5A Southern Idaho Conference
Written by: Sven Alskog
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Rocky Mountain
6. Mountain View
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Austin Bolt, Borah
Briggs Ranstrom, Rocky Mountain
Townsend Tripple, Rocky Mountain
Whitt Miller, Boise
Tanner Hayhurst, Eagle
Donovan Sanor, Meridian
Josh Gillespie, Mountain View
Aiden Fox, Capital
Garrett Cleverley, Centennial
Nick Zenner, Timberline
Led by Idaho State commit Briggs Ranstrom, Rocky Mountain enters the new season as the favorite of the coaches in the 5A SIC preseason poll.
The Grizzlies also return Townsend Tripple, a capable shooter in the mid-range game who can extend out beyond the 3-point line or go to work on the interior when needed. The 6-foot-7 forward can be a mismatch for opponents.
“Defensively, we are long and athletic and should make it difficult to score,” said Rocky Mountain head coach Dane Roy. “We should also have solid depth and can play fast. We will definitely need to work on our chemistry with the loss of our senior leaders. We lost seven seniors from last year’s team who gave us great depth. It will be exciting to see who will step up to help our returning guys.”
Rocky will miss the toughness and leadership of Brayden Hamilton, but should have plenty of capable options available to step up including Cooper Frith, Straton Rogers and Jaden Hansen.
“We will again be focused on being really good defensively, which was our strength last year,” Roy said. “Our toughness and ability to find ways to win is our big unknown.”
Another team that could contend for a conference championship is Meridian.
The Warriors have quality on the outside with Second Team All-SIC guard Donovan Sanor back and will hope for a fully healthy season for quality big man Brody Rowbury inside.
“I am excited to watch our players develop and buy into our basketball philosophies,” said Meridian head coach Jeff Sanor. “All of our guys have worked hard in the offseason and I am looking forward to watching it pay off this year. Collectively we will be older than we were last year, but younger from a varsity experience standpoint. I feel we will be more athletic than we were a season ago and have a broader skill set.”
Junior point guard McKay Anderson and a host of others should help allow Meridian to run.
“We like to play fast and we like to shoot,” Sanor said. “We will always look for matchup advantages and for ways to disrupt the game on defense.”
After finishing as the state champions last year, Borah has to replace do-everything point guard Ellis Magnuson and fellow graduates DeVaughn Williams, Biggie Bergersen and Kyler Castro.
Fortunately for the Lions, Austin Bolt is back to provide leadership and toughness on both sides of the floor.
“I am excited to see where this team goes this year,” said Borah head coach Jeremy Dennis. “Some of the younger guys will now be the guys expected to make plays and that is exciting. We have confidence in them and expect them to embrace their new roles.”
Senior guard Isaac Dewberry, sophomore point guard Ray Bergersen and JV call-ups Zach Garey and Tanner Nett are expected to be impact performers.
“We will try and push the pace and play good defense,” Dennis said. “It will be important to share the basketball and limit turnovers in order to get to where we want this year. Defense will need to be a staple for success.”
Eagle will have a new head coach in Dennis Kerfoot, who will benefit from the explosiveness of Tanner Hayhurst, who can score with the best of them in the state.
“They have a lot of guys back from a state qualifying team,” Roy said.
“Tanner Hayhurst continues to grow as a player and should have a very good year,” added Sanor.
The defensive side of the ball is a focus area for the new leader on the sideline.
"We want to push the ball in transition, but that won't happen if we don't play good defense," Kerfoot said. "Our team defense is a work in progress."
Boise loses the dynamic duo of Emmett Plummer and Cole Alton, but should remain strong thanks to a quality backcourt that includes Max Woodall, Whitt Miller, Jack Payne and Vince McFarland.
“I am excited that this is a player-led team,” said Boise head coach Manny Varela. “The players have focused on improving themselves on and off the court. Our players have held each other to high standards and have maintained a growth mindset.”
For the Brave, success will start on the defensive end.
