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East's Anthony Washington shoots over Memorial's Dryden Schaefer, as Madison Memorial takes on Madison East in Wisconsin Big Eight Conference boys high school basketball on Tuesday, 12/4/18, at East High School

BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW FOR 2018-19 SEASON 

BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE

2017-2018 STANDINGS

Team, Conf., All

Sun Prairie, 17-1, 25-2

Madison Memorial, 14-4, 18-6

Madison La Follette, 13-5, 19-7

Madison East, 13-5, 19-7

Middleton, 10-8, 13-11

Janesville Craig, 9-9, 11-12

Verona, 6-12, 9-14

Beloit Memorial, 5-13, 6-17

Madison West, 2-16, 4-20

Janesville Parker, 1-17, 2-21

Top WIAA tournament performances: Sun Prairie — Lost to Brookfield East, 52-50, in overtime in Division 1 state semifinal; Madison East — Lost to Sun Prairie, 82-58, in sectional final; Madison La Follette — Lost to Sun Prairie, 63-56, in sectional semifinal; Madison Memorial — Lost to Madison La Follette, 63-40, in D1 regional final; Middleton — Lost to Waunakee, 68-63, in regional final.

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS

First team: Donneil Gray, 5-9, sr., G, Madison La Follette.

Second team: Nick Caropreso, 6-5, sr., F, Madison Memorial; Cade Ellingson, 6-2, sr., G, Madison Memorial; Troy Reeves Jr., 5-11, sr., F, Madison La Follette.

Third team: Anthony Washington, 6-3, jr., G, Madison East.

COACHES’ FAVORITES

1, Madison Memorial; 2, Madison La Follette; 3, Madison East/Sun Prairie.

TEAM CAPSULES

Beloit Memorial Purple Knights

Coach: Dondre Bell, first year (0-0).

Returning starters: Kamyrn Bach, 6-5, sr., F (3.4 ppg); Amariah Cook, 6-3, sr., F (7 ppg); Terrell Ringer, 6-2, sr., G (11.6 ppg); Jaden Bell, 6-2, jr., G (4.2 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Markai Payne, 6-0, sr., G (3.9 ppg); Tejon Freeman, 6-0, sr., G (2.5 ppg); Chamar White, 6-0 sr., G (4.2 ppg).

Key fact: Although this is Bell’s first year as head coach for Beloit Memorial, he does have some experience coaching many of the top players in the area via AAU summer basketball.

The lowdown: The Purple Knights return six seniors and one junior who saw significant playing time last year. Despite the fact Beloit may be regarded as the “underdog in most games early in the season,” Bell expects a “12-plus win season” and believes his team should finish in the top-five of the Big Eight. Junior guard Jaden Bell, who started in Beloit’s playoff game last year against Madison East, is primed to have a breakout season.

Quotable: In order to be successful this season, “Beloit has to raise its basketball IQ and discipline on the offensive end,” Bell said.

Janesville Craig Cougars

Coach: Ben McCormick, second year (11-12)

Returning starters: Seve Bertagnoli, 6-2, sr., F/G (5.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Aaron Leverson, 5-11, sr., G (5.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Jack Huml, 6-0, sr., G (3.8 ppg, 0.7 rpg); Jacob Lynch, 6-2, sr., F/G (2.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg); Brandon Ronde, 6-3, sr., F/G (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Jacob Fieiras, 6-4, sr., F (0.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg).

Key fact: Tony Huml is in Janesville Craig’s Hall of Fame and is a well-known basketball figure in the community who has been battling cancer for 10 years. His son, Jack Huml, has an opportunity to play a key role on the team this season, McCormick said.

The lowdown: The Cougars return strong senior guard play and depth, even after losing four starters. After finishing in the middle of the Big Eight conference last year, Janesville Craig hopes to be a dark horse this season.

Janesville Parker Vikings

Coach: Matt Bredesen, first year (0-0, eighth season overall. Also coached at Montello, Waupaca).

