Way Too Early Top 10: Class 3A
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With July’s evaluation period now behind us and plenty of time to kill between now and late November, it’s time to take a look at who we believe will be some of the teams to keep an eye on in…
With July’s evaluation period now behind us and plenty of time to kill between now and late November, it’s time to take a look at who we believe will be some of the teams to keep an eye on in each classification this winter.
How well do these rankings predict what may happen over the course of the coming season? Well, of the 32 state tournament qualifying teams last year, we had 22 ranked in the top 10 in their respective classes, and another six written about in the “others to monitor” sections. Teams that won state titles were ranked 3rd (Grand View Christian), 3rd (Central Lyon), 5th (Bondurant-Farrar), and 4th (Valley), and of the eight teams that participated in championship games, none were ranked lower than 5th to start the year. We were most successful in Class 1A, with each of the top six teams making it to the state tournament, as well as #8 Dunkerton and “Others to Watch” New London, meaning all eight state tournament teams were identified by us as top teams heading into last season.. Further, over the last six years, teams ranked #1 to open the year have reached the state semifinals at a 71% clip, and played for a state championship at a 57% rate. So, while this isn’t the definitive list of how teams are going to perform this year, it’s certainly a good thing to find yourselves near the top of these initial rankings.
Below you’ll find our top 10 for Class 3A, along with some other teams that could make some noise, as well as a brief summary of why each team is in their respective spot. Enjoy.
1.) Sioux City Heelan (State semifinalist, 19-7 last year, 60.9% of scoring returning)
Class 3A looks pretty wide open heading into this winter, and finding a team to peg as #1 was a tough decision. At the end of the day, we’ll side with the Crusaders, who are coming off a semifinal appearance and bring back arguably the best player in the class in senior forward Martin Brothers , one of the best grassroots programs in the state. Heelan will need to replace a pair of key contributors and shooters in the backcourt following the graduations of Carter Kuehl and Sam Skinner, who were the top two 3-point shooters last season and combined to average 22.5 points and 5.8 assists. Look for Quinn Olson (7.6, 3.2 assists) and Sean Schaefer (7.5, 2.4 assists) to handle the ball more this season, while the vacated shooting could be filled by (5.5, 39.0 3P%). All four of the aforementioned players are seniors, meaning this group has a ton of experience playing together and a lot of veteran leadership. There will probably be some ups-and-downs throughout the year playing against a largely 4A schedule, but this is a group that proved to be one of the best teams in the state last year and they bring back enough to be pegged as the #1 team heading into the year.(18.1 points, 8.2 rebounds). Noll showed what he’s capable of during the state tournament run last season, a versatile 6-8 forward who can score inside and out, control the glass, and provide versatility on the defensive end. He followed that up with a good summer running with
2.) Bondurant-Farrar (State champion, 26-0, 30.4% of scoring returning)
It will be pretty much impossible for the Bluejays to follow up last year’s sensational run of success, going undefeated with only a third of their games decided by single digits. They lost their top two scorers to graduation, and lose three starters in total, but bring enough back that they will need to be considered a serious threat to repeat. Senior guard(11.8, 4.5 assists) was at times the best player on the floor for this group last season and returns. He’s a 6-4 athletic guard with great size, athleticism, and feel for the game. He can do a little bit of everything and will step into a bigger scoring role as a senior. Junior guard Cole Miller (4.9, 3.5 assists) started every game last season as a sophomore and had a great week at the state tournament, showing that while they didn’t need him to score much last season, it’s certainly something he’s capable of doing. The key for this group will be senior combo forward (4.0, 37.3 3P%), who contributed off the bench last season and is coming off one of the best summers that any player in the state, in any class, had. He’s a dynamic three-level scorer who could go from a 4-point scorer to a 15+ point scorer this season. Replacing Colby Collison, Jaxson Fried, and Everett White will be tough, but three players with loads of experience off of an undefeated team return, and there is something to be said for the culture that was put into place by last year’s team that this year’s group will be looking to replicate.
