Boys basketball in Nebraska tips off Thursday and World-Herald staff writer Stu Pospisil released his preseason top 10.
Here's a summary on each of those teams.
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Top 10/Class A
1. Millard North (16-8)
Never have expectations been so high for a team that fell short of the previous year’s Class A state tournament (on a miracle shot by Omaha Westside). Three Power Five-offer players — Stanford signee Max Murrell, junior guard Hunter Sallis (and he’s only a 16-year-old) and sophomore Jasen Green — and newcomer Jadin Johnson, a junior who was at Abraham Lincoln in Council Bluffs last year, are the reason.
2. Bellevue West (26-2)
There’s unfinished business for the Thunderbirds, who won 23 games in a row before falling in the state semifinals to Omaha Central. Back for Doug Woodard, who’s nine wins away from 600, are Wisconsin pledge Chucky Hepburn and seniors John Shanklin, Louis Fidler and David Nuor. Frankie Fidler, a 6-6 junior, holds a UNO offer. “We have more ways to score than in past years,’’ Woodard said.
3. Omaha South (21-6)
Last year’s state champions lost only one starter and return seniors Jay Saunders, Ty Griggs, Skyler Wilson and RaShawn McNeal Lee. Coach Bruce Chubick Sr. said the addition of 6-5 senior Kolbe Fox and sophomore Zion Bang-Hendon, who’s from Bellevue East, will help depth.
4. Omaha Central (22-6)
The Eagles’ backcourt is set with seniors Latrell Wrightsell Jr., Max Polk and Abe Hoskins. Tethloach Tut will take one forward spot and the other likely belongs to St. Cloud, Minnesota, transfer Deng Diew, a 6-7 senior. Coach Eric Behrens likes the coachability of a team that made the state finals last season.
5. Omaha Westside (19-6)
Small and quick will be these Warriors, who lost only one starter and return UNO signee Jadin Booth. He and PJ Ngambi are four-year starters, with Carl Brown, Chandler Meeks and sixth-man Reggie Thomas also back for coach Jim Simons. “Post defense and rebounding will be challenges,” he said.
6. Lincoln North Star (17-9)
The Navigators’ rating is wholly based on where they’re expected be once NU signee Donovan Williams and highly touted 6-7 freshman Brennon Clemmons Jr. are healthy and playing together in the second half of the season. Luke Juracek, Kwat Abdelkarim and Jared Lopez also return for coach Tony Quattrocchi.
7. Omaha Creighton Prep (22-5)
Northwest Missouri signee Spencer Schomers is the Junior Jays’ only returning starter. “We’re a very inexperienced team with tons of potential. This team is competitive and not afraid of competition,’’ coach Josh Luedtke said. “We can play up to 10 guys.”
8. Papillion-La Vista South (14-12)
Although senior point guard Jared Mattley is the only returning starter, coach Joel Hueser said the Titans have a high ceiling. “We will be long and skilled,’’ he said. While Lok Wur has moved on to Oregon, Danair Dempsey is a 6-6 junior forward from Wichita Heights in Kansas who will fill in.
9. Lincoln Pius X (16-9)
Last year’s Class B champions, who finished fourth in the final top 10, return seniors Kolbe Rada and Mitchell Sebek. “Developing the same attitude and competitiveness as last year’s group will be critical,’’ coach Brian Spicka said.
10. Kearney (20-6)
Back for the Bearcats are three-year starter Seth Stroh and two-year Colin Murray. Said coach Drake Beranek: “We will have kids in new roles, but all of them have had the opportunity to be a part of or see successful teams here. Hope our guys were paying attention to the habits needed.”
Bellevue East (6-17)
Returning starters: Joey Skoff, sr. Gage Dengel, sr. Coach Chad Mustard: “We should be as competitive as East has been in 11 years. Hoping to surprise some folks, but a lot will depend on our junior big man, Ater Lours (6-7).
