1AD1 Western Idaho Conference
Written by: Sven Alskog
1. Liberty Charter
4. Greenleaf Friends
7. Victory Charter
8. Idaho City
9. North Star Charter
11. Compass Charter
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Daniel Colbert, Liberty Charter
Michael Corkish, Liberty Charter
Cole Hinnenkamp, Liberty Charter
Paul Yenor, Ambrose
Josh Nipper, Ambrose
Garrett Sedlacek, Greenleaf Friends
Noah Saunders, North Star Charter
Liberty Charter and Ambrose look like the teams to beat this year in the 1AD1 Western Idaho Conference, with strong returners on the floor for each.
The Patriots bring back do-everything forward Cole Hinnenkamp, an explosive playmaker on the offensive side of the floor who has a combination of both length and ball-handling ability to make things difficult for opponents.
Hinnenkamp is joined by Daniel Colbert, Michael Corkish and a host of other returners to give Liberty Charter high expectations again entering the year.
Challenging Seth Stallcop’s team will be Ambrose, which welcomes in new head coach Ken Sugarman to the sideline. Sugarman replaces Jay Hughes, who had immense success in the early years of the program for the Archers.
All-State performer and leading scorer Ethan Christianson did graduate however, creating a scoring gap that will need to be filled by committee, with Paul Yenor and Josh Nipper some of the returners to watch along with Josh Johnson and Ben Blythe.
Also in place is an exciting influx of talent including freshmen guards Johnny Sugarman and Hudson Hughes and forwards Mitchell Boeck and Bradley Hansell.
“We are not as veteran, but [have] deeper talent with a strong freshman class,” said Coach Sugarman. “Out of our 18 players on varsity and JV, 13 are freshmen and sophomores, with great chemistry and desire to learn.”
Expect a good pace out of the Archers, with an ability to play both inside and outside.
Beyond the obvious strengths that Liberty Charter and Ambrose have in place, the rest of the conference is much less clear.
Multiple teams showed flashes a year ago, but many of those same programs lost key talent all over the floor, so catching up to the top of the pack may prove challenging.
Wilder and Greenleaf Friends appear to be a couple of the teams that have a shot at making a run to state.
After playing for the Wilder football team that went to the state semifinals as a member of the co-op, Garrett Sedlacek heads into the gym ready to suit up for the Greenleaf basketball program, where he is a student.
Sedlacek was a Second Team All-Conference selection on the hardwood last year and is joined by twin brother Colton in the backcourt to create a dangerous tandem. Forward James Hazen and guard Daniel Dixon also return for the Grizzlies, who appear to have good depth.
“We have a lot more guys coming out than in years past and it will greatly help our program. We also have a solid group of seniors that are hungry to build off of the success we had last year. We are very similar to the team we had last year, but we have a big group of very talented freshmen coming into the program and it will be exciting to see how they develop,” said Greenleaf Friends head coach Tyler Hoaglun.
Offensively the team will play patient and let things develop, with an aggressive focus on the other side of the floor.
“Relentless ball pressure. Our team understands what we need to do this year to be successful. The guys know their roles and they do their role well. To be successful this season we just need to keep our calm and not force plays,” added Hoaglun.
Notus, Riverstone and Victory Charter all have some pieces that could make a run during the district tournament, with some mystery surrounding the Pirates in particular after losses of plenty of key contributors to graduation.
Idaho City, North Star Charter, Rimrock and Compass Charter were selected in the eight through 11 spots in the preseason coaches poll.
North Star Charter is led by Honorable Mention All-Conference performer Noah Saunders.
The Huskies are excited to be in year two of the new coaching staff, something which should lead to growth throughout the season.
“Experience matters. We, me included, were fairly new to this last year. This year we have a year under our belt,” said North Star Charter head coach Adam Rankin. “I am an aggressive coach. I want my kids to be aggressive.”
Other coaches think there will be some progress for the program this year as well.
“They were young last year but very athletic,” said Hoaglun.
With Liberty Charter and Ambrose established as the favorites, it should be interesting to see who else emerges from the pack come the end of the season.