3.) Davenport Assumption (13-10, 51.3% of scoring returning)
With a trio of talented juniors returning, the Knights would’ve already been in strong consideration to make the top 10, and then they added a pair of very talented transfers, including one who already holds several Division I offers, bumping them into the top 3 here., a 6-3 scoring guard in the class of 2026, moved back to the Quad Cities after spending a year or two down in Florida, and will be a star for the Knights. Shabazz is a tremendous athlete and dynamic scorer with great size and length. He currently holds offers from Siena, Bryant, Southern Mississippi, and Wake Forest and will be the focal point of the attack on both ends of the floor. He’ll join returnees (12.7, 3.4 assists), (9.6, 44.9 3P%), and Joey Funderburk (4.1) in the starting lineup. Jackson was great as a sophomore, scoring from all three levels and creating opportunities for his teammates at a high clip. Thomsen is a big-bodied wing who can really shoot it, and he provides a lot of value defensively with his size, length, and athleticism, and Funderburk is a solid all-around player who can handle it and pass it, get to the rim, and play solid defense. Joining the aforementioned four in the starting lineup will likely be Muscatine transfer , who averaged 12.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a game for the Muskies as a sophomore and will provide the Knights with a lot of length and athleticism on the perimeter. If Assumption can get some good production out of senior big man Joe Tallman (2.9, 3.7 rebounds), a 6-8 interior presence, they could be deadly with all of the perimeter talent they have coming back and joining the roster.
4.) Decorah (14-8, 70.9% of scoring returning)
In all honesty, this may be the team that I’m both most excited about, and most unsure about the ranking, heading into this season. The Vikings were dealt a significant blow heading into last year after standout point guardtore his ACL over the summer. McCain averaged 12.1 points and 4.7 assists a game as a sophomore, pacing one of the state’s most dynamic offensive attacks, and not having him on the floor was a major blow to their team on both ends of the floor. That said, it allowed several players to step into bigger roles, and they thrived, which should benefit them heading into this season. (22.4, 8.9 rebounds, 37.5 3P%) is a big wing with great size at 6-4 and a pure stroke from deep. He stepped into the primary scoring role last season and was dominant, posting 47-38-81 shooting splits and showing the ability to take over games as a scorer and rebounder. His cousin, (11.6, 4.2 assists) stepped into the primary ball-handling role and was solid as well. He’s a 5-11 lefty who can really shoot it from deep, and getting McCain back should allow him to play off the ball more this season and help space the floor. Six of their eight losses last season were by single digits, and having another reliable ball-handler on the floor may have been a difference maker there. So getting McCain back will be huge. But that won’t be the only addition, as they are bringing in MFL MarMac transfer as well. Driscoll, one of the top 2025 guards in the state, averaged 20.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 4.2 steals a game as a sophomore for the Bulldogs, and while he’ll be taking a step up in competition moving to Decorah, he has the type of talent and basketball IQ that it won’t matter, he’ll still be excellent. Kaiden Quandahl (7.9, 7.9 rebounds) returns to give them some size and rebounding, and Andrew Rhodes (3.5) saw significant time last season. With three reliable ball-handlers in , Driscoll, and McCain, as well as a big wing scorer in , this team should be dynamic offensively. The question for them, like it was a few years ago, will be two-fold: (1) the competition they face throughout the year, and (2) whether they’ll defend well enough. But this team is really intriguing and should be a ton of fun to watch.
5.) Waverly-Shell Rock (17-6, 77.1% of scoring returning)
The top four scorers return for a Go-Hawks team that reached the substate finals last season, falling a game short of the state tournament. In their last go-round in the Northeast Iowa Conference, they should be dynamic yet again. Three of the returnees averaged double-digits last season in(14.2, 40.7 3P%), (13.8, 41.4 3P%), and (12.2, 48.6 3P%), with another just outside that mark in (9.5, 49.0 3P%). You’ll notice one thing in particular that stands out about that quartet – the 3-point shooting. They combined to shoot 161-369 from behind the arc last season, good for 43.6%, making them one of the most dangerous teams in the state, regardless of class, from behind the arc. Marsh, an Iowa football commit, is a big, physical scoring wing who can do a little bit of everything, while the Frazell brothers and Ramker are quality guards. This team will be lacking in size a bit, but their shooting is going to be top notch and they should win a ton of games again this season.