Columbus (2-18 in Class B)
Returning starters: Blake Edzards, sr.; Landon Thompson, sr.; Garrett Esch, jr.; Ernest Hausmann, so. Coach Jimmy Motz: Seven of his 13 returners are sophomores. “Guard play will be the strength of this team.”
Elkhorn (11-12 in Class B)
Returning starters: Bryson Hochstein, sr.; Caden Schutte, sr.; Drew Christo, jr. Kyler Beekman, sr. Coach Benji Hoegh: “We have a good mix of returning experience and some newcomers who are eager to earn minutes. I’m excited to see the improvement we make throughout the year. Getting everybody on the train will be key.”
Elkhorn South (9-14)
Returning starters: Zach LaFave, sr.; Max Mosser, sr. Coach Nolan Reilly: “From top to bottom we will be more athletic. We have more multi-sport athletes who will helps us from a competitive, athletic and team mentality standpoint. Our bench will be deep.”
Returning starters: none. New coach Joe Tynon (from Nebraska City Lourdes): “With only two returning lettermen and adding a new coach, this team needs to attack the process.”
Grand Island (10-13)
Returning starters: Them Koang, sr.; Caleb Francl, sr.; Jayden Byabato, sr. Coach Jeremiah Slough: “Our team has a wealth of experience and will be good defensively. We hope to continue to grow offensively. We will look to our leading returning scorer (Koang) and (6-8 sophomore) Isaac Traudt to provide some firepower for us on that end of the floor.”
Returning starters: Ely Doble, sr.; Hershal Vuksich, sr.; Zach Wiese, sr.; Trevor Marshall, jr. Coach Brad Feekin: “We have a good group returning, but a very tough Metro schedule will challenge us early and often.”
Lincoln East (24-2)
Returning starters: none. Coach Jeff Campbell: “Lots of new faces with only two returning letter winners, Carter Glenn and Jett Janssen. These seniors have worked hard, stayed patient, been persistent and improved over their high school careers to earn the opportunity to compete at the varsity level.”
Lincoln High (14-10)
Returning starters: Jaxson Barber, sr. Coach Dan Noble: “This season begins with many new faces after losing nine seniors to graduation. The Links hope to make steady improvement as they gain experience.”
Lincoln Northeast (6-18)
Returning starters: Jacob Bard, sr.; Carson Busch, sr.; Reec Fuchs, sr. Pierce Bazil, jr.; Zachary Moerer, jr.; Connor Renard, jr. Coach Monte Ritchie: “Each new season brings a renewed sense of hope and excitement.”
Lincoln Southeast (4-20)
Returning starters: Max Renn, sr.; Ajantae Hogan, jr.; McGinness Schneider, jr. Gage Johnson, sr. Coach Jonah Bradley: “Our returning starters are poised to make a big impact. Ajantae is a versatile scoring threat.”
Lincoln Southwest (7-16)
Returning starters: none. Coach Alex Bahe: “We will be full of new faces. Brayton Christensen and Jayson Wakefield, the only senior letterwinners, will anchor a core of talented sophomores. Outside shooting, transition offense and a deep lineup of offensively talented players will be our strengths.”
Millard South (4-18)
Returning starters: Gage Stenger, so.; Jack Cooper, jr. Coach Tim Leuschen: “We have a number of young, talented players who have varsity experience. Our seniors have made big strides this offseason.”
Millard West (10-12)
Returning starters: Evan Meyersick, jr.; Zach Olson, sr.; Dalys Beanum, sr.; Dom Humm, jr. Coach Bill Morrison: “We will be very athletic. A lot of experience back and a lot of players who can play at the varsity level. Defense will be key to our success. Should be a pretty good team once we get football rust off.”
Returning starters: Cameron Eisenhauer, sr. Coach Tony Siske: “Many players are looking forward to their opportunity to play at the varsity level.”
