Published Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:26 am
BASKETBALL
Nebraska boys basketball team capsules

TOP 10

1. Omaha Central (30-0), coach Eric Behrens: In this last season of the Akoy Agau era, the Eagles are poised to make more history with a possible fourth consecutive state title. They also take a 36-game winning streak into the season. Biggest need is to rebuild the bench.

2. Omaha South (20-10), Bruce Chubick: Only two players graduated from last year's state runner-up team, so the Packers stack up as being the deepest roster in the state. They'll have one of the tallest front lines, starting with Kevin Harkins and Lyle Hexom. Cam Williams, who averaged 18 points in a half-season, will contribute to what potentially is a high-octane offense.

3. Papillion-La Vista (23-4): Another season, another two transfers to bolster coach Jason Ryan's Monarchs. This time, it's Nate Maloley and Keenan Nealon coming over from Omaha Westside. They'll contend for starting spots in a lineup with seniors Brett Dougherty, Spencer Lewis and Bryce Sheard. Lewis takes over for Trey Moore — they were last year's newcomers — at point guard.

4. Omaha Benson (14-10), Donnie Johnson: The Bunnies' coach, who's 6-foot-7, has a handful of players who can look him in the eye — 6-9 Thik Bol, 6-7 Caleb DeLima, 6-6 Tyrone Clayton and Tyree Peter. Bol is a returning starter, as are 6-5 Deion Wells-Ross, 6-4 Khyri Thomas and sophomore guard Mar'Shun Stewart. Defensive improvement, Johnson said, is a must from last year's team that lost in overtime to Millard North in its district final.

5. Lincoln Southeast (16-9), Jeff Smith: The Knights have the versatility, Smith said, to put a bigger or smaller lineup on the floor. Their three mainstays from last season are junior B.J. Day and seniors Jake Nannen and Najee Jackson. Aaron Walker and Luke Gifford are bidding to fill the other two starting spots.

6. Millard North (18-7), Chip Bahe: If the Mustangs don't bolt out of the gate, it's understandable. Returning All-Nebraska first-teamer Josiah Gustafson will miss a few games because of shoulder surgery in the fall and two more returning starters, Nick Marchese and Nick Roth, are coming off the wear-and-tear from an undefeated state championship season in football. Zane Stull, the fourth returning starter, was a 41-percent shooter on 3s.

7. Millard West (11-13), Bill Morrison: It's the last chance for the Wildcat seniors to leave their mark. “We have a very close group ... that has been through a lot together,” Morrison said. Connor Lusso, a 6-6 forward, could end up as the school's career leader in steals, rebounds and possibly points. Spencer Sharp is another 6-6 senior who starts, with senior Josh Lallman a veteran point guard.

8. Omaha Creighton Prep (11-13), Josh Luedtke: Four starters return for the Junior Jays, including second-team All-Metro guard Kevin Dineen. They're also starting 6-4 freshman Drew Homa at guard. Pat Broderick, Michael Emodi and Alex Allbery are the other holdover starters.

9. Bellevue West (10-10), Doug Woodard: The T-Birds look to rejoin the upper echelon of Class A after three seasons of double-digit losses, but he said it depends on seniors assuming a prime role and “young kids elevating to their upside ability.” Deon Pettigrew, a 6-4 forward, is a third-year starter in a lineup that also returns senior shooter Chris Martin and 6-7 junior Christian Hatterle.

10. Omaha Burke (7-17), Ben Holling: The new coach eft the Eagles' nest at Central to try to restore the Bulldogs' bite after a 7-17 season. He's working with three juniors who started last year: Trey Carr, Rashad McCoy and Nick McCulloch. One who could have a fast learning curve is 6-5 freshman Wanjang Tut, who is attracting local D-I interest already. If the program's transition goes well, Holling said, “we'll have a chance to be one of the last teams to get a spot in the state tournament.”

OTHER CLASS A TEAMS

Bellevue East (9-14), Tola Dada: The Chieftains look to continue the late-season momentum from coming within a game of the state tournament. “With a more mature team,” Dada said, “this is possible.” Returning starters are seniors Joel Wallace and Preston Barrett and juniors Trevor Lenear and Joel Wallace.

Fremont (3-20), Mark Williams: The Tigers endured a rebuilding year, but got the experience they needed. There's decent size in the front line, with 6-6 junior Mitchell Hahn's last season's scoring leader. The rest of the starting lineup returns: seniors Jared Knoepfel, Zane Zentic and Ruach Wiyual and junior Wes Spalding.

