The Illinois boys basketball season is already under way. Here is a 2019-20 preview capsule look at area teams in the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference:
Coach: Eric Miller
2018-19 record: 31-2
Current record: 4-0
Key returners: Declan Schemmel (jr., G), Trey Culbertson (sr., G)
Outlook: It’s been a while since East Dubuque had this much turnover. For the last four years, the Warriors got the most out of their three-headed, perennial all-NUIC monster in Peyton Heller, Hunter Sherman and Layne Boyer. All three were lost to graduation, which means that there’s a lot yet to be proven with this year’s Warriors squad. However, East Dubuque is already off to a promising start, having gone 4-0 at the tip-off Turkey Tourney in Hanover. Declan Schemmel is the Warriors’ top returning scorer and Trey Culbertson has logged many meaningful minutes over the years — which include many deep postseason runs.
Coach: Matt Wienen
2018-19 record: 15-15
Current record: 2-2
Key returners: Ethan Hefel (soph., G), Sam Hesslebacher (jr., F), Chance Wills (sr., F), Conor Behr (jr., G), Jacob Townsend (jr., G), Ryan Holland (jr., G), Brady Schemehorn (soph., G)
Outlook: Steady improvements out of the Pirates a season ago. This is a young Galena team with only two returning starters — Ethan Hefel and Sam Hesslebacher. But coach Matt Wienen likes his team’s height and willingness to work hard. It will be an uphill climb for the Pirates as there’s still plenty of talent throughout the NUIC and reigning champ East Dubuque already off to a hot start. But this is a team that’s been gaining ground for several years and it won’t be too surprising if the Pirates inch closer, if not topple, some of the standard bearers of the conference.
Coach: Shean Albrecht
2018-19 record: 23-8
Current record: 1-3
Key returners: Tayden Patterson (sr., F), Dalton Wachter (sr., F), Andy Wurster (sr., G), Andrew Merkle (sr., G)
Outlook: Always seemingly in the hunt for the NUIC, the Wildcats put up another strong season in 2018-19. Andrew Merkle and Tayden Patterson are two focal points for this group as both players averaged more than 9 points per game a season ago. Both are already off to a strong start this year.
Coach: Erik Kudronowicz
2018-19 record: 8-19
Current record: 2-2
Key returners: Kaelan Shetler (sr., G), Matthew Davis (sr., G), Thomas Langer (jr., G), Ben Werner (soph., F), Benjamin Vandigo (soph., F), Collin Fosler (soph., G), Sam Cocagne (soph., G), Zayden Ellsworth (soph., G), Josh Cole (sr., F), Tyler Allen (sr., F), Cameron Ziarko (sr., F)
Outlook: It’s been a while since the Hornets contended for much in the conference but on paper this looks like a team that’s ready to compete for the top slot. A core that includes Kaelan Shetler, Matthew Davis and Tyler Allen has been forming for years, with all three players logging a ton of varsity time since they were freshmen. Allen, in particular, should pose a physical nightmare for most other NUIC foes — he’s 6-foot-6 and can shoot the 3. Scales Mound is on the rise and this ought to be a strong year for the Hornets.
Coach: John Hammann
2018-19 record: 11-14
Current record: 0-0
Key returners: Caleb Mammoser (soph., G), Drew McGovern (sr., F), Keegan Phillips (sr., G), Garrett Buske (sr., G), Mitchel Coffey (jr., G), Josh Reynolds (jr., G), Jared Mergeman (soph., G), Kamden Baber (jr., G), Kayden Shubert (soph., F), Wyatt Baber (jr., G)
Outlook: The Blackhawks have yet to debut, but this is always a team that’s in the running and competitive in the NUIC. A good mix of youth, experience and athleticism should bode well for Stockton to continue hanging tough.
Coach: Josh Knuth
2018-19 record: 12-15
Current record: 0-0
Key returners: Mitchel Wolf (sr., G), Ethan Williams (sr., G), Reid Raisbeck (sr., G), Mathew Reidl (jr., F), Brayden Bohnsack (soph., F), Andrew Slichenmyer (sr., F), Hunter Kopp (jr., G)
Outlook: A fairly young Warriors group took the court last season and made the most of it. This is another one of those teams that could hang tough in the NUIC.