North Platte (4-16)
Returning starters: Steven Garcia, sr. Coach Matt Kaminski: “We have a five outstanding senior leaders who have set the tone for our younger players. We’ll be an undersized team that will be scrappy and competitive.”
Omaha Benson (6-16)
Returning starters: Denim Johnson, jr.; Dylan Holston, sr.; Anthony Ignowski, sr.; Jalen Parmar-Watson, sr. Coach Tyrie Fant: “We look to continue building on the progress we have made in the summer and fall, being consistent, playing together and playing with purpose for 32 minutes.
Omaha Bryan (14-11)
Returning starters: none. Coach Terrence O’Donnell: “There is skill and talent but next to no experience. There is not a large margin for error. Interior defense and rebounding are areas that will have to be prioritized. If they develop the habits necessary to play for each other, there is offensive skill and ability.”
Omaha Burke (7-16)
Returning starters: David Moreano, sr.; Jaren Marshall, jr.; Greg Brown, jr. Coach is Kevin Kobs.
Omaha North (9-13)
Returning starters: Wal Chuol, sr.; Curtis Ogba, jr.; Keashaun Williams, so.; Evan Decker, sr. Coach Thomas Liechti: “Look to build on last year’s progress, when we doubled the previous season’s win total. Will have to rebound well and play hard to win games.”
Omaha Northwest (4-19)
Returning starters: Jemar Bowden Lovelace, sr.; Kadon Walker, sr. Coach Donnie Johnson: “Our lack of size will be a challenge. We have a core group that’s been playing together for the last couple years, which will help.”
Papillion-La Vista (13-11)
Returning starters: Preston Kellogg, sr.; Owen McLaughlin, sr.; Kyle Ingwerson, so.; Luke Lindenmeyer, so.; Jacob Rodriguez, sr. Coach Dan Moore: “We have everyone back from last year and had a good summer. We will be improved.”
South Sioux City (8-14 in Class B)
Returning starters: Kaden Sailors, sr.; Jake Aitken, sr. New coach is Jared Lengel.
Returning starters: Joel Baker, sr.; Bradyn Palmer, sr. Coach Michael Baker: “We will have enough depth to play an uptempo style. Our JV team was 17-3. We look to build off the success of the last several seasons.”
Returning starters: Peyton Murphy, sr.; AJ Mahoney, sr.; Devin Smith, jr.; Quin Zabortsky, jr.; Bennett Crandall, jr.; Jace Pethoud, jr.; Elliot Jurgens, so. Coach Clark Ribble: “Our players are focused on improving. We bring back eight of our top nine players” and the Orangemen add D-2 all-state Kaden Glynn, a junior, from Johnson-Brock.
Returning starters: Grady Corrigan, sr.; Nick Bohn, sr. Coach Luke Olson: “Young, inexperienced, but competitive group will look to develop roles. We’ll need to find ways to score consistently and develop an identity to win games late.”
Returning starters: none. Coach Chris Whitwer: “We have a lot of new talent from younger guys and our current seniors. We will be finding ourselves and team chemistry early on.”
Returning starters: Jaxon Weyand, so.; Zach Fye, sr.; Josiah Gardiner, sr.; Sam Rasgorshek, sr.; Owen Kuntz, sr. Coach Garrett Borcher: “We have an opportunity to have a fun year. Our kids are mature and realize the opportunities that are out there.”
Elkhorn Mount Michael (18-8)
Returning starters: Brad Bennett, jr.; Joe Chouinard, jr.; Kalen Brink, jr.; Parker Hottovy, jr.; Airan Lopez, jr.; Kyle Pelan, jr. Coach Derrik Spooner: “The majority of the starting lineup has player multiple years of varsity. Should be a seasoned team.”
Grand Island Northwest (11-12)
Returning starters: Tyler Hageman, sr.; Parker Janky, jr. Coach Chip Bahe: “This is an experienced group of athletes who have enjoyed a good fall season in football and cross county. A very tough early schedule makes record hard to predict.”