Returning starters: Tremar Curry, 6-2, sr., G (9.3 ppg, 5 rpg); Brody Dahlke, 6-0, sr., G (5 ppg, 4.5 rpg); A.J. Thompson, 6-3, sr., F/G (6.3 ppg, 3 rpg); Brady Biba, 6-5, jr., F (5 ppg, 2 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Brody Lippens, 6-0, sr., G (2.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg); Robert DeLong, 6-0, so., G (4.2 ppg, 1 rpg); Connor Stricklin, 6-4, sr., F (2.9 ppg).

Key fact: With 54 sophomores and freshman trying out for the team, interest in the Vikings’ program is growing despite last year’s rocky performance.

The lowdown: This is Matt Bredesen’s first year as head coach of the Vikings. He hopes the influx of potentially promising young players will allow the team to compete in every game. The squad will be led by senior and second-year varsity point guard Tremar Curry, who posted an average of 9.3 points and five rebounds per game last year. Other second-year starters A.J. Thompson and Brody Dahlke are expected to be top scorers, although Thompson is starting the season with an ankle injury and was likely to miss the first few weeks of play, Bredesen said.

Quotable: “How we do as a team will depend on how quickly the sophomores mesh with the returning players, and how quickly they adjust to the intensity and speed of the varsity game,” Bredesen said.

Madison East Purgolders

Coach: Matt Miota, ninth year (103-94)

Returning starters: Anthony Washington, 6-3 , jr., W (10.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.2 spg); Keonte Jones, 6-3, jr., W/G (7.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 spg); Damontae Thompson, 5-10, sr., PG (6.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.2 spg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Marcus Justice, 6-4, jr., F (2.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Jevan Boyton, 6-5, so., F (1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg).

Key fact: Madison East lost in a sectional final to Sun Prairie last year. East is off to a strong start this season. 

The lowdown: After placing fourth in the Big Eight last year, the Purgolders look to contend for title this season and push that into the postseason. Madison East returns three starters, including all-conference wing/guard, Anthony Washington. Washington is a “very good defender” and a “highly skilled combo guard” who Miota expects leadership out of this season. Keonte Jones and Damontae Thompson should also anchor the squad. Although their roster may be young and inexperienced, this group “has some skill, athleticism and size,” especially on the defensive end, Miota said. Chemistry and rebounding may be areas of concern, according to Miota, but the Purgolders could make another deep run in the postseason.

Quotable: The “potential is there to battle at the top of conference,” Miota said.

Madison La Follette Lancers

Coach: Curtrel Robinson, fifth year (41-55).

Returning starters: Donneil Gray, 5-9, sr., PG (14.4 ppg); Troy Reeves Jr., 6-1, sr., G (13 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Isaiah Stewart, 6-1, jr., G (9.8 ppg); Ben Probst, 6-1, jr., G (7.9 ppg); Dre Smith, 6-0, sr., G (3.9 ppg); Jaheim Ingram, 5-11, sr., F (4.2 ppg); Malik Cameron, 6-0, sr., F/G; Jaden Nix, 5-10, sr., G (5.7 ppg); Charles Suggs, 6-2, sr., F (3.5 ppg).

Key fact: Robinson is a 2004 Madison La Follette graduate.

The lowdown: As defending regional champions, the Lancers once again look to be in top competitive form. Backing that claim is a slew of returning starters and letterwinners, including Associated Press all-state honorable mention selection Donneil Gray, second team Big 8 all-conference player Troy Reeves, Isaiah Stewart (10 ppg off the bench) and three-year varsity player Ben Probst.

Quotable: “We return a lot of players who got significant minutes last season. Every year we want to compete for a Big Eight title. In order for us to do so at La Follette, we have to be great on team defense,” Robinson said.

Madison Memorial Spartans

Coach: Steve Collins, 21st year (397-98).

Returning starters: Cade Ellingson, 6-2, sr., G (15 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg); Nick Caropreso, 6-5, sr., F (11.4 ppg); Ian Brown, 6-5, sr., F (9.5 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Yacouba Traore Jr., 6-6, jr., F (6.3 ppg); Daemiontae Bates, 6-1, sr., G (2.2 ppg); Adam Bergman, 6-0, sr., G (2 ppg); Dryden Schaefer, 6-4, sr., F (5 ppg); Kyle Yu, 6-3, so., G (2 ppg).

