The cracks started to appear last season.
Traditional powers Borah, Capital and Skyview missed the boys basketball state tournaments, replaced by underdogs such as Boise, Mountain View and Vallivue. But this winter, get ready for another shakeup in the 5A and 4A Southern Idaho Conferences.
Boise, picked as the 5A SIC preseason favorite, has ditched the upstart status and is looking for its first district title since 1990. Defending district and state champion Rocky Mountain will chase the Braves to start the year, according to the league’s coaches.
And in 4A, two-time defending district champ Bishop Kelly will battle heavy graduation losses, with Skyview and Vallivue itching to knock off the Knights.
So who’s going to lift a trophy in March? And who are the players that will lead them there?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Paul Pennington, PG, Boise
Coaches throughout the 5A SIC said they were amazed by the competitive fire of the 5-foot-10 senior point guard, who poured in 19.9 points and 5.2 assists per game last season to earn second-team All-Idaho honors. Few are as dangerous or creative with the ball in their hand.
“(He’s a) great leader and does all the things you need to do to be an impact player,” Borah coach Jeremy Dennis said. “(His) intangibles are through the roof.”
Ellis Magnuson, PG, Borah
The 6-1 junior enters his third year on varsity. He’ll have his hand in everything the Lions do this winter, distributing the ball, defending and scoring when needed to. He averaged 13.8 points, 4.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals last season to earn second-team all-conference honors.
“He has been to state multiple times, and he is a true winner,” Boise coach Manny Varela said. “He drives the Borah basketball program.”
Jalen Galloway, W, Mountain View
One of the 5A SIC’s leading scorers (13.7 ppg) and rebounders (8.4) last season returns for his senior year looking for more. The 6-foot-7 College of Idaho commit has the length and strength to dominate inside the paint. But he also can stretch defenses with his range.
“He has a great motor and has developed his outside game,” Meridian coach Jeff Sanor said. “He has become a serious threat from the 3-point line.”
Tyler O’Donnell, G, Rocky Mountain
The 6-5 senior flew under the radar last year as the third option on the Grizzlies. But the dead-eye shooter (10.7 ppg, 45 percent on 3-pointers) steps into a headlining role this winter. His size, strength, range and heady game will give opposing coaches headaches all season.
“(He’s a) tough matchup for a big,” Mountain View coach Jon Nettleton said. “(He’s) very athletic and can score from anywhere.”
Max Rice, G, Bishop Kelly
The son of Boise State coach Leon Rice made his future official earlier this month, signing with the Broncos. The 6-4, two-time first-team All-Idaho pick has dominated the league for four years now. His range and pure shooting allowed him to rack up 18.5 points a game last year, but he’s not just a shooter. He also added 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.9 assists a game.
“Max can score as soon as he comes across the half-court line,” Ridgevue coach Neil Stutzman said. “He plays very level-headed and does a great job of scoring when his team needs points.”
Cayden Wright, G, Skyview
A reigning first-team All-4A SIC pick , the senior shooting guard can score in a bevy of ways — from the 3-point line, with a midrange jumper or by getting to the rim. He averaged 11.1 points per game last season while locking up with the opponent’s top perimeter scoring option.
“(He’s a) great lead guard, works hard to get his teammates involved, an excellent shooter and can finish at the rim,” Middleton coach Alex Maxwell said.
Steele Hadlock, G, Vallivue
The 6-1 senior served as a potent specialist last season, draining 36 percent of his 3-pointers for 8.5 points per game. He’ll see a lot more shots this season, and his offseason work on rounding out his game makes him a candidate for a breakout season.
“Steele is a flat-out shooter,” Caldwell coach Trent Harrison said. “With any space, he will hit from anywhere. He reads screens very well and will get a lot of them, so defending him will be a challenge.”
5A SIC BREAKDOWN
Boise broke through last season, qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 1997. With a loaded lineup returning, the Braves are looking to take the next step as the preseason conference favorites.
Pennington leads the group after earning first-team all-league honors last season. His breakneck pace sets the tone for the Braves offensively, and he leads one of the state’s most stingy defenses.
Boise’s second-leading scorer, senior wing Lucas Centeno (10.6 ppg, 6.3 rebounds), and Emmett Plummer (7.1 ppg) also return, keeping defenses from scheming up ways to slow Pennington.
Graduation hit reigning state and district champ Rocky Mountain hard with the departure of BYU signee and Gatorade Player of the Year Kolby Lee, as well as first-team All-Idaho point guard Kobe Terashima. But the Grizzlies remain an athletic and versatile bunch with two returning starters in Donnell and Hunter Ranstrom. A third, Garrett Hall, is out with a broken foot.
Borah saw its state tournament streak snapped at eight years last season. But a youth movement has paid off with experienced players returning at every position, including second-team all-conference guard Magnuson and sophomore forward Austin Bolt (7.6 ppg, 6.3 rebounds).
Mountain View returns only one starter, but second-team all-conference pick Jalen Galloway gives the Mavericks an inside-outside threat to build around. How quickly the rest of a young lineup grows up will determine the Mavericks’ postseason fate.
4A SIC BREAKDOWN
Bishop Kelly and Skyview tied atop the preseason coaches’ poll, with both teams earning three first-place votes. The other two went to Vallivue, the reigning state runner-up, which isn’t far behind either program.
Rice returns for his fourth year in the starting lineup for Bishop Kelly. The reigning league player of the year will have to shoulder more responsibility this season as the only returning starter. But with point guard Rex Irby and Rice teaming up, expect BK to continue to ramp up the pressure and play in the full court.
Former perennial power Skyview seeks to return to state after a three-year absence. The Hawks bring back four starters and 10 seniors to end that skid, including five who are entering their third or fourth year on varsity. That depth and experience put Skyview out in front early in the season.
Vallivue has a bit of rebuilding to do with only Steele Hadlock returning to the lineup after starting 10 games last season. But his long-range shooting gives the Falcons a potent weapon in a five-guard lineup. And junior Amoro Lado started as a freshman before sitting out most of his sophomore year fighting grades. He erupted at the state tournament, and his sky-high athleticism will pose matchup problems night in and night out.