Returning starters: Connor Creech, sr.; Jake Schroeder, sr.; Mike Boeve, sr. Coach Lance Creech: “We’ll look to follow the strides made after last season’s 14-win campaign. The 14 were the most wins for the Tiger program in the past 13 years. We have a great complement of size and experience and can play a multitude of tempos.” Haggan Hilgendorf, a 6-9 senior, has transferred from Adams Central.
Returning starters: Kaleb Carpenter, sr.; Dylan Richman, sr.; Nick Saiz, sr. Coach Zach Jones: “We will be a senior-led team looking to take our program to a new level. We will have more length than any time in the recent past. Success will depend on the buy-in we have on the defensive end.”
Returning starters: none. New coach Joe Imus (from Riverside): “We have a lot to learn. Every concept will be new, we’ll be mixing in new players and we need to learn how to have a competitor’s mentality of what it takes to win.” Konor Rakes was last year’s sixth man. Brian Leslie transferred from nearby Southwest, Sterling Wright from Shelton.
Nebraska City (4-18)
Returning starters: Eli Southard, sr.; Clay Stovall, jr.; Braden Thompson, sr.. Coach Matt Thompson: “Good group of young players and good leadership in the gym. Lost a lot of scoring from last season.”
Returning starters: Aidan Oerter, sr. Coach Matt Shelsta: “We look to improve and build on the previous season, but losing experience and key pieces will be hard. Depth can be a positive.”
Omaha Gross (5-18)
Returning starters: Thomas Anderson, jr.; Colby Schrage, sr.; Nathan Magnussen, sr.; Zack Mandolfo, sr. Coach Tim Powers: “We look to improve on last year’s win total. We should be balanced in scoring.” The four returners averaged 10 points among them last season.
Omaha Roncalli (25-3)
Returning starters: Jack Dotzler, sr.; Taiden Red, sr.; Shane Orr, sr. Coach J.J. Stoffel: “Strong core of guys returning from last year’s state runner-up team. Excited to build on that success.”
Omaha Skutt (23-5)
Returning starters: Tyson Gordon, sr.; Andrew Merfeld, sr.; Charlie Fletcher, jr. Coach Kyle Jurgens: “This team has a good core group of seniors and returning players.”
Returning starters: Trey Brotzki, sr.; Tyler Riley, jr.; Paxton Swanson, sr.; Braxton Karnik, sr.; Tanner Millikan, sr.; Jake Heiman, sr. Coach Tim Brotzki: “Should be competitive again. Trey will be leaned on to increase scoring with Evan Kingston graduated. Freshman Connor Millikan has a bright fture and will see significant varsity minutes.”
Returning starters: Hunter Adkins, sr.; Hayden Stromsodt, jr.; Stockton Graham, sr.; Andrew Ratham, sr.; Chandler Cole, sr.; Brandt Colbert, sr. Coach Kevin Tilson: “We return the most experience we have in a long time. Success in December can propel confidence in the program leading into a tough 2020.”
Returning starters: Chaz Cullum, jr.; Drew Anderson, sr.; Jeff Evans, jr. Coach Bo Buettenback: “We’ll continue to improve off of last season. Team is undersized.”
Returning starters: Jasiya DeOllos, sr.; Sam Clarkson, sr.; Jack Darnell, sr.; Sabastian Harsh, sr.; Chance Parker, sr. Coach Scott Gullion: “Seven players had significant minutes on a state tournament qualifier and five started 10 or more games. We have size at all positions. Success will be dependent on how well we can share the ball and play team defense.”
Returning starters: none. Coach Mark Cidlik: “After graduating eight from last season’s team we will have some rebuilding to do. A lot of seniors don’t have much experience.”
