This is the 8th preview in my 2015-16 Season Preview Series. In this preview, a look at the South Suburban Conference. For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.
Apple Valley Eagles (2014-15 season 30-2, 17-1 Conference, 1st, AAAA State Champion) The defending class AAAA champions return all 5 starters. That includes junior star wing Gary Trent who averaged 21 and 5 last year. Soph star Tre Jones returns to run the point. Senior Brock Bertram averaged 14 and 10 in the middle. Add in athletic defender Cam Kirksey and the quickness of Jordan Bolton who both put up double figures and you have a loaded lineup. Theyll have to replace role players like Steve Christiansen and Riley Parham. Aaron Ertz will fill a backup post role.
Burnsville Blaze (2014-15 season 10-17, 6-12 Conference, 7th) The forward duo of Joe Morris and Brett Shepley were the top 2 scorers last year combining for 25+ PPG. They need to be replaced. Point guard Jake Ruffing also graduated. Jason Gumm returns to the middle with 10 PPG. Junior Jackson Martens should take over the point guard duties. Tucker Shepley will slide into a forward spot. No other experience returns.
Eagan Wildcats (2014-15 season 5-22, 2-16 Conference, 10th) A season of high-expectations turned into injury riddled disappointment for the Wildcats last season. The senior trio of Bryndan Matthews, Chase Seiberlich and GT Johnson has graduated. Sam Schuburg is the top returning player at 8.7 PPG. Daniel Stahlut, Collin Anderson, Jake Van Wyk and Nathan Kuhn are just a few of the guys who saw many minutes off the bench last year that return.
Eastview Lightning (2014-15 season 18-9, 12-6 Conference, 3rd) Sioux Falls recruit Drew Guebert and bull Keegan Dixon depart the front line. They combined for almost 28 PPG last season. Athletic forward Obi Ibeneme also graduated. Plenty of experience returns in the backcourt. Junior PG Jameson Bryan returns for a 3rd varsity year with 8.3 PPG. Sean Ryan is the top returning scorer at 12.4 PPG. Martin Mitchell returns as another guard. All 3 are effective 3 point shooters. Senior Connor Stevens provides depth for the small perimeter group. Mason Carpenter is the only experienced size but hes only 63".
Farmington Tigers (2014-15 season 8-19, 5-13 Conference, Tie 8th) 4 starters and 3 of the top 4 scorers need to be replaced including breakout forward Wyatt Ferm (19.9 PPG) and PG Zach Speikers (10.8 PPG). Forward Alex Hart is the 1 returning starter and he is the top returning scorer at 7.2 PPG. Alex Zitzmann will join him on the front line. Seniors Lucas Berg and Gavin Bassett along with junior Sam Wilson return to the backcourt rotation
Lakeville North Panthers (2014-15 season 19-13, 10-8 Conference, Tie 4th) Oft injured Connor Flack didnt play at state but was the only regular season double figurer scorer at 18.4 PPG. Forwards Isaac Brooks and Marquise Walker also graduated. The lineup coming back is still very good though. David Lindstrand and Cal Pesola are experienced guards. Drew Stewart is a lefty wing who can score. Then you have the super versatile forward duo of Carter Brooks and junior Nate Reuvers. Both can play inside or out, shoot it well enough to guard them, but quick enough to beat you and post you. Major matchup problems with those 2. Theyll have to find depth behind them.
Lakeville South Cougars (2014-15 season 12-15, 9-9 Conference, 6th) This is another group that had injury issues last year. Sophomore coach Nick Gruhlke takes over as head coach. While the Cougars lose 19.8 PPG from forward Brenon Larson-Gulsvig, there is still plenty of talent on hand. Junior PG Jack Sorenson returns with 3 years of experience and 19.9 PPG. Sophomore forward Shae Mitchell is one of the top players in the class and averaged almost 10 PPG last year. Blake Wacholz and Cade Carlson return to the backcourt rotation as well. Kyle Martin, Jake Cuddigan and Jack Swanhorst return up front.
Prior Lake Lakers (2014-15 season 16-12, 10-8 Conference, Tie 4th) Bob Schweim is the new Lakers leader. He has to replace 6 of the top 7 scorers. That includes PG Kevin McKiernan, forwards Connor Bair, Austin Heidecker and Sam Schulze. Jack Kortes and junior Brian Sitzmann return on the perimeter. Devin Mays will man the middle. Look for Casey Gustina in the rotation too. The junior class is talented so I can see the Lakers being better than people think.
Rosemount Irish (2014-15 season 9-19, 5-13 Conference, Tied 8th) Rosemount loses 4 of their top 5 scorers. That includes 13.1 PPG from their only double-figure scorer Logan Halvorsen. Guard Jared Hanson is the top returning scorer at 8.8 PPG. Defending guard Kelly Muir returns along with twins Luke and Alex Loehr as their size.
Shakopee Sabers (2014-15 season 24-8, 14-4 Conference, 2nd) All everything forward Steffon Mitchell returns. He averaged 24.8 PPG and 8.8 RPG. Booker Coplin and Taylor Triplett provide a little more punch. They are the type of tough player that Shakopee consistently produces. The ball handling and shooting of guards Evan Hagen and Tevin Killeen will need to be replaced. Senior Travis Larsen figures to be one of the main guys to do that. Mitchell also figures to see plenty of time handling the ball.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Apple Valley
- Lakeville North
- Lakeville South
- Prior Lake
The top of the league is really good and you could see the top 3 all make it to state. Apple Valley is the favorite to repeat as state champs in AAAA. Gary Trent with all that help is just too much firepower to deal with. Lakeville North and Shakopee are teams that should be ranked all year and theyll battle for 2nd. Lakeville South is the most talented team and experienced remaining. But they have a rookie head coach compared to 2 veteran head coaches for the teams behind them. I expect them to battle Eastview and Prior Lake for a top half spot. The rest of the league is trying to replace major losses.
Conference MVP: Steffon Mitchell - Shakopee
Underclassmen to watch:
- Tre Jones, Luke Martens - Apple Valley
- Shae Mitchell - Lakeville South
- Garrett Mitchell - Shakopee
Conference Games to Watch
- Shakopee at Lakeville North - Jan 8th
- Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Jan 12th
- Apple Valley at Shakopee - Jan 15th
- Lakeville North at Shakopee - Feb 9th
- Shakopee at Apple Valley - Feb 11th
- Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Feb 16th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
- Wayzata at Lakeville North - Nov 28th
- Apple Valley at Chaska - Dec 1st
- Chaska at Lakeville North - Dec 3rd
- Apple Valley vs Iowa City West (IA) - Dec 5th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
- Apple Valley, Lakeville South and Shakopee vs TBD - Dec 12th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
- Lakeville North at Eden Prairie - Dec 22nd
- Apple Valley vs Wayzata - Dec 28th (Granite City at St. Cloud Apollo)
- Apple Valley vs Maple Grove - Dec 29th (Granite City at St. Cloud State)
- Apple Valley vs Lausanne (TN) - Jan 2nd (Timberwolves Shootout)
- Eden Prairie at Shakopee - Jan 2nd