Grand Island (11-11), Jeff Hofeldt: It's a new starting five for the Islanders, who have only two returning lettermen.

Kearney (14-12, Scott Steinbrook: The Bearcats haven't been this young, inexperienced and undersized in more than a decade. Damien Austen, a 5-6 junior, is the only player who saw much time last year.

Lincoln East (6-18), Ed McPherren: With seniors Connor Long, Austin Sankey and Clayton Shepard as returning starters, McPherren said he expects a much improved team. Bryan Reimers, a 6-3 junior who plays the post, missed last season while injured.

Lincoln High (12-11), Dan Noble: Junior guard Payton Helmstadter and 6-4 sophomore Jason Towery are the Links' returning starters. The Links are young and inexperienced.

Lincoln North Star (20-8), Tony Quattrocchi: After taking fourth place at state, the Gators have an experienced bench but only Noah Hough, a 6-4 senior, is a returning starter. Quattrocchi expects to compete for city and conference titles.

Lincoln Northeast (7-15), David Mercer: Rockets have even less experience opening the year — no returning starters — than in 2011-12.

Lincoln Pius X (17-5), Ray Forycki: After qualifying for state in Class B, Pius X moves into A this season with senior guard Tom Schneider its only veteran starter.

Lincoln Southwest (14-9), Duane Baack: Reid Williams, Easton Edmond and Gunnar Peterson give the Silver Hawks a three-senior nucleus in its lineup. “They are not statisfied with how last season ended so they have been working hard,'' Baack said.

Millard South (7-17), Tyler Cerveny: The Patriots expect improvement with eight lettermen, including senior starters Taylor Mendenhall and Brennan Fowler and juniors Jarek Coles and Wyatt Miller.

Norfolk (24-2), Ben Ries: Taylor Reedy, a 6-3 junior, is the only returning starter and one of only three lettermen for the Panthers. Their emphasis, Ries said, will be on defense, rebounding and shot selection.

North Platte (8-14), Matt Kaminski: The Bulldogs have seniors Jack Kenney and Luke Wright and juniors Drew Callaghan (6-6) and Kade Erickson as returning starters.

Omaha Bryan (17-10), Tim Cannon: The Bears have no returning starters and Ju-Wan Bufford is their only letterman with much experience. Evan Drake transferred from Papillion-La Vista and is starting.

Omaha Burke (8-14), Kenyon Sharp: The Bulldogs are playing a hand of Treys senior Tre Hymer at 6-8, sophomore Trey Carr at 5-10 and senior Tre King at 5-11. If they draw a couple of good wild cards from their newcomers, they could win a lot of games..

Omaha Creighton Prep (23-6), Josh Luedtke: It's the usual reloading for the Junior Jays, who have no returning starters after junior post player Jack Hummel moved to the St. Louis area. The most experienced players are 6-5 forwards Joe Jasnowski and Tim Schulte and guards Kevin Dineen, Davoun Brown and Gable Baffert. Expect the Junior Jays to win with defense

Omaha North (10-14), Ryan Mlnarik: Aireon Porter, 6-7, and 6-3 Zach Martin are three-year starters for the Vikings, who lack experience after them.

Omaha Northwest (4-19), Kevin Kobs: Huskies seek defensive intensity and better rebounding, along with better ball-handling from a team that returns seniors Tre Bush and 6-7 Stacey Keely and junior Charles Marion as starters.

Omaha Westside (10-13), Brian Nemecek: Jake Koester, who averaged 5 points as a junior, is a 6-4 post who's the Warriors' only holdover starter. The rest of the lineup comes from last year's swing players between varsity and junior varsity.

Papillion-La Vista South (5-18), Joel Hueser: Led by three-year starter Brent Kirsch in the backcourt, the Titans have a nucleus of returners who are in the process of buying in to becoming a tough defensive team.

CLASS B

Alliance (9-13), Michael Baker: Senior guard Isaac Burnham, who averaged 12 points a game, is a three-year starter who is the only one back from last year's lineup. Pressure defense will be a strength.

Aurora (16-7), Rick Bell: Three backups from last year, Alex Hunt, Cole Ashby and Blake Williams, could join returning guard Ben McQuiston in the lineup to keep the Huskies in the Central Conference mix.