6.) Clear Lake (22-2, 67.3% of scoring returning)
The Lions lost dynamic lead guard Travaughn Luyobya to graduation, leaving a big hole in their backcourt after he averaged 17.9 points and 9.5 assists a game last season. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the next five scorers from last year’s team return, led by(14.6, 7.2 rebounds), a 6-5 forward who is picking up Division I football offers. He’s a highly efficient (71.4 FG%) scorer and excellent rebounder with great hands and footwork. Cael Stephany (11.6, 40.4 3P%) is a high-level perimeter shooting threat, and (9.6) should have the ball in his hands more this season as the team’s top returnee in assists. Dylan Litzel (4.8, 1.1 blocks) came off the bench last season to provide the Lions with some size and rim protection and figures to slide into a bigger role this season. Look for freshman guard Carson Riser to step in and become an impact player immediately as well. He’s a confident ball-handler and shooter who can stretch the floor and get his teammates involved. Luyobya is a significant loss, but there is a good amount of size, length, and experience coming back to a Clear Lake team that is always filled with good athletes who will share the ball, play strong defense, and rebound. They should be considered the team to beat in a good North Central Conference.
7.) Solon (18-6, 79.4% of scoring returning)
Solon played really well after the holiday break last season, going 14-4 after the hiatus behind the strength of a fantastic defense that ranked eighth in the class in scoring defense, allowing just 51.9 points a game. The top three scorers, and four of the top five, from last year’s team return, led by senior wing(17.7, 52.0 FG%), a dominant three-level scorer who is among the most efficient pure scorers in the state. He posted 52-46-85 shooting splits last season and is working to become a more dynamic scorer with the ball in his hands, rather than just operating without the ball. Gehrig Turner (9.5), Vince Steinbrech (9.4), and Rylen Stiegelmeyer (7.7, 44.9 3P%) are the other big returnees for the Spartans. All three are solid defenders with good length and athleticism who understand Solon’s defensive system and play it well. Stiegelmeyer is a knockdown shooter who pairs with Benzing to give them a lot of perimeter shooting. Three other players with significant experience return in Cole Buffington (2.5), Will Cusick (2.1), and Austin Knight (1.4). Cusick provides them with some needed size and a presence on the glass, and Knight doesn’t do a lot offensively, but is a good defender with great length and athleticism who will give this team a lot of quality minutes on that end of the floor.
8.) ADM (11-12, 65.6% of scoring returning)
If you look at the final BC Moore rankings from last season, you’ll see the Tigers in there at #10, despite finishing below .500. Part of that can be attributed to a tough run through the Raccoon River Conference, a league that featured the state champion, a semifinalist, and another state qualifying team. And another part of that is that ADM was really close to putting together a pretty special season, with eight losses coming by single digits, including five by a single possession. They’ll be led by a pair of seniors in wing(14.3, 44.3 3P%) and Rhylan Stine-Smith (9.3, 4.5 assists). Bryte is one of the best pure shooters in the state, a 6-3 wing with a quick release and unlimited range, while Stine-Smith is a solid lead guard who limits turnovers and gets his teammates involved. (7.3) and Grant Rychnovsky (5.6) were solid role players last season and will be solid in their roles again. But the biggest key to this group’s success may be a pair of skilled sophomores who saw some action last season in (1.7) and (1.0). Both are really talented, multi-dimensional pieces who can do a little bit of everything for this group. They’re both solid defenders, capable ball-handlers, and good shooting threats who should step into much larger roles. With four of their top five returning from a team that was close to be really good last season, and projected improvement from a pair of talented sophomores, ADM will have a real chance at making their first state tournament appearance in more than a decade.
