UIC boys’ basketball race could be wide open

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The Upper Iowa Conference basketball race could be nearly anybody’s to take this year.
With top finishers MFL MarMac, Clayton Ridge and North Fayette having suffered heavy graduation losses (and Edgewood-Colesburg having left the league), teams like Turkey Valley, Central and Postville, which return players from teams that finished mid-pack last year, could find themselves in the mix for the league title.
The information below was compiled from QuikStatsIowa.com.
 
Central
2016-17 Record — 10-14 Overall (8-7, sixth place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Noah Erickson (Sr., 10.5 PPG, 33 steals); Ben Kelly (Sr., 7.4 PPG, 51 assists, 36 steals); Josh Cummer (Sr., 4.1 PPG, 148 rebounds).
Outlook — The Warriors return seven of their nine regulars from a team that finished 10-14 a year ago. Seniors Noah Erickson (10.5 points per game) and Ben Kelly (7.5 PPG) were the team’s top two scorers a year ago while senior Josh Cummer was the team’s top rebounder.
 
Clayton Ridge
2016-17 Record — 16-9 Overall (10-4, third place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Mason Reimer (Jr., 4.0 PPG); Chance White (Jr., 2.9 PPG).
Outlook — The Eagles look to rebuild after graduating their top four scorers from a team that finished 16-9 last year. Juniors Mason Reimer and Chance White are the top returnees. All told, returning players averaged a combined 8.6 points per contest last year.
 
Kee High
2016-17 Record — 4-17 Overall (4-11, eighth place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Eric Rudd (Sr., 4.6 PPG, 86 rebounds); Brock Flack (Sr., 3.1 PPG); Kyle Hitchins (Sr., 2.5 PPG)
Outlook — The Kee Hawks will look for younger players to step up after graduating five of their top six scorers from a team that won just four games last year. Just one player who averaged more than three points per game returns, senior Eric Rudd, who put in 4.6 despite shooting a paltry 34 percent from the free-throw line and 19 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
 
MFL MarMac
2016-17 Record — 17-6 Overall (12-2, first place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Mason Hertrampf (Sr., 11.6 PPG, 64 assists, 33 steals, 84 rebounds); Levi Ferguson (Sr., 3.8 PPG).
Outlook — The Bulldogs suffered heavy graduation losses from a team that won the Upper Iowa Conference championship a year ago. Gone are the league’s top scorer from a year ago, Tristen Kautman, as well as the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder, Cade Kuenster. Seniors Mason Hertrampf and Levi Ferguson are the lone returnees, with Hertrampf having averaged 11.6 points per contest while dishing out 64 assists and ranking second in the league with 55 3-pointers. Ferguson averaged 3.8 points per game.
 
North Fayette Valley
2016-17 Record — 11-11 Overall (10-4, third place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Brooks Hovden (Jr., 3.8 PPG); Bryce Messler (Jr., 3.2 PPG).
Outlook — The Tigerhawks will have a lot of new faces in their lineup this year. The team’s top six scorers graduated, including top scorer Spencer Heyer. Juniors Brooks Hovden and Bryce Messler are the team’s top returnees, though both averaged less than four points per contest.
 
Postville
2016-17 Record — 11-11 Overall (7-8, seventh place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Blake Wettleson (Sr., 13.1 PPG, 32 steals, 135 rebounds); Owen Jacobson (Sr., 11.8 PPG, 55 assists, 53 steals, 99 rebounds); Jacob Steffans (Sr., 7.4 PPG, 37 steals, 95 rebounds).
Outlook — The Pirates return their top three scorers from a team that finished 11-11 overall last year. Senior Blake Wettleson was the team’s top scorer and rebounder last year while seniors Owen Jacobson and Jacob Steffans ranked second and third, respectively. Senior Avery Enyart and junior Harrison Denning also return after seeing action in every game last year.
 
South Winneshiek
2016-17 Record — 6-17 Overall (4-11, eighth place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Levi Lukes (Jr., 13.6 PPG, 31 steals); Hunter Todd (Sr., 8.7 PPG, 88 assists, 55 steals); Cole Klimesh (Jr., 8.2 PPG, 117 rebounds); Brennan Holthaus (Sr., 5.6 PPG, 90 rebounds).
Outlook — The Warriors return four of their top six scorers from a team that finished 6-17 last year. Junior Levi Lukes was the team’s lone double-digit scorer last year with 13.6 points per game while Hunter Todd averaged 8.7 points and Cole Klimesh 8.2 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds.
 
Starmont
2016-17 Record — 4-17 Overall (4-11, eighth place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Caleb Koch (Sr., 10.5 PPG, 98 rebounds, 20 blocks); Gabe Peterman (Jr., 10.0 PPG, 180 rebounds); Quinn O’Brien (Sr., 7.2 PPG, 49 assists, 30 steals); Michael Conduff (Sr., 4.2 PPG, 79 rebounds).
Outlook — The Stars return four of their top five scorers from a team that finished 4-17 last year. Senior Caleb Koch averaged a team-high 10.5 points per game while junior Gabe Peterman averaged 10 points and a conference-leading 8.6 rebounds per contest. Also back are seniors Quinn O’Brien and Michael Conduff.
 
Turkey Valley
2016-17 Record — 14-9 Overall (10-5, fifth place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Ethan Leibold (Soph., 10.0 PPG, 31 assists, 129 rebounds); Evan Drilling (Sr., 9.3 PPG, 65 assists, 37 steals); Levi Izer (Sr., 8.5 PPG, 34 assists, 38 steals); Keegan Balk (Soph., 7.1 PPG, 31 assists); Luke Anderson (Sr., 3.2 PPG, 88 rebounds).
Outlook — The Trojans return nine of 11 regulars, including their top four scorers, from a team that placed fifth overall in the conference. Ethan Leibold led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman while seniors Evan Drilling and Levi Izer averaged 9.3 and 8.8 points per contest last year and sophomore Keegan Balk averaged 7.1.
 
West Central
2016-17 Record — 1-20 Overall (0-15, 11th place in Upper Iowa Conference)
Key Returnees — Collin Kime (Sr., 6.4 PPG, 76 rebounds); Adam Dolf (Jr., 4.4 PPG, 72 rebounds); Decker Wirtz (Jr., 2.4 PPG, 84 rebounds).
Outlook — The Blue Devils return six regulars from a team that won just one game a year ago. Top returning scorer Collin Kime ranked third on the team with 6.4 points per game last year while Adam Dolf averaged 4.4.