The Treasure Valley lost its grip on the 5A classification last season, allowing an outside team (Post Falls) to win state for the first time since 2010 and failing to qualify a team for the championship for the first time since 2009.
But with loaded lineups at Rocky Mountain and Borah, and an upstart squad at Centennial, the 5A Southern Idaho Conference should rejoin the title hunt this season.
Rocky Mountain and Borah tied for the top spot in a preseason coaches’ poll, but Borah holds the early advantage as the Grizzlies battle early-season injuries.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Kolby Lee, jr., C, Rocky Mountain
Rocky Mountain coach Dane Roy said the 6-foot-10 junior took a huge step in the offseason, becoming even quicker, stronger and more explosive after averaging 13.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks as a sophomore. That’s drawn the attention of college recruiters as Lee holds offers from Boise State, Utah State and Portland. “(He’s a) true back-to-the-basket post that has the ability to step outside and hurt you as well,” Eagle coach Alex Wells said. “Kolby is an unselfish player that understands the game very well.” But a lingering foot injury has sidelined him for Rocky Mountain’s first two games.
Coach: Manny Varela, first season
Last year: 12-14, 8-8 5A SIC
Returning starters: Evan Henning, sr., W
Breakdown: Henning (11.7 ppg, 5.6 rebounds in ’14-’15) gives the Braves an offensive piece to build around. But Varela said he’s focusing his efforts on the defense after Boise surrendered 56.7 points per game last year, third most in the league. Varela will bring over the man-to-man principles he learned as the Borah head JV coach the past six years as Boise tries to qualify for its first state tournament since 1997.
Coach: Cary Cada, 22nd season
Last year: 20-8, 13-3 5A SIC
Returning starters: Rylan Bergersen, sr., G; DeAndre Jones, sr., PG; Mark Jerome, sr., G; Jake Paulin, sr., F; Max Reitman, jr., G
Breakdown: After losing only two seniors, Borah returns the most talent in the conference. Bergersen (17.4 ppg, 6.4 rebounds) and Jones (12.8 ppg, 6.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds) both earned first-team all-conference honors last year, and Bergersen was a first-team All-Idaho pick. Both can take over a game. But Cada said he’ll lean on his defense, which gave up 45.1 points per game last year, second lowest in the league.
Coach: Scott Moore, first season
Last year: 19-7, 12-4 5A SIC
Returning starters: Harrison Ashby, jr., W; Cameron Daron, sr., W; Justin Saunders, jr., G
Breakdown: Moore moves from Vallivue, where he led the Falcons the past five years, to Capital after Paul Rush became an assistant at Northwest Nazarene. Capital led the 5A SIC in scoring defense the past two years. But Moore said that remains a concern early, especially defensive rebounding. Capital lost Talon Pinckney (transfer to Centennial), but the Eagles played as many as five sophomores last year, giving the team plenty of returning talent.
Coach: Josh Aipperspach, first season
Last year: 10-13, 7-9 5A SIC
Returning starters: Taylor Wallick, sr., G; Kendall Williams, sr., G/F; Brooks King, jr., G; Delveion Jackson, jr., F
Breakdown: Aipperspach takes over for his father, Tom, after he led the program for 27 years. But Aipperspach comes with plenty of his own experience, coaching in the program the past 11 years, including the past seven as the JV head coach. He’ll have plenty to work with, including four returning starters. And the incoming transfer of Talon Pinckney, a second-team all-conference guard from Capital, could push the program to the next level.
Coach: Jeff Hoseley, second season
Last year: 0-22, 0-16 5A SIC
Returning starters: Nathan Rodriguez, sr., G
Breakdown: After a season-opening loss to Mountain Home on Tuesday, Columbia has lost 29 straight games. But Hoseley said offseason participation in the program has improved, as have the team’s athleticism and ball handling, which should cut down on turnovers. “We can see improvement entering the season,” Hoseley said.
