4A Southern Idaho Conference
Written by: Sven Alskog
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
2. Bishop Kelly
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tyler Robinett, Middleton
Cash Cowdery, Middleton
Tyler Medaris, Middleton
Nick Wolter, Bishop Kelly
Donovan Estrada, Nampa
Sean Austin, Kuna
Matthew Flake, Ridgevue
Mike Fitts, Vallivue
Middleton is the preseason favorite of the coaches in the 4A SIC this season, with the Vikings looking primed for a run come state tournament time.
After starting a young group a year ago, Middleton should benefit from the experience gained by that unit, which will lead to more depth on the bench.
“We started five underclassmen from about halfway into the season until the end of the year,” said Middleton head coach Andy Harrington. “We will have a ton of experience back with a lot more depth coming off the bench. Last year, offensively, we played slow and forced the ball inside. We didn’t want to get into an up and down game with the teams in our league. Defensively, we tried to keep opponents in front of us. This year I expect to push the pace for 32 minutes and pressure teams on defense. Towards the end of the year we were playing six - maybe seven - guys a game. This year I want to develop a rotation of 10 guys.”
College of Idaho commit Tyler Robinett leads the way for the Vikings, with returners Cash Cowdery and Sy Eaton a couple of the key pieces on the guard line.
“I am really excited to see how a lot of our younger guys grow,” Harrington said. “We know what we have coming back in our four returnees, but I am excited to see our younger guys compete. Our JV group went 21-3 last year and won the district championship, and we added Casey Wright from Skyview High School, who we expect to compete for a starting spot. Our key players will be Tyler Robinett, Tyler Medaris, who is going to surprise a ton of people, Cash Cowdery and Sy Eaton. We are very deep though and will play 10 guys who are fairly interchangeable.”
That depth should allow Middleton to push the pace the way that the team wants to on the offensive side of the floor, while applying half court pressure on the ball defensively.
Bishop Kelly was picked by the coaches to finish second in the conference, but will be without Matt Heffner for at least a large portion of the season with an ACL injury.
Fortunately for the Knights, Honorable Mention All-SIC guard Nick Wolter returns to pace the scoring punch. Johvan Dillon, Jack Grubb and Aidan McGarvin will each see plenty of opportunities on the floor as well.
“Our group mentality and togetherness is really good and we’ve had a great offseason,” said Bishop Kelly head coach Ryan Kerns. “I’m looking forward to seeing that play out.”
After winning a championship in football this season, Kuna quarterback Sean Austin transitions into basketball season, where he is expected to be one of the premier playmakers in the conference.
“Sean is the most dynamic guard in our league,” Harrington added.
The Kavemen were picked third by the coaches in the preseason poll.
“I really like how hard my team works and how coachable they are,” said Kuna head coach Pete Longgood. “This team is going to be very fast and aggressive defensively. We need to improve our offensive efficiency and our overall rebounding.”
Another standout guard on the basketball floor who stood out at the quarterback position during football season is Nampa guard Donovan Estrada.
“Donovan is a veteran that is constantly creating havoc,” Harrington said. “He is special when he is on defense shooting the passing lanes.”
Other coaches in the SIC expect the Bulldogs to be a tough out once again this year.
“I feel Nampa could surprise some people this year,” said Vallivue head coach Mario Betancourt. “Donovan Estrada is a phenomenal athlete who sees the court as good as anyone in the state. With a couple returners from last year’s team, I could see them surprising the league.”
Betancourt takes over for Ryan Lundgren, who has moved on to coach at the College of Southern Idaho.
Vallivue has to fill the scoring shoes of Amoro Lado, the shooting ability of Gabe Gallegos and the defensive toughness of Jayden Moran this year.
Mike Fitts and Max Villareal will each see increased roles, along with a handful of other players for a team that lost a large portion of its offensive production.
“This will definitely be a different team from a year ago,” Betancourt said. “I believe the scoring will be more balanced by having multiple players in double figures. We are going to continue to shoot the ball like we did last year. We have been very fortunate here at Vallivue to have great basketball players who want to get better every day. I definitely see similarities in both groups.”
The team gets along well, something which should help ease the transition to a new head coach.
“I am excited about our team chemistry,” Betancourt said. “These guys have been putting in work day in and day out to better their games. Players are stepping up and holding each other accountable. As a head coach you always wonder who is going to step up and become the leader, but we have a good group of leaders on our team making it exciting for this season.”
Brooks Demijan takes over as the head coach of Columbia, which was picked sixth in the preseason poll.
The Wildcats will be without scoring guard Jake Poulton, forward Tripp Pugmire and the talented Jaylen Alexander this year, leaving the new coach with a much different looking squad.
While Columbia will have a new looking team, Ridgevue expects to benefit from returning multiple key contributors including Honorable Mention All-SIC forward Matthew Flake and guards Issas Albor and Hunter Holt.
“This team should be one of our most experienced teams, with many of the returners playing solid minutes over the last two seasons,” said Ridgevue head coach Neil Stutzman. “We need a couple young players to come in and add some depth. We have both of our leading scorers back. Both have been on the team since their ninth-grade year, which gives us a lot of experience from two returning starters.”
Winning the battle on the glass is important for the Warhawks.
“We need to be able to rebound and block out well,” Stutzman said. “We are undersized and will need to limit opponents to one possession. We will try to push the pace and run the floor well so that we are not always defending in the half court.”
Emmett may look as different as any team this year without Brett Kern on the inside to make things difficult for opponents. The Huskies are expected to be led by returners Tanner Wilkerson, Harry Mumford and Riley Weekes. Caden Young and Bryr Walker are up from JV and will also see plenty of opportunities.
“I am most excited to see who is going to score for us,” said Emmett head coach Dave Dust. “We will play fast and hard on both ends.”
Caldwell is the third 4A SIC team with a new head coach this season, with Derrick Boles taking over. The Cougars were picked ninth in the preseason poll and will be looking for gradual improvement as the year goes on.
Coming together as a team early in the campaign and creating a winning culture is the priority from the start.
“Chemistry is our biggest challenge,” Boles said. “We are looking forward to the journey.”
Ian Phillips and Xavier Brown are a couple of the players to watch for the Cougars.