Back by popular demand, it’s the preseason coaches straw poll! We reached out to the high school basketball coaches across the state, asking them to rank the top five teams and top five players in their respective classifications. It’s worth noting that some coaches ranked more than five teams and/or players (Nos. 6 and above were awarded one point), whilst others ranked fewer than five.
There’s no discrepancy as to who the coaches view as the team to beat in Class A. Separated by 24 points from No. 2 Sioux Falls Christian and by 100 from No. 3 St. Thomas More, the Tea Area Titans were definitively established as the preseason top dog. While mathematically skewed, the top five was geographically balanced with Red Cloud and Pine Ridge rounding out the group.
The POY vote was equally lopsided with Tea’s Noah Freidel nearly doubling up teammate Justin Hohn.
Here are the complete results from this year’s straw poll, with first-place votes in parentheses.
No. 1 Tea Area, 135 (24)
2017-18: 19-6, State runner-up
Among the returning Titans are pair of Division I commits in Freidel and Hohn, plus Kade Stearns, who averaged 10.2 ppg as a junior. Put another way: Tea, which limited its opponents to 52 ppg last year, return 50 ppg to its starting lineup. Injuries are the great equalizer, but on paper, the Titans might be the best team across all three classes.
No. 2 Sioux Falls Christian, 111 (4)
2017-18: 24-1, 3rd at state
For my money, SFC as the state’s best team last season and with Mitchell Goodbary, Gavin Schipper (11.6 ppg), Will Garnaas (11 ppg) and Mitch Oostra (7 ppg) among the players returning, they should contend for a title in 2018-19.
No. 3 St. Thomas More, 35
2017-18: 12-11, Lost SoDak 16
An experienced group (that’s absolutely a theme amongst the top teams in Class A this season), St. Thomas More eyes its seventh state tournament berth since 2010. A name to watch: Ryder Kirsch, a 6-foot-6 junior guard/forward.
No. 4 Red Cloud, 34
2017-18: 21-5, 5th at state
Class A looks to be wide-open the top two, and with a talent like Alejandro Rama leading the way, the Crusaders stand as good a chance as any at crashing the state tournament. Developing secondary scoring options will be key for Red Cloud, with 6-2 guard Riyen Carlow (5.3 ppg), 6-3 forward Jalen Cross and 5-10 guard Jeremiah Whalen likely to expand their roles.
No. 5 Pine Ridge, 25
2017-18: 17-8, 8th at state
Pine Ridge returns everyone from last year’s 17-win team, including leading scorer Corey Brown (15.2 ppg, 10 rpg, .850 FG%, .850 FT%), a 6-foot-3 senior center/forward, Joe O’Rourke (13.3 ppg, 3.4 spg, 3.0 apg) and Halin Bad Bear (11.4 ppg, 5 apg, 4.7 spg). Strength of schedule is a concern (Red Cloud on Jan. 3 likely top team they’ll face), but this group does have state tournament experience.
Others receiving votes: Sioux Valley, 21; Dakota Valley, 17; Lennox, 10; Parker, 10; Madison, 7; Dell Rapids, 7; Aberdeen Roncalli, 6; Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, 5 (1); Tiospa-Zina, 5; Miller, 3; Crow Creek, 2; Vermillion, 1.
PRESEASON FIRST FIVE
Noah Freidel, Tea Area, 120 (22)
Sr. | 6-4 | G/F
A Wright State commit, Freidel is an absolutely prolific talent. The 6-foot-4 guard/forward averaged 25.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists to go with 41 steals and 26 blocks last season. He enters his final year at the forefront of a senior class that’s already claimed three state titles in 2018-19.
2018 First Five selection Noah Freidel overcame an in-season knee injury to lead the Titans to a runner-up finish in Class A. Brian Haenchen/Argus Leader
Justin Hohn, Tea Area, 62
Sr. | 6-1 | G
Perhaps overshadowed at times by Freidel, Hohn has made a name for himself defensively, using his long wing span and quick hands to wreak havoc on that end of the floor (79 total steals). The 6-foot-1 UC Irvine commit is no slouch offensively, either, averaging 6.2 assists and 10.9 points per game last season.
Mitch Goodbary, Sioux Falls Christian, 53
Sr. | 6-5 | F/C
At 6-foot-5, Goodbary is a rather intimidating presence underneath the basket. An athletic big, the Augustana football commit averaged about 13 points and seven rebounds per game last season, with 52 assists. He also led the team in steals.
Alejandro Rama, Red Cloud, 33 (2)
Sr. | 6-1 | G
The unquestioned leader of his team and a tireless worker, much is asked of Rama, but he’s proven himself up to the task, finishing his junior season with a well-rounded statline: 22.4 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.8 spg. The South Dakota School of Mines commit will likely shoulder even more of the workload in 2018-19 — at least in the early going — as the team works to replace its other leading scorers.
Max Nielson, Sioux Valley, 22 (1)
Sr. | 5-11 | G
The latest in a line of offensive standouts for the Cossacks, Nielson was lethal from 3 (40-for-80) and a talented playmaker (7.6 apg) for Sioux Valley last season. Following the graduation of Trevor Hanson and Trevor Olson, expect Nielson to increase his scoring output from the 12.0 ppg he averaged as a junior.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Corey Brown, Pine Ridge, 16; Karst Hunter, Miller, 13; Camden Bialas, Parker, 12; Ryder Kirsch, St. Thomas More, 8; Gavin Schipper, S.F. Christian, 7; Kayden Verley, Canton, 7; Paul Bruns, Dakota Valley, 6; Max Baloun, Redfield/Doland, 6; Kellan Benck, Deuel, 5; Aiden Bizarde, Todd County, 5; Joey Slama, Bon Homme, 3; Quincy Ihnen, Lennox, 3; Treyton Diegel, Groton, 2; Trey Christensen, Parker, 2; Drew Blosmo, Garretson, 2; Tex Janis, Little Wound, 1; Charlie Cox, Dakota Valley, 1; Kelby Olson, Belle Fourche, 1; Brady Hoftiezer, Stanley County, 1.
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.