4A Southern Idaho Conference
Written by: Sven Alskog
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Bishop Kelly
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Henry Hunter, Senior, Bishop Kelly
Troy Patterson, Senior, Kuna
Tyler Robinett, Junior, Middleton
Amoro Lado, Senior, Vallivue
Jake Poulton, Senior, Columbia
Brett Kern, Senior, Emmett
Justin Radford, Senior, Nampa
Donnie Estrada, Junior, Nampa
Brock Childers, Senior, Ridgevue
Chase Burfeind, Senior, Caldwell
There is always the expectation that the race for the state spots out of the 4A SIC will be wide-open. This year, things may be as up for grabs as ever in recent memory, with Kuna, Columbia and Nampa dropping down from 5A and new-look teams at Middleton, Vallivue and Bishop Kelly.
Bishop Kelly is the pick to take the top spot in the preseason coaches poll, with the Knights having to find a way to replace Max Rice, who is now at Boise State.
Four seniors step into larger roles for the team, including Hayden Hicks, Henry Hunter, Jackson Lightner and Mike Stone.
In the early part of the season the task will be to find the scoring punch that was there last season, but there is no question that the defensive end of the floor will be the strength of this team.
“We will be a pressing team. We think our greatest strength is at the defensive end. As far as offense, we hope our defense creates some transition baskets for us. Offensively it will take some time to figure out our identity, but our guys are working hard and are unselfish,” said Bishop Kelly head coach Ryan Kerns.
Juniors Matt Heffner and Johvan Dillon are also expected to make impacts.
“We really like our team. We will need to learn how to score with the loss of Max Rice, but we will be much more defensive-minded. A lot of our guys have worked really hard this summer and we hope it pays off. I expect our senior group to really step up. It may take some time with our football team just coming off the state championship game, [as] we have four key players off that team,” added Kerns.
Teams like Kuna, Middleton, Columbia and Vallivue all have multiple scoring weapons on the floor for their programs this year and will make things tough on opponents on a nightly basis as well.
With Kuna and Columbia moving down from 5A, coaches expect them to be a tough out.
“I’m sure the 5A teams that have moved down such as Columbia, Kuna and Nampa will feel very comfortable in the 4A division,” said Kerns.
Out of that group, Kuna received high praise from multiple coaches throughout the 4A SIC.
“I think Kuna will surprise people. Well coached by Pete [Longgood] and he has a talented group of players,” said Ridgevue head coach Neil Stutzman.
“They have a really talented group over there and a coach that demands a lot from his players,” added Nampa head coach Derek Pegram.
Honorable Mention All-SIC selection Troy Patterson highlights the returners for the Kavemen. Patterson provides a big scoring punch to go along with the guard trio of Matthew Austin, Dylan Rausch and Brodie Wilson and senior forward Preston Chandler.
While Kuna has to replace the talented Zack Barton, the pieces that return for the team have expectations high.
The athleticism on the roster is one of the main reasons why.
“I think we are an athletic team with a really good mix of shooting and inside play. I think we share the ball well and that has been fun for the coaches and players. We like to play a fast style of basketball, while still being disciplined on offense and physical and tough on defense. We really need to improve on defense and rebounding. We also need to continue to work on sharing the ball offensively,” said Kuna head coach Pete Longgood.
Middleton will once again be right in the mix, with a new head coach on the sideline who likes the pieces he has in place.
“I am excited about the continued growth of one of the best players in the conference, Tyler Robinett, a six-foot-seven-inch junior post. We have great team chemistry returning as well as depth up to 12 players. Look for Gaard Memmelaar to take on a bigger role as a junior. An under the radar player to watch in our conference is Bridger Whitworth, a senior, who should have a big year shooting the ball,” said Middleton head coach Andy Harrington.
Under the new coaching staff, look for the tempo to be high-octane.
“[We are] going to play fast both offensively and defensively. We have good size and want to play inside/out. Should be a good defensive team that needs to improve throughout the season on the offensive end,” added Harrington.
Players like Thomas Blazina, Grayden Weber, Sy Eaton and Miki Ah You are among the many players who are expected to take the floor for a Middleton team with more depth than a year ago.
Vallivue possesses arguably the most talented player in the conference in senior guard Amoro Lado, who was a First Team All-Conference selection last season.
Lado is joined by Jayden Moran, Gabe Gallegos and Mike Fitts to form a strong shooting core yet again for the Falcons, who are replacing the productive trio of Steele Hadlock, Gabe Childs and Caleb Rhoton.