9.) Algona (State qualifier, 17-8, 57.7% of scoring returning)
The Bulldogs caught fire late last season, winning eight straight down the stretch to reach the state tournament before running into the Bondurant buzzsaw. Two of the top three scorers return, and three starters are back, for a group that put up points in bunches last season, averaging 68.8 points a game. Junior wing(18.1, 53.5 FG%) is the headliner of this group. A 6-3/6-4 wing who can score from all three levels in an efficient manner as well as create for his teammates, he’s a dynamic athlete and two-way player who provides a ton of versatility on both ends of the floor. Junior forward (11.7, 9.8 rebounds) is an efficient interior scorer and dominant rebounder who can also initiate the offense out of the post, making this group a versatile, dangerous team. Manske is a coveted quarterback prospect as well who sees the floor well and can impact the game on both ends of the floor. The other key returnee for this group is senior point guard (4.7, 5.3 assists), who wasn’t much of a scoring threat last season, but is a really good passer and playmaker who puts his teammates in great positions. The Helmers-Manske tandem is really good, and Algona should be able to find some other pieces to put in alongside them and keep this group dangerous in 3A.
10.) Humboldt (18-5, 50.7% of scoring returning)
The Wildcats were the highest scoring team in 3A last season, putting up 77.8 points a game. They lose the top two from that group, but bring back a pair of double-figure scorers, and three starters, so expect this group to put up points in bunches again this season. Elliot Carlson (14.4),(13.6, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists), and Corey Dettmann (8.3, 3.3 assists) are the key returnees, while junior Mason Van Pelt (1.8) is expected to step into a much larger role this season. Carlson is a versatile scorer with good size at 6-1, while Hatcher is an undersized but physical forward who pounds the glass on both ends of the floor and is a capable playmaker out of his post position. Look for increased production out of Dettmann, who will have the ball in his hands much more following the graduations of Will Orness and Joshua Thurm, giving the ‘Cats a quick lead guard who can create for his teammates and knock down shots. The North Central is going to be a pretty tough league this season, and Humboldt will be in the running, which makes them a viable threat in 3A.
Ten more to watch
Ballard (10-13, 62.8% of scoring returning)
The Bombers got off to a solid 5-1 start before the holiday break before a young group may have hit a wall, going just 5-12 after the hiatus. That learning experience will be beneficial for this group this winter, however, and they should be one of the best teams in the RRC. They lost leading scorer Mason Gorsh to graduation, but bring back their next two scorers and eight of their top 10 overall. Sophomore point guard(15.2, 4.3 assists) is a star in the making, a lightning-quick guard with a tremendous feel for the game and the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. He was really good as a freshman and will only continue to improve. Junior guard (7.2, 39.2 3P%) will pair with Gibson to give the Bombers some shooting in the backcourt, while (5.1, 4.5 rebounds) gives them some size and length as a combo forward. They may get some production out of freshman forward Parker Miller as well, a 6-3 combo forward who rebounds at a high level and who could provide this team with some additional size and a presence on the glass. Gibson will be among the best players in the class, and there are some nice pieces surrounding him.
Clarke (16-7, 85.4% of scoring returning)
Clarke was pretty successful last season, rolling up 16 wins and averaging 69.4 points a game, fifth in the class. They play against a very weak schedule, ranked 63rd out of 64 3A teams by BC Moore last season, which is the big question mark that will come with this group as they head into postseason play. Three double-figure scorers return in seniors(20.0, 10.0 rebounds), (12.0, 2.4 blocks), and (11.3, 8.2 assists), giving them a dynamic trio to build around. Cooley found himself on nearly every top-10 returnee countdown posted throughout the week, posting a 20-10-6-3-1 statline as a junior, and the 6-5 athletic wing isn’t just putting up big numbers against bad competition, he’s actually that talented. White provides some rim protection, and Otto is a really good ball-handler and decision-maker who values possessions and gets his teammates involved. Four other players who averaged between 2.8 and 5.2 points a game return as well, giving them seven rotation pieces back. The Indians will win a ton of regular season games, but we’ll be interested to see what happens when they run into better competition in the postseason.