Beatrice (21-4), Tyler Struck: After more than two decades and 400 wins, coach Jim Weeks left for Doane College and Tyler Struck was hired from the Millard South staff as his assistant. Matt Fujan, Ty Bardsley and Rylee Zimmerman are among the Orangemen's key players

Bennington (12-13), Luke Olson: Success depends on defensive improvement. Grant Siekman, Justice Schrum and Jacob Bliss are seniors who return as starters.

Blair (3-18), Scott Flynn: Four returning starters greet the new coach — seniors Mitch Misfeldt and Trevor Wulf and sophomores Vance Janssen and Travis Loudner. Misfeldt is a 6-6 post. Bears need to develop depth at each position, Flynn said.

Columbus (4-17), Dave Hiebner: The Discoverers, who were in Class A last year, senior the senior trio of Nick Linder, Nate Ek and Caleb Timm. “Our ability to defense and limit mistakes will be big,” Hiebner said.

Crete (12-12), Brent Cole: The starting five from last year's state tournament team is gone. Six lettermen, led by 6-3 Colten Steer and 6-7 Nate Harms, “are capable at playing at a high level,” Cole said. “We need to focus on defense and rebounding.”

Elkhorn (18-4), Spencer Peterson: Chris Weber, a 6-3 senior, is the Antlers' captain, point guard and only returning starter. Thus, as an inexperienced team, they must defend and play at a high tempo, Peterson said.

Elkhorn Mount Michael (2-20), John Roshone: The Knights return three good senior leaders, Roshone said, in starters Mark Loeffelholz and Josh Rauterkus and reserve guard Tommy Maliszewski.

Elkhorn South (14-10), Alex Bahe: A pair of 6-5 seniors, Tony Pete and Cal Rutherford, are the returning starters from the Storm's second straight district runner-up team. Matt Thomas is a transfer from Omaha Skutt.

Gering (17-7), Randy Plummer: The Bulldogs graduated all five of last season's starters. The reloading begins with good size, including 6-5 senior Zac Bibb.

Grand Island Northwest (12-10), Ryan Rathke: Back-to-back winning seasons are a positive for the Vikings. Alec Waters is a three-year starter.

Gretna (11-12), Brad Feeken: Mitch Drey, a 6-foot-6 senior, and 6-1 senior Trev Leiting are the Dragons' returning starters.

Hastings (10-13), Scott Rosno: The Tigers seek better depth with which to employ a full-court game, but with average height they are keeping defense a priority to control tempo. Tyler Rippeger is a three-year starter.

Holdrege (6-15), Jerry Buck: Luke Ackerman, a 6-foot guard, and Marcus VanEperen are back in the lineup for the Dusters. Returning bench players averaged only eight points a game.

Lexington (1-24): No report

McCook (16-10), Jeremy Yilk: The new coach takes over a team with a senior class “that is motivated to do great things this year.” Good height with its returning guard trio of seniors Cody Wudtke and Sean Backer and junior Mack Alspaugh.

Nebraska City (10-11, Mark Ritchie: There's three senior returning starters — Gabe Sammons, Tanner Faris and 6-6 David Palmtag — to go with 6-8 sophomore Tanner Breazile. Trey Fox, a junior, was out with a knee injury last season. Pioneers must compensate for the graduation of leading scorer Max Ritchie.

Norris (9-11), Chris Boesiger: Dylan Bohlke, a third-year starter who averaged 17 points a game last season, and three-sport junior standout Jakson Reetz, who averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds, will lead the Titans.

Omaha Gross (21-5), Tim Powers: Although the Cougars graduated All-Nebraska and two-time Class B all-stater Dylan Travis, the Cougars have the energy — and the early-season legs — from a state championship in football. They return Zach Knicky, Zach Johnk and JJ Lebeda and could be deeper than last year's team that took third at state.

Omaha Roncalli (13-8), Jim Meister: The Crimson Pride is back in Class B in a year with only one returning starter, junior guard Jody Bryant. They're young and will be undersized against most teams.

Omaha Skutt (16-9), Jon Burt: Motivation for the SkyHawks comes from how last season finished, with an overtime loss to Gretna in the district finals, after opening the season 11-2. Brian Schwetschenau and 6-8 Zach Legband are third-year starters, with Luke Maass back at point guard. Power forward Ryan Bouda is coming back from a football-season knee injury.

Platteview (9-12), John Stanton: Three-year starter Payton Fluckey joins fellow seniors Eric Carlson and Camden Persigehl as returning regulars who were three of last year's top four scorers. The Trojans' depth by midseason should be an asset.