The new and younger core is ready to get started.
“We have a very young team that is chomping at the bit to compete. We are excited for the challenge of competing in a tough league with a young team. While our role players are young, we have an experienced core of starters in Lado, Moran, Gallegos and Fitts. Our guard play should be some of the best in the league and will cause matchup problems for teams that don’t have as much strength and depth on their perimeter,” said Vallivue head coach Ryan Lundgren.
With such a strong guard line, look for the style to stay much the same.
“As in years past, we will be a fast-paced, up-tempo team on both ends. We will look to get out and run on offense and get opportunistic points in transition. We have led the league in three-point shooting the past two seasons and I anticipate we will continue that trend this year. Defensively we are a bit undersized, so we will look to throw changing defenses at our opponents to keep them off balance and create quick shots so we can get out and run. For us to get back to the state tournament, we must commit ourselves to rebounding. This will be our biggest challenge given our bevy of guards in our lineup,” added Lundgren, who noted that just like last year the team is undersized, but has a group of hard-workers in place.
Like Vallivue, Columbia has one of the top players in the conference in Jake Poulton, who was a Second Team All-5A SIC choice last year.
Senior forward Tripp Pugmire and sophomore forward Jaylen Alexander are expected to make big impacts as well for the Wildcats.
Finding someone to crash the boards like the graduated Michael Davis (12 RPG) was able to do last year will be one of the focus areas for the team.
Emmett has a strong rebounder in its own right, with All-SIC selection Brett Kern back to man the middle.
Forward Carter Fletcher and guards Riley Cartwright and Harry Mumford will also see extensive playing time this year.
“I am excited to see how our young players fill in around our seniors and who will emerge,” said Emmett head coach David Dust.
Dust noted that the Huskies will apply pressure on defense in an attempt to get transition baskets and that this team has more depth on the inside.
Nampa is the other team that dropped down from the 5A ranks and has some standout athletes.
“They have three kids who are capable of being really good together on any given night,” added Longgood.
The trio of Donnie Estrada, Justin Radford and Ryan Zheng will help keep the Bulldogs in games, with Radford a returning Honorable Mention All-SIC selection from last year.
“We are excited about the athleticism of this team. We feel like we have some good returners mixed in with some really athletic young players. We have a couple senior leaders that we will rely heavily on and a deep bench that we hope will be a difference maker,” said Coach Pegram.
The progress has been noticeable for the team.
“I believe we are further along than we were a year ago at this time. This being our second year as a coaching staff, we got to spend a lot of time this spring, summer and fall putting in our stuff and developing our kind of guys. We hope this translates on the floor and we put a product out there for Nampa to be proud of,” explained Pegram.
Pegram plans to give opponents plenty of different looks on the defensive side of the floor to make things difficult for the opposition.
“Defensively we like to mix things up and keep the other team guessing. We spend a lot of practice time on defense pressuring and staying in front of that ball and knowing our rotations. Offensively we like to get out and run and flow into our motion. We like to spread out the floor, attack the basket and kick to open shooters. In order to be successful this season we need to come together as a team, get more stops on the defensive end and win the glass.”
Ridgevue was selected eighth in the preseason coaches poll and has to replace do-everything post Trevor Steelsmith and scoring, assists and steals leader Kenny Caldwell.
While the Warhawks do not have much size, they do have a core that will battle.
“A great group of guys that are willing to work hard. We lack size, but hopefully will make up for it in scrappy defensive play,” said Coach Stutzman. “The team likes to get out and run, [but we] need to take better care of the basketball.”
Matthew Flake, Brock Childers, Isass Albor and Jace Thatcher are some of the players to watch for Ridgevue.
The work ethic of the team that Stutzman has in place is something that should allow them to give teams some scares and pull off some upsets in the process.
“I think most coaches will pick them in the bottom half of the league, but they compete as hard as anyone and shoot the ball well enough to beat you if you’re not ready to play. I think they upset one or two of the top teams in our league,” added Lundgren.
Caldwell was not able to get into the win column last year, but has developed over the offseason and hopes to string together some wins for fourth year head coach Trent Harrison.
Chase Burfeind, Cesar Correa, Connor Doan and Caleb Oesch are some of the names to know for the Cougars, with a host of others expected to receive playing time.
“This team has a lot of basketball IQ and their toughness, cohesiveness and overall competitive nature is higher. Leadership with this group of seniors is special, combined with lots of talent in the junior class,” said Harrison. “We are aggressive on both ends. Lots of movement and extra passes. Need to improve on offense.”