Knoxville (11-10, 97.9% of scoring returning)
Some may look at this one and question it, given the very poor strength of schedule that Knoxville plays against in the South Central Conference, but this is a group that looked impressive when we saw them in June in Winterset, and they have a chance to win a lot of games this winter. The Panthers got off to an 11-3 start last season before dropping their last seven games. They bring back the top nine scorers from that group, led by junior guard(14.5, 3.4 assists), who led the team in scoring and assists. Norris is a versatile three-level scorer who posted 46-40-69 shooting splits last season and is able to create looks for himself and his teammates. Seniors Jay Kellar (9.7), Noah Keefer (9.5), and Carson Uitermarkt (9.2) all return with plenty of experience, while juniors Kaiden Smith (5.3, 2.2 blocks) and (5.3) appear ready to step into bigger roles. Smith, a 6-6 combo forward, can do a little bit of everything and has the size and length to be a dominant defender and rebounder. If he’s able to take his game up another notch, this group could be pretty strong defensively. Look for freshman guard , Landen’s younger brother, to play a major role for this group as well. He’s a high IQ lead guard who can create for himself and his teammates at a high level. The strength of schedule is certainly a concern, but this is a group with a lot of experience, a few players who look like they may be ready to take another step forward, and a talented freshman joining the fray.
Maquoketa (13-9, 73.5% of scoring returning)
The Cardinals enjoyed their first year in the River Valley Conference, putting up 72.5 points a game and getting off to a 12-2 start to the year before stumbling down the stretch. The common theme in their 1-7 finish was a collapse on the defensive end, allowing 75.1 points a game in those eight games. They allowed 64 points a game in their 12-2 start, so they’ll be looking to get back closer to that number to enjoy continued success this winter. Three big-time scorers return in(17.6), (15.7), and (14.3), so this group will continue to score in bunches. Hardin and Hinz are both reliable ball-handlers and playmakers who can get others involved, while Meyer is a long wing who can score from all three levels. All three of the returnees are capable 3-point threats, and while this group is going to be pretty small, they’ll be able to play extremely fast and score a ton. As mentioned earlier, improvement on the defensive end could lead this team to immense success.
MOC-Floyd Valley (21-3, 51.6% of scoring returning)
The Dutchmen were excellent on the offensive end last season, racking up 75 points a game, second in the class. Leading scorer Arena Basketball Club 16U team over the summer, and they will step into the starting lineup and thrive, while Aalbers saw a lot of time last season as a starter and was elite as a shooter. MOC will score a ton of points again, with questions regarding their depth and defense being the lingering concerns.(20.4, 7.2 rebounds, 59.5 FG%) returns to lead the charge. He’s a hyper-efficient guard who posted 60-42-73 shooting splits as a junior and will be the focal point of the attack on both ends of the floor. While he’s a fantastic shooter, he prefers to attack the rim and use his quickness, toughness, and athleticism to get to the rim for finishes. They lose a pair of big-time scorers in Ayden Klein and Luke Korver, who combined to average 31.8 points a game last season, but bring back three juniors who saw good time as sophomores in Blake Aalbers (9.4, 46.4 3P%), (3.3, 1.7 assists), and (2.9, 3.4 rebounds), who will be quality options alongside Van Kalsbeek. Langton and Vander Pol were key pieces for a very good
Mount Pleasant (18-6, 51.5% of scoring returning)
The Panthers used a smothering defense to roll to 18 wins before falling to Solon in the substate semifinals last season. They allowed just 47.5 points a game, second in the class, and while some of that can be attributed to play in the Southeast Conference, they were also really good on that end of the floor, disciplined, athletic, and quick. Iowa Prep Red in which he showcased his ability as a rim protector, rebounder, and occasional floor stretcher. He’ll pair with Hagans to give Mount Pleasant a strong inside-out tandem. A pair of sophomores who saw significant time as freshmen, (2.5) and Noah Lange (2.2), will step into larger roles this season and should provide some scoring alongside Hagans and Stroud.(20.7, 8.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.4 steals) is one of the better two-way players in the class and is back to lead the charge. He’s a quick guard who can score from all three levels, control the glass, get his teammates involved, and is the spearhead of their defense. Look for increased production out of senior forward Nate Stroud (7.1, 5.3 rebounds), who is coming off a strong summer with
Nevada (15-8, 86.7% of scoring returning)
The top four scorers return for the Cubs, led by senior guard(18.7, 3.4 assists), a do-it-all 6-1 guard who led the team in scoring and assists, and is also a dynamic defender who can block shots at a high level on the perimeter. Easton Gray (9.7) provides some additional perimeter scoring, while (9.1) will serve as another ball-handler alongside Khounsourath. Sophomore forward (8.4, 6.2 rebounds) was really good as a freshman, providing them with some size and toughness in the paint, as well as a solid rim protector. In all, nine of the top 10 scorers return to a team that won 15 games, so expectations should be high in Nevada. The question for them will be how they play when they get outside of league play, as the Heart of Iowa Conference won’t test them too much this season.