Plattsmouth (12-12), Dave Snyder: While the Blue Devils start over with their lineup, there's some potential building blocks with 6-4 senior Dalton Smith and 6-6 sophomore Jamie Pellan.

Ralston (11-14), Bill Heard: The Rams will build around their three best players — third-year starter Andy Chleborad, senior Jake Goltl and 6-5 junior Zach Flott.

Schuyler (2-20), Matt Turner: Justin Mlnarik returns for the third year to the Warriors' lineup, joinging juniors Mitch Kassmeier and Cole Beebe. There's much to improve on, Turner said.

Scottsbluff (25-3), Tony Siske: From the Bearcats' state championship team return senior guards Eric Moreno, Matt Klein and Michael Hadden. They won't be as tall as last year, so defense and rebounding are focal points.

Seward (10-13), Mark Cidlik: Trey Barnes, who averaged 11 points last year, leads an inexperienced team saddled with an opening month of strong opponents.

Sidney (15-8), Erik Kohl: New coach will build around returning guards Lane Harvey and Paxton Ehler.

South Sioux City (19-7), Terry Comstock: Now that the Mike Gesell-Austin Groth era is over for the Cardinals, they'll reload with the likes of Sky Aldrich and Nate Rogers. The returning Cardinals contributed only 12 points to last year's 71-point scoring average.

Waverly (10-10), Mark Watton: The Vikings, with new coach Watton in Class B for the first time, could develop into a strong team with returning starters Erik Evans, Brandon Janssen and Sam Tewes. Those three averaged 30 points a game.

York (11-11), Scott Lamberty: Ty Danielson, a third-year starter who averaged 12 points last season, is the only returning starter for the new coach.

OMAHA-AREA

Arlington (11-9), Jeff Manka: After their first winning season in 12 years and a conference title, the Eagles face reloading with only Nick Kaup back as a starter. There's a deep sophomore class that includes 6-7 Trevor Koger and guard Ross Miller..

Ashland-Greenwood (9-13), Jacob Mohs: Greeting the new coach are returning starters Jordan Scheil and Jake Vavak in the backcourt.

Boys Town (27-1), Tom Krehbiel: Last year's C-1 state champions will be much younger this season but still talented and expect to develop into a strong team in February. David Austin returns at point guard and Brady Mutscher was in the rotation as a 6-5 forward.

Conestoga (8-15), Dean Henson: The Cougars graduated all but two players from last year's team and there's only five juniors or seniors on the team.

Douglas County West (7-14), Jeremy Travis: Not much scoring returns for the Falcons, so the mind-set is on defense. Dylan Lind is a third-year starter at guard and Nate Smith pulled down 6 rebounds a game last year as a 6-4 forward. Colin Schnoes, a 6-4 senior, transferred from Yutan.

Fort Calhoun (12-10), Ron Coughlin: The Pioneers will ride the school's strong cycle of multi-sport athletes for possibly their best season in years. Strong at guard with Jordan Kann, Lucas Lazure and Jaden Boudle, also key will be Kellon John and James Rathjen at power forward and 6-6 Joe Genoways among several newcomers in the frontcourt.

Louisville (9-13), Colin Lansman: Lions could be a team that goes up-tempo even though the roster is dotted with young and undersized players. Mitch Petersen is the top senior returner, with Skyler Deloske, Colt Johannsen and Zach Lutz juniors to watch.

Mead (2-20), PJ Quinn: It was growing pains last year for the Raiders' four returning starters: juniors Brandon Pickworth, Ryan Hughes and Andrew Kuhr and sophomore Brandyn Flagle. Only two seniors on the team.

Omaha Brownell-Talbot (11-10), Eldon Johnson: A rebuilding year is in store for the Raiders, but four of last year's bench players averaged between 3 and 5 points a game.

Omaha Concordia (7-15), Ken Kulus: The former coach at Papillion-La Vista, Kulus will work with an intact lineup of guards Kyle Burkland, Ben Fletcher and Dakota Hedrickson and forwards Joe Huff and Jack Noel. The Mustangs' depth is good.

Yutan (10-13), Andy Timm: With a backcourt trio of Jacob Peitzmeier, Nate Fisher and Nick Josoff that averaged 39 points a game, the Chieftains are poised for their second winning season in the past three years. Malcolm Bussen and Matt Oviatt also are back as starters.

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