Rock Island loaded with dominant returning players this season
There is a certain standard of excellence established with the Rock Island boys basketball program.
The Rocks have won at least 19 games in seven of the last eight seasons, and this season, eight letterwinners from last year's squad – including two starters – will take on the challenge of maintaining the winning tradition.
Lacey Watson, a junior guard/forward who averaged 8.4 points and 5 rebounds per game, and Jacob Ellis, a senior forward who notched 5.9 points and 3.3 rebounds a contest, are the returning starters. The other returning letterwinners are senior guards Corey Freeman, Jerry Hacker, Jay Richardson and D’Angelo Steele; junior guard Alek Jacobs; and senior forward Aaron Crose.
“I believe we have the versatility to play small or play big depending on the situation," Head Coach Thom Sigel told Rock Island Today. "We have the size and depth to play big, so I think we can be a good rebounding team at both ends of the floor. We also have the versatility and depth to go small and play fast with a number of guards who can play bigger than their listed heights.”
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Point guard Eli Leffelman, a three-year varsity player; top shooter John Wilson; and post player Kyle Schmitt head up a group of seven returning letterwinners from last season's 26-5 team.
“We expect to compete for Three Rivers Conference, regional and sectional championships again this year,” Head Coach Ray Sharp told Rock Island Today.
The youth movement of last year's 13-18 team is a year older this season.
6-foot-5 junior Tyler Bruggenwirth, who was All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC) Second Team last season with 9 points and 6 rebounds a game, and 6-4 junior Nate Wierema, who was TRAC Honorable Mention TRAC at 8.8 ppg and 5.1 rpg, are back after strong sophomore seasons. Also back is senior Cole McClary, who missed time last season with a broken wrist.
“We were really young last year, but this year, we return both starting big men, and we are looking to be a more experienced club that will compete with the best teams in the TRAC and the area,” Head Coach RJ Coffey told Rock Island Today.
Patrick Henrekin takes over this season as the varsity head coach after spending the previous six seasons as the sophomore coach.
Starters Kody Wetzell (10 points per game) and Logan Henrekin (8 points, 3 assists per game) return from last season's 9-21 squad. Brayton Lavine is another key returning player.
“We will have good leadership at the guard position” Coach Henrekin told Rock Island Today. “We will be athletic, but inexperienced. It will be interesting to see how we develop throughout the year.”
Nick Klimson, Ben Brackemyer, Bryce Smith and Britt Ottens are the letterwinners returning from last year's team, which went 14-12 overall and 10-4 in the Three Rivers Conference South Division.
A lot of experience is back from a 19-8 record in 2015-16.
Point guard Juan-Antonio Gomez (9.9 points, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals per game last year) and forward Dimitric Young (7.7 ppg, 3.7 rebounds per game, 1.2 spg) are in their fourth year on varsity, while center Reid Blackburn (3.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.3 blocks per game) is in his third varsity season. Ryan Blackburn (3.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and Myles Williams (3.2 ppg, 1.6 apg, 1.2 spg) are other experienced team members.
Note: Not all teams returned information requests from Rock Island Today for this preview.
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2101 6th Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201