North Polk (State semifinalist, 20-6, 36.8% of scoring returning)
The Comets were one of the best defensive teams in the state last season, allowing just 47.9 points a game en route to a semifinal appearance. They lose a significant chunk off of that roster, but bring back leading scorer(13.0), a dangerous wing scorer who can fill it up from all three levels as well as provide a ton of value on the defensive end with his combination of length and quickness. Graedan Sullivan (4.8) and Charlie Bunkers (2.0) are the only other returnees who saw significant time last season, but with Postel returning and a defensive foundation in place, North Polk should be formidable again.
Pella (13-10, 58.9% of scoring returning)
In atypical Pella fashion, the Dutch struggled at times to score last season, averaging just 57 points a game, which ranked 41st in 3A. They were once again strong defensively, allowing 52.8 points a contest, which was 11th best in the class. Expect to see some improvement on the offensive end this season with the top two, and three of the top five, returning, in addition to some expected improvement from a pair of sophomores. Seniors(13.5, 42.2 3P%) and (9.4) are the top returnees. Hardman is a versatile scorer with good size on the wing, while Hugan is a quick guard who can get to the rim. Brayden Traetow (6.7, 44.3 3P%) looks like someone ready to take a step up as a junior. He’s a 6-0 guard who can really shoot it, and he’s improved as a ball-handler and playmaker. The aforementioned sophomores with high expectations are (2.8) and Austin Schulte (3.5). McGuire, a 6-3 wing, showed a lot of potential when we saw the Dutch in June, standing out as a big playmaker on the wing, while Schulte is a skilled shooter who can play on and off the ball. The Dutch are going to be athletic and deep, they always are. And they’re going to defend. They could be a real threat in 3A if they’re able to get back on track a bit offensively, which we anticipate happening.
Winterset (15-8, 36.9% of scoring returning)
The Huskies lose their top three scorers from last year’s team, but with the pieces they have coming back, notably the three Wilmes brothers, they should remain competitive in the Raccoon River Conference and in 3A as a whole.(8.5, 40.4 3P%) and Hudson Wilmes (2.1) are both coming off really good springs and summers with Waukee JAM, and are a pair of knockdown shooters who can get scorching hot and light up the scoreboard in a hurry. The senior twins also have a younger brother, Hank Wilmes (0.5), who will be a major contributor as their lead guard. He’s a tough, physical, and quick guard who can get to the bucket and put constant pressure on opposing guards on both ends of the floor. (8.1, 6.6 rebounds), Kade White (7.0, 65.5 FG%), Grant Feuring (1.8), and Luke Linde (1.2) all return with significant experience as well. While they lose some major pieces from last year’s roster, most notably Brayden Dinkla, Josh Henry has built a program in Winterset, and they should be dangerous again because of all the shooting and speed they’re going to be able to put on the floor.