State boys' basketball final thoughts: Way-too-early No. 1s for next year, recruiting stock-risers
It’s amazing how quickly the Wells Fargo Arena staff worked after Cedar Falls closed the state boys’ basketball tournament with its Class 4A title.
I went back into the interview room for about 30 minutes to grab quotes and file the game story before deadline. When I finished, I walked back out to look at the arena floor one more time before driving home.
The nets were already down. The media seating was gone.
Soon, all evidence a basketball tournament was played there would be gone. But, man, what a tournament it was.
FULL BRACKETS:Results from each class at the boys' state tournament
Here are my final thoughts from a tremendous week of basketball at the Well, as well as some way-too-early looks to next season:
Way-too-early No. 1 teams
Let’s start with the heavy hitter that will surely make nobody upset with me. Who might be the top-ranked teams in each class come next November?
Class 4A: Dubuque Senior. The Rams return Noah Carter and four of their other top-six scorers from a team that beat Iowa City West by 11 points this season. They slipped up in their substate final, but they were a state-caliber team, without a doubt. (Also considered: Waukee, Iowa City West)
Class 3A: Glenwood. The defending 3A champs lose Nate Mohr and Andrew Blum. But they return their top scorer in Christian Stanislav, as well as Zach Carr and Ryan Blum, who played big minutes during the Rams’ coming-out party at the Well. (Also considered: Oskaloosa)
Class 2A: Western Christian. The Wolfpack, one of the 2A favorites, lost in its substate final this year. But it returns so dang much, including its top scorer in Jacob Vis, as well as Carter Broek, Clay VanTol and five more underclassmen who got varsity minutes this year, that you have to like the team's chances. (Also considered: Treynor, Aplington-Parkersburg)
Class 1A: Grand View Christian. Grant DeMeulenaere will be a big loss, but he’s only one of two seniors from the Thunder’s 1A championship team this year. Mach Nyaw will be back. Arturo Montes will be back. Bryce Crabb, Sam Glenn and Kong Neyail will be back. And so will Issa Samake, the biggest matchup nightmare in the class. (Also considered: North Linn)
My tournament MVPs
4A: AJ Green. The Northern Iowa signee averaged 25.7 points and led his team to its first-ever state title in its first-ever state title game.
3A: Nate Mohr. Mohr ran the show for the class’ most well-oiled machine, and his 6-foot-3 length worked wonders on defense. He averaged 14.3 points and 5.7 assists.
2A: Harris Hoffman: The most dynamic scorer on a team full of dynamic scorers, Hoffman averaged 16.7 points to lead Cascade to its first-ever boys’ basketball title.
1A: Grant DeMeulenaere: Samake gets the game ball for his championship performance, but DeMeulenaere stepped up in crunch time of GVC’s quarterfinal and semifinal, when Samake had fouled out. He fought through a rough week of shooting and still averaged 19.3 points and three assists. He went 24-for-27 on free throws.
Noah Hart, PG, Waukee, 2019: Hart’s passing instincts are rare, and he showed them off in front of Division II, low-major and mid-major Division I coaches, averaging 5.7 assists per game this week. Drake is looking at him and Bulldogs’ coaches were at the Well most of the week. Hart has court vision you can’t teach and a fastball that he can squeeze through windows many point guard won’t see. Right now, he holds NAIA offers from Grand View and William Penn. But when you combine his skills with his 6-2 frame, he feels like at least a D-II talent.
Issa Samake, PF, Grand View Christian, 2019: Samake's performances have to be taken with a grain of salt — he is a 6-7 guy with a 7-4 1/2 wingspan playing small-school competition. But his rim-rocking athleticism and jaw-dropping potential were on full display. Samake told me he still hasn’t decided which AAU team he’ll play for this offseason, and that he might take spring off to rest a shoulder injury. But he’s got high-three star written all over him. The key will be for Samake to put up similar performances against stouter competition on the AAU circuit. If he can do that, Iowa State and Tulsa won’t be his only offers for long.
Cole Henry, PF, Oskaloosa, 2019: Henry fortified himself this week as at least a low-major D-I prospect. North Dakota has offered and really, really likes him. In addition, he told me Drake, Belmont, North Texas, Boise State, Middle Tennessee, UNI, South Dakota and South Dakota State have expressed interest, and that Drake, North Dakota and Middle Tennessee came to watch him play at the Well. He’s an athletic 6-9 power forward with guard-like handles and the ability to run the show in transition. For a big, he’s an excellent passer, too, and he works particularly well in the pick-and-roll with Xavier Foster. He averaged 13.3 points, four assists and four rebounds at the Well. He sometimes puts up wild or ill-advised shots under the basket, but he’ll develop his inside game over time. He would benefit from a mid-range jump shot, as he’s almost exclusively a drive to the basket or back-to-the-basket player right now.
Favorite games from each class
4A: Iowa City West 62, Muscatine 50 in the quarterfinals. There were better games in terms of competition. But this was such a big game for the state’s high school basketball scene. The second-biggest crowd of the week came out to watch Joe Wieskamp play in his first state tournament — and say goodbye when his Muskies couldn't pull off the upset. Wieskamp had a grand finale with 29 points and 11 rebounds.
3A: Glenwood 66, Oskaloosa 62 in the final. This was a ridiculously good game in front of two explosive offenses with raucous fan bases cheering them on. The biggest crowd of the week by far showed up for this contest. For the first time since 2010, the IHSAA opened up the third deck to accommodate the crowd. In the end, the Rams won a game that featured 13 lead changes and 11 ties.
2A:Cascade 49, Treynor 38 in the final. Let’s just call this a game of epic runs — none more epic than Cascade’s 26-6 run to end the game. The momentum was palpable, and it was so much fun to be in the Well during that fourth quarter.
1A: Grand View Christian 49, North Linn 46 in the final. These teams kicked off championship Friday with a beat-em-up defensive slugfest. They were knotted at 30 entering the fourth quarter. GVC took an early lead in the final frame and never let go. But there were eight lead changes through the first three quarters. Just a fantastic close-out performance from the Thunder against the explosive Lynx.
Friday’s slate of action was incredible. But my favorite moment from the week came at the end of Cedar Rapids Xavier’s quarterfinal win over Marion.
In the final seconds of Marion’s 67-60 loss, Indians head coach Mike Manderscheid subbed in JD Grawe, a senior on the autism spectrum who’d been an integral part of the program for the past four years.
Grawe got position under the basket. He shot three times, missed each time, got his rebound each time and put up one final shot with the seconds of his Marion career ticking down.
"Marion basketball has meant so much to me," Grawe told me a couple hours after the game, donning his red-and-yellow Marion letterman’s jacket. "I can’t even describe the words of what it means to me. It’s something I’m going to take and tell my kids about one day.
"This program shows that anybody can do anything. It doesn't matter what you are or what you associate with. You can do anything that you set your mind to.”
There were three first-time state champions this year in Cascade, Glenwood and Cedar Falls. How about three more next year?
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.