By Ryan Murken Your Prep Sports
December is still a few days away and the weather feels more like football than basketball but make no mistake hoops season is here.
Girls basketball teams across the state opened play last week and this week the boys teams get into the swing of things.
After two weeks of practices and scrimmages games become official this week with the state tournament looming just three months away.
Here are five things to watch as the boys basketball season gets underway.
Back on Top
West High has posted a 46-6 record and reached the state semifinals each of the past two seasons, notching a runner-up finish in 4A last season.
For nearly any program in the state that is an exceptional run and while West High has enjoyed the success the Trojans want much more.
West High won three straight titles while going 75-3 from 2012 to 2014 and have their sights set on a fourth title in the past six years this season.
The Trojans again have the firepower to do it with three starters, led by all-staters Connor McCaffery and Devontae Lane returning from last year’s team that went 21-5 and fell to West Des Moines Dowling 46-39 in the 4A title game.
Under New Leadership
There will be new faces on the sidelines at City High and Clear Creek Amana this season.
Derek Roberts takes over for legendary coach Don Showalter at City High after the Little Hawks posted their first winning season since 2008-2009 last year in the fourth season under Showalter.
Roberts, spent a year as an assistant coach to Showalter at Mid-Prairie in 2010 and made stops at Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Ankeny Centennial as a sophomore coach before leading Maquoketa to a 12-10 record last year in his first season as a head coach.
The Clinton native inherits a City High program that went 13-10 last year and tied for the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division title.
Clubb becomes the first new coach at Clear Creek Amana in more than two decades, taking over for long-time Clipper coach Steve Ottoson who retired at the end of last season after 21 seasons leading the program.
Ottoson won 194 games at Clear Creek Amana including a 12-11 mark last season that featured a spot in the district title game.
Clubb comes to Clear Creek Amana after winning 167 games in 11 seasons at North Tama.
Keeping it Going
As the postseason approached last February no one outside of Solon expected the Spartans to be a state tournament team.
Solon ended the regular season with nine straight losses and a 7-14 record but rattled off three straight wins to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2010.
The key for the Spartans and third-year head coach Jason Pershing this year is to pick up where they left off last season.
Solon has the personnel to do it.
The Spartans bring back three starters led by 6-foot-4 senior Jacob Coons and a pair of junior guards in Luke Ira and Ben Krutzfeldt who were tested during the postseason run last season.
Seniors like Sterling McIlravy and Zach Cusick should step into bigger roles as the Spartans look for their first winning season since 2013-2014.
Several area players are closing in on the 1,000-point milestone for their career led by the West High backcourt duo of Connor McCaffery and Devontae Lane.
An Iowa recruit, McCaffery needs just 131 points this season to crack 1,000 for his career while Lane needs 276 points to break triple digits.
West Branch senior Cooper Kabela averaged better than 17 points per game last season and needs 327 points in his final prep season to get to 1,000.
Chasing the Champs
West High has its sights set on a fourth title in six years.
To do that the Trojans will have to unseat reigning 4A champion West Des Moines Valley.
Other returning champions include Cedar Rapids Xavier (3A), Western Christian (2A) and South O’Brien.
The boys state tournament runs March 6-11 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.