Players to Watch:
Brayden Stapleton, Deary
Jagger Hewett, Kendrick
Talon Alexander, Kendrick
Rylan Larson, Timberline
Chase Hunter, Timberline
Ryan Zenner, Nezperce
Lane Wassmuth, Highland
When Kendrick head coach Tim Silflow began thinking about the 2020-21 season, he saw a solid core of players returning for the Tigers as the team looked to compete for a spot in the 1A Division 2 State Tournament. But then tragedy struck the small town about 20 miles southeast of Moscow.
The community lost Kolby Anderson in an automobile accident over the summer and the loss has been felt both on the court and in the community.
“He was a good defender and was a guy we hoped to have battling under the basket for rebounds,” Silflow said of Anderson. “And just a kid that other kids enjoyed being around and looked up to. He had an amazing work ethic and a huge heart and desire to win.”
Silflow’s group welcomes back junior guard Talon Alexander, who missed all of last season after injuring his knee. He’ll be added to the core group which includes sophomore all-conference honoree Jagger Hewett and senior forward Rylan Hogan. Freshmen Dallas Morgan and Ty Koepp – who caught people’s attention as the starting quarterback for the state-semifinalist football team – should make an impact for the Tigers as well.
“We have been bottom of the pack for a couple years now and we are coming in this season with some good athletes,” Silflow said. “Athletes that are basketball players, and we’re getting kids out there that have experience.”
As for who he thinks fans could see at the top of the standings this season?
“Timberline only lost one player to graduation and are probably favorites to win our league,” he said. “I think how our team competes against them will be the telling sign of hour our season can go.”
The Spartans, coached by Jared Hunter, return a pair of all-conference guards in seniors Rylan Larson and Chase Hunter. Those two will be supported in the backcourt by junior Micah Nelson and sophomore Parker Brown with junior Jaron Christopherson lining up in the post. The team won 15 games last season, won the district championship, and broke a lengthy state-tournament drought but fell to North Gem and Carey in the 1A Division 2 state tournament. But the experience gained, the knowledge gained, and the returning players have people in Weippe – and around the White Pine – thinking more is to come.
“We struggled at State against faster teams,” Hunter noted. “We are working to improve our speed game this season.”
Both Silflow and Hunter mentioned Deary as a team to watch in 2020-21 as well. The Mustangs will be co-coached by Mike Morey and Jalen Kirk this season and are coming off an appearance in the state play-in game, meaning they barely missed reaching the state tournament themselves. Morey has been with the program for four years now while Kirk was on the floor the last time Deary reached the state tournament as a star guard for the 2017-18 team.
The two coaches anticipate the Mustangs starting five seniors this season: all-conference guard Brayden Stapleton, fellow guards London Kirk and Karson Ireland, and forwards Preston Johnston and Jon Beyer.
“They (the players) had a great attitude during the entire season and were pretty sound defensively,” Kirk said. “But we will look to pick up where they left off, lock in, and fix some bad habits.”
The Mustangs have a strong sophomore class as well, including Kaleb Rickard, Dale Fletcher, and Gus Rickert.
Both Highland of Craigmont and Nezperce will look to climb the standings behind the play of talented guards. Highland returns Lane Wassmuth, a senior who earned All-White Pine accolades last season. Nezperce will look to feed off the strong play of junior Ryan Zenner, but will also need to replace the all-league play of forward Brendan Nelson this season.
St. John Bosco, formerly known as Summit Academy, is back on the court for the first time in the past few years. Coaches Alex and Kim Frei saw ten players turn out for the team, including two Weckmans (Wyatt and Clay) as well as a pair of Wassmuths (Cody and Levi), from the Catholic school located in Cottonwood, one of the smallest high schools in Idaho.
Can Timberline repeat as district champions? The program has a chance to make a second straight trip to the state tournament after a 48-year absence but competition will be stout with Kendrick and Deary standing in the way, along with Highland, Nezperce, and St. John Bosco also working for a seat at the table as well.