“We want to be gritty on the defensive end,” Varela said. “We believe that talent, togetherness, and toughness is core to our program. We want to make every play difficult for the opposition on defense, and offensively we want to work together to find the highest percentage shot. We want to improve on our selflessness. We will focus on sharing the ball on offense so that we can find high percentage shots.”
In an always deep conference, Mountain View is one of the teams that always seems to make a run late in the season when it matters most, something which the Mavericks are capable of once again this year.
“We will get after it defensively man-to-man,” said Mountain View head coach Jon Nettleton. “We just need time to gel and get better. We want to be playing our best basketball by the district tourney.”
Junior Josh Gillespie and sophomore Leyton Smithson are the only familiar faces for the Mavericks, meaning plenty of opportunities will exist to get involved for new pieces.
Entering the second year under a new coaching staff, Timberline is expected to show continued improvement throughout the season.
Guards Nick Zenner and Jake Stranzl team with forward Jake Wessels as key pieces for the Wolves.
“We have seen a ton of growth and a great deal of commitment from this group since our last game in the 2018-19 season,” said Timberline head coach Travis Noble. “It is a very unselfish and coachable group that seems to play for the guy next to them.”
Wade Zenner, Cooper Lumsden and Garret Long are players that Noble mentioned as impact newcomers.
“We have had several players who have put in a ton of work throughout the offseason and have improved their skill set,” Noble added. “Offensively, we should see an improvement from last season, as we have more options and weapons.”
The other side of the floor is the strength for Timberline however.
“Defensively will be where we hang our hat,” Noble said. “Being tough, hard-nosed, prepared and competing every possession. We were good on the defensive end last season. Offensively, we will work for good, open, team shots. We will be disciplined and work to put defenses in tough situations to defend. This is our second year in the same program and last season we went 2-5 in overtime games and had a hard time closing out opponents. Hopefully with it being year two we can pull out a few more of those close games to help us out.”
A deep roster has Centennial hoping to build on an 11-11 mark last year.
“I believe we will be a very deep team and chemistry will be huge for this team,” said Centennial head coach Josh Aipperspach. “Everyone on this team likes each other and plays hard for each other. We will play all 94 feet all game, as we will be very deep and can play this way. This team has a chance to be the best defensive team I’ve had at CHS. The offense will be a work in progress. We have a long way to go on the offensive end of the floor.”
Senior point guard Garrett Cleverley is back for the Patriots along with forwards Jacob Bush, Keaton Gamble and Luke Schabot, who will benefit from new additions Lukas Broadsword and Tyson Leigh.
Capital had an incredible run to the state tournament a year ago after finishing in a tie for eighth in the regular season SIC standings. The Eagles lost 10 seniors from that team, including All-SIC guards Andre Treadwell, Kade Sorenson and Kobe Niehoff.
“We have some guys that played significant minutes last year who will be asked to take on a bigger role this year,” said Capital head coach Scott Moore. “Aiden Fox, Jonah Blackham and Aidan Gray are those guys and they will take on an increased responsibility to lead us on both ends of the floor.”
As always, expect a hard-working group to take the floor on a nightly basis for the Eagles.
“We want to bring a toughness to the defensive side of the ball and establish a gritty style of play, Moore said. “Offensively, we’ll look to push the ball and create opportunities for our scorers. We will look to improve throughout the season and the goal will be to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year.”
Skyview was picked 10th in the preseason coaches poll after winning four games last season.
"Last year we only had one returning player," said Skyview head coach Aaron Sanders. "This year we have a lot of guys coming back. Also, last year we tried to run our offense through a couple players; this year we will be a lot more balanced."
Nathaniel Vasquez and Mason Perrine are a couple of the key pieces to watch for the Hawks.
"Our defensive intensity and team chemistry have improved a ton since last season," Sanders said. "We have players buying in to playing as hard as they can for shorter stretches and then trusting their teammates to come in and play just as hard."