Coach: Alex Wells, second season
Last year: 14-10, 10-6 5A SIC
Returning starters: Zac Furgerson, sr., F; Talmage Clark, sr., F
Breakdown: In a league short on size, Eagle will have an advantage with a front line featuring four players 6-foot-4 or taller. Wells said the Mustangs have grasped his system better in Year 2. But with only two returning players from last season, Eagle will have plenty of adjusting to do on the fly. “Early on, we will have to adapt to the speed and competition level of varsity basketball,” Wells said.
Coach: Mike Chatterton, first season
Last year: 11-11, 8-8 5A SIC
Returning starters: Kyler Harmon, sr., G
Breakdown: Chatterton said a roster loaded with guards should prove quick enough and deadly enough as shooters to give defenses troubles. But the first-year coach doesn’t have much size to work with, forcing the Warriors to rely on other means to guard the basket. “We will need to improve our team toughness to be a better rebounding and defensive team,” Chatterton said.
MOUNTAIN VIEW MAVERICKS
Coach: Jon Nettleton, 11th season
Last year: 8-14, 6-10 5A SIC
Returning starters: Cam Howard, jr., G; Damen Thacker, sr., G
Breakdown: Howard (11 ppg, 2.7 rebounds) and Thacker (11 ppg, 2 assists, 2 steals) lead a guard-heavy roster that will allow the Mavericks to ratchet up the pressure in the halfcourt. Nettleton knows a lack of size could hurt them, but not if the bevy of quicker guards around the perimeter can continually deny entry passes into the paint.
Coach: Trevor Morris, second season
Last year: 13-14, 6-10 5A SIC
Returning starters: Kooper Wilcox, sr., PG; Rob Davenport, sr., F; Riley Brown, sr., F
Breakdown: Nampa lost its top two scorers (JD Schutt and Blaine Roberts) after finishing 10th in the regular season and making a surprise run to state last year. But Wilcox and Davenport are entering their third years as starters, and Morris said his team has more depth this season. “We have a mature group of seniors that have a great feel for what we are trying to accomplish,” Morris said.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRIZZLIES
Coach: Dane Roy, fifth season
Last year: 21-6, 11-5 5A SIC
Returning starters: Kolby Lee, jr., C; Jacob Erickson, jr., W
Breakdown: The defending district and state consolation champs start the season in a hole with injuries to Lee (foot) and Erickson (knee). “I thought they’d be more short-term (injuries),” Roy said. “But it’s kind of up in the air how much pain they can take or how they’re feeling day to day.” When healthy, Rocky Mountain features a dangerous mix and shooters and size. But Roy said the defense still has a long way to go.
Coach: Bruce Logsdon, third season
Last year: 20-6, 13-3 5A SIC
Returning starters: None
Breakdown: The Wolves lost nine seniors who led Timberline to a regular-season title and the state tournament. Senior guard Brock Rice (5 ppg) is the only returning player that saw significant minutes last season. But Rice, the son of Boise State coach Leon Rice, has already erupted for 31 points in a game, and Logsdon said the team features a strong mix of shooting and rebounding.
Coach: Ryan Lundgren, first season
Last year: 2-20, 2-14 5A SIC
Returning starters: Tyas Kitchen, jr., F; Landon Cain, jr., F; Jordan Moran, jr., G
Breakdown: Lundgren, an assistant at Boise State the past four seasons, knows any turnaround at Vallivue revolves around its defense. The Falcons allowed a league-high 67.4 points per game two years ago and 60.6 last year, second most in the conference. He said Vallivue will play small and try to outrun bigger teams. “Vallivue has a storied basketball tradition, and we are going to restore that winning culture in Caldwell, Idaho, again — starting this season,” Lundgren said.
Preseason coaches’ poll
Team (1st-place votes)
t-1. Borah (5)
t-1. Rocky Mountain (5)
3. Centennial (2)
7. Mountain View