Returning starters: Skylar Heineman, sr.; Eli Ahrens, sr. Coach Austin Lewis: “We have a few guards back who have played quite a bit of meaningful varsity minutes. We’ll need leadership from Skylar and Eli.”
Wahoo (24-5 in C-1)
Returning starters: Trey Scheef, sr.; Thomas Waido, sr. Coach Kevin Scheef: “We lost two guys who really carried us offensively last season. Staying healthy is always a key.”
Returning starters: Noah Stoddard, sr.; Mason Nieman, sr. Coach Ryan Reeder: “We are very inexperienced so it’s hard to gauge how we will be. Noah and Mason will be the leaders and we will go as they go.”
Returning starters: none. Coach Scott Lamberty: “We are inexperienced but will continue to develop our skill and continuity. We need to develop roles with regards to shooting and rebounding.”
Returning starters: Cale Jacobsen, so.; Jarrod Nafzinger, jr.; Bryce Kitrell, sr.; Kyle vonRentzell, sr. Coach: Jacob Mohs: “A great group to work with and be around. A majority of the team returns, which we will look to build from and improve on.’
Boys Town (19-6)
Returning starters: Uzziah Freeman, sr.; Jahad Hart, sr.; JoJoBurrus, sr. Coach Tom Krehbiel: “We have three very good players returning and with Jermaine Sims and (sophomore) TJ Covington being added have a very strong starting five. Need to develop chemistry and depth.”
Returning starters: Lane Fox, jr.; Benjamin Welch, jr.; Koby Vogler, jr.; Kobe Gansemer, sr. Coach Jason Ahrens: “We should improve on last season if we are able to replace our two best defensive players from last year. We’re fortunate to have one of the top point guards in our class (Fox).”
Douglas County West (11-13)
Returning starters: Kyle Marick, jr.; Carson Roubicek, jr.; Chase Jones, jr. Coach Chip Daehling: “A very quick and athletic team. We have a lot of good shooter who can help to space the floor. If our defense comes around to what we want it to be, we will be a tough matchup for teams every night.”
Fort Calhoun (15-10)
Returning starters: Tyler Strauss, sr.; Kaden Therkelsen, sr.; Grant Halford, sr.; Zane Schwarz, so.; Carson Schwarz, so. New coach TJ O’Connor: “If we can gel and come together as a team we will be very competitive.”
Returning starters: none. Coach Adam Vogt: “We will have a young and inexperienced team that loves to be in the gym and will continue to get better as they gain experience.”
Omaha Concordia (6-16)
Returning starters: Sam Schomberg, sr.; Gage Kanzmeier, jr.; Justin Otten, so.; Karsten Mathsen, so. Coach Ken Kulus: “We played young last year and gained valuable experience from a multitude of young kids. We will again be young, but have a higher talent level than we’ve had in the past.”
Wahoo Neumann (16-8)
Returning starters: Joe Fisher, sr.; Trey Miller, sr. Coach Mike Weiss: “We lost 73% of our scoring and 40% of our rebounding. We have good length, strength and athleticism. Big key will be buying into our style into play so we can be successful.”
Returning starters: Brady Timm, jr.; Trey Kundsen, sr.; Colby Tichota, sr.; Will Hays, sr.; Joel Pleskac, sr. Coach: Justin Petersen: “We have a lot of experience returning but will need younger players to develop if we want to have some success.”
Returning starters: Noah Willey, sr.; Drake Spohr, sr. Coach Aaron Pryor: “We will rely on our seniors to help us navigate a very difficult regular season/conference schedule.”
Weeping Water (3-20)
Returning starters: Avery Heath, sr.; Hunter Mortimer, so.; Noah Patton, sr.; Jordan Beardsley, jr. Coach is Josh Schliefert.
Returning starters: JT Haag, sr.; Bayley LaCroix, jr.; Hunter Pickworth, jr.; Blaine Nicola, jr. Caleb Lihs, so.; Tyler Pickworth, so. Coach is PJ Quinn.