Key fact: Yacouba Traore Jr. is coming off a knee injury, which has sidelined him at the start of this season.

The lowdown: “Memorial looks to challenge toward the top of the Big Eight this season,” Collins said. The roster returns six players with significant playing time and experience from last year; namely senior point guard Cade Ellingson who led the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. Much like last year’s squad, “a majority of the team is 6-3 and above in height,” Collins said. Collins believes that the “conference appears to be spreading the floor looking to replicate trends in the NBA with spacing, three-point shooting and paint touches.”

Quotable: In order to reach their goals and expectations, “Memorial will need to rebound the ball and defend the paint,” said Collins, who reached 400 career victories early this season. 

Madison West Regents

Coach: Keith Stewart, 10th year (74-140).

Returning starters: Cliff McCray, 6-2, sr. G (13.0 ppg); ChaMar Reed, 6-2, sr., G (8.8 ppg); Dayne Armwald, 6-4, jr., F/G (11.7 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Leander Jones, 5-8, sr., G (5.0 ppg); Demond Thompson, 6-5, so., C (4.8 ppg); Jeramiah Champion, 6-3, sr., F (3.7 ppg); Elliott Berry, 5-11, so., G (3.5 ppg); Anari Patton, 5-10, sr., G (2.7 ppg); Austin Brooks, 6-0, sr., G.

Key fact: Although the Regents had a vastly inexperienced squad last year and finished 2-16 in conference play, nine players are returning this season. This should give Madison West the experience it lacked to battle for a higher position in the standings.

The lowdown: The Regents consider themselves a tough defensive threat that can compete with any team in the conference. Many of the players have worked hard to improve their game and physical health during the offseason, Stewart said. The coach hopes his collective approach on managing his team will create a stronger overall presence on the court, so long as everyone pulls their weight and thrives in their assigned roles.

Quotable: “Things are always competitive in the Big Eight, and some teams are counted out preseason but give a surprise in the end. I believe we are that team again, after having a down year last year. Our team is not last year’s team, even with some familiar faces,” Stewart said.

Middleton Cardinals

Coach: Kevin Bavery, 13th year (174-110 in 12 years; 379-243 overall).

Returning starters: None.

Other returning players: Sam Close, 6-2, sr., G (5.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg); Jack Boyle, 6-2, sr., G (2.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Jake Klubertanz, 6-5, sr., F (2.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Keegan Severn, 6-9, sr., C (4.0 ppg); Chandon Thomas, 6-0, sr., G (2.7 ppg).

Key fact: Max Schlicht, a 6-7 senior, missed last season and will miss this season due to ACL injuries, Bavery said. The Cardinals will count on Klubertanz amd Severn to fill that void.

The lowdown: Middleton must replace its starting unit from last year, including Brogan Brunker, in its bid to climb from the middle of the pack. Bavery anticipates that the Cardinals will be disciplined and sound on defense, with the ability to rebound well.

Quotable: “We should have the ability to generate a solid inside-outside offensive attack with as good of perimeter shooting, potentially, as we’ve had in several seasons,” Bavery said. “Seniors Sam Close and Jack Boyle are the perimeter players with the most production from last season.”

Sun Prairie Cardinals

Coach: Jeff Boos, 24th year (273-240) and 36th overall (392-359).

Returning starters: None.

Other returning players: Colin Schaefer, 6-0, jr., G (7.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Delaware Hale, 6-6, jr., F (5.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg); Cooper Nelson, 6-5, sr., F (3.7 ppg); Rajai Williams, 5-10, sr., PG (4.8 ppg., 1.3 rpg); Alex Voigt, 6-4, sr., F (3.8 ppg); Brock Voigt, 6-4, sr., F (2.8 ppg); Dan Hawk, 6-5, sr., F/C (2.7 ppg); Brandon Wherley, 6-1, sr., G (2.5 ppg); Anfernee Austin, 6-0, sr., G (5.2 ppg); Dawson Hughes, 5-10, jr., G.

Key fact: After winning the Big Eight last season and advancing to the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals, the Cardinals lost four senior starters, including Marlon Ruffin, and then-sