wilson, sophomore, will get varsity run as the only real underclassmen to break into the rotation. 

Other returning starters, Garrett Korte, Brian Rigg and Luke Simon will all carve their own path this season. 

The Lions get their first crack at their rivals, Eureka on Valentine’s Day. That’s a span of three straight home games to end the regular season.

The biggest away time for Bluestem is the Wilson County Classic that is sandwiched between a trip to Humboldt and Neodesha.

Could this be the first time we see a winning season in Leon? That remains to be seen but all of the pieces are there. The schedule looks to be favorable to the Lions.

CIRCLE THUNDERBIRDS

HEAD COACH: 
CLASS: 4A
CONFERENCE: AVCTL-III
LAST SEASON: 12-9 

Does experience matter in high school basketball? Many believe so and we will probably find out with the Circle Thunderbirds. They return three starters from last year’s 12-win team. Head coach Bo Horyna hopes that experience proves to be priceless.

Circle will try to integrate a handful of role players to replace the scoring losses from last season. Jude Warren is at Butler, who the Grizzlies’ coaches are super high on, and four others from a rather large senior class.

“We return three starters from last season, and a good group of underclassmen,” Horyna said.

The three returning players that you’ll hear a lot is Eli Jacobson. He averaged 5.8 points per game. Matt Hromerk is the leading returning scorer. He averaged 11.5 points per game on 47 percent field goal shooting and was a 49 percent three-point shooter. Then, Gunner Hutson rounds out the group. He averaged 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Circle only shot 63 percent last season from the free throw line and when you find yourself in close games, you have to be able to hit those free throws down the stretch. 

The T-Birds open the season with their first five games at home. The only away game is at El Dorado before winter break. After that, they are home for two more games. The T-Birds schedule benefits them. 

If you include the El Dorado Classic, the T-Birds spent a large portion of January away from Towanda.

“How quickly our underclassmen start contributing will determine how well we do this season,” Horyna said.

DOUGLASS BULLDOGS

HEAD COACH: LARON NORDSTEDT (5TH YEAR)
CLASS: 3A
CONFERENCE: CENTRAL PLAINS LEAGUE
LAST SEASON: 7-13

After losing four starters and six seniors total from last year’s seven-win team, the Douglass Bulldogs are looking for a new opportunity heading into the 2019-20 season. 

Head coach Laron Nordstedt is hoping the Bulldogs can find their identity quickly as the CPL will once again provide a stiff challenge and there will not be much time for nights off. 

Keylan Jones, who also is a football stand out is really the only player with varsity experience on this year’s squad. Jones is as quick on the basketball court as he is returning punts for the football team. 

“Look for im to be more aggressive this season,” Nordstedt said. “ He will be counted on for leadership and for ball handling.”

Brady Roberts averaged a half-point last year but will step into a starting role this year as only a sophomore. He played sparingly due to the amount of seniors last season but will be counted on this season.

“Brady has a high basketball IQ and plays hard,” Nordstedt said. “He will make hustle/energy plays for us.”

Douglass opens against Norwich to start the season. They will get Sedgwick early next week. They wrap up the first semester with an away game against Marion in the HOA/CPL Challenge.

Including the Fredonia tournament, the Bulldogs will spend much of January on the road. They are home for two games to start the semester then are not home again until Feb. 4.

“Buy in and team chemistry will be key for this team to reach their full potential and be as successful as possible,” Nordstedt said.

EL DORADO WILDCATS

HEAD COACH: JORDON REGEHR (5TH YEAR)
CLASS: 4A
CONFERENCE: AVCTL-III
LAST SEASON: 7-14

The El Dorado Wildcats are going to be young. They have one senior in Garrett Meyer and the rest are going to be very young. 

With the extreme youth El Dorado will experience this season, there may be growing pains. There will be four sophomores who get to see varsity time. Three of them saw no varsity experience last season. Only Jaydon Sundgren saw varsity burn last season.

“We will be younger than in previous years, but I am hoping our returning experience and youthful eagerness will mesh together well so we can have a successful season,” Regehr said.

The Wildcats have not had a winning season since 2013-14 when they won 15 games.

Another name to watch out for Dravin Fowler will be another player who sparingly contributed last season that will immediately step into a starting role as a junior.

A native of Halstead, the home of Adolph Rupp, Regeher has been commanding the El Dorado basketball team for the last five seasons. He graduated from Bethel College. Playing in the KCAC develops some solid coaches. 

El Dorado will open on the road against Cheney. They’ll come home and play Wichita Trinity and Cheney again before fall break. 

The El Dorado Classic tournament could be a big-time place to steal some wins. It is always good to have the tournament on your home floor.

With the inexperience that El Dorado will go through early in the season, winning close games will be an even larger focal point than it may be in other years. Those games build confidence and can create waves of momentum that can get your program heading into the right direction.

FLINTHILLS MUSTANGS

HEAD COACH: STEVE OLTMAN (1ST YEAR)
CLASS: 1A
CONFERENCE: SOUTH CENTRAL BORDER LEAGUE
LAST SEASON: 5-15

Times have been tough for the boy’s basketball team down in Rosalia. There has not been a winning season since the 2011-12 season when the Mustangs rolled off 16 victories and saw them fall in an overtime loss in the sub-state finals.

A new coach might be able to change the tide. Enter: Steve Oltman.

He’s no stranger to Flinthills and he is tasked with taking the reins of the basketball team and forming them into a winner. There’s a light at the end of that tunnel.

“We are fortunate to have a solid group of seniors returning who have logged varsity minutes,” Oltman said.

That’s where Kedyrn Morse and Isaac Bugner step in. The two are the top returning playmakers from last year’s squad. 

There’s help coming from underclassmen, too. Cael Sorum, who’s only a sophomore is expected to be an every day varsity player according to Oltman.

“We have a group of sophomores that gained varsity experience last season and an incoming freshman class that had success at the middle school level,” Oltman said.

The Mustangs open up at home against Lebo on Dec. 6. They’ll travel to participate in the Fairfield tournament the following week. They will get a chance to host Altoona-Midway at home right before Christmas break. 

Four of the final six games are at home, giving the Mustangs a nice home court advantage to end the regular season.

“It is our hope that we can translate this experience into wins as we work to change the culture of the program,” Oltman said.

REMINGTON BRONCOS

HEAD COACH: MATT REGIER (4TH YEAR)
CLASS: 2A
CONFERENCE: AVCTL-III
LAST SEASON: 4-15

The thing about high school basketball is you do not get to recruit, coaching is key as head coach Matt Regier will have a task on his hand to get these Broncos ready after losing three starters from last season’s 8-12 team.

“After losing the top three scorers from last year’s team, we will be adjusting to new roles early on, especially on offense,” Reiger said.

Paul Fasnacht and Ty Martin return as starters from last year’s team. The two seniors will expected to be the leaders. Fasnacht is a 5-7 guard. Despite the size he is very athletic and can rebound at a high level. He does the non-box score things right and is a winner.

Martin is a combo guard who should expect to see his production increase. He’s a defensive presence and at 6-1 can cause some difficulties for opposing ball handlers. Martin may be asked to play all five positions and he is capable according to coach Regier. 

Also, Zane Winter. The 6-0 guard is a solid shooter and is expected to be the primary ball handler for Remington. If he can have confidence in his shot and be more aggressive, the season could be positive for Winter.

“Three returning guards gained lots of experience on last year’s team, which should help speed up the learning process,” Regier said.

Remington opens against Halstead, which is always a tough opponent. Then, they head to the Marion tournament where they’ll play Eureka and Marion in the pool play. They wrap up the first semester with a home game against Medicine Lodge. In fact, Remington does not play a true road game (not counting the Marion game in the Marion tournament), until Jan. 7 at West Elk.

ROSE HILL ROCKETS

HEAD COACH: JOSHUA SHIRLEY (5TH YEAR)
CLASS: 4A
CONFERENCE: AVCTL-IV
LAST SEASON: 13-8

The Rose Hill Rockets are on the cusp. They are on the cusp of something special. Despite losing three starters from a season ago, the Rockets have good qualities that could make a dangerous team. 

They have a go-to player in Kobe Campbell. He is a three-year starter and an all-county selection. He can score in a multitude of ways, creating trouble for opposing defenses. 

“We have a couple players who return who were a part of a successful season last year and will have to play a much larger role this year,” Sims said.

You have a defensive juggernaut in Spencer Nolan. He often took on the best opposing player and set the tone defensively.

“We should a couple of players who can score the ball, we just have to develop our team defensive identity as we did last year and build off of that,” Sims said. 

Trenton Barnhart played key minutes last year and will take on a larger role as a senior. The ability to play inside and out will give the Rockets some versatility.

A sleeper could be Asa Vrbas. He played sparingly last season but according to Shirley showed flashes of being able to be a solid rotational player.

“Several guys will be put into new roles this year but they are up to the challenge to build on what we did last year,” Sims said. 

Rose Hill opens against at Circle on Friday, Dec. 6. They travel to the Garden Plain tournament next week and wrap up the first semester with home games against Wellington and Clearwater.

The Rockets are picked to be middle of the road in the AVCTL-IV. Andale, who is preseason fourth in 4A and Collegiate who is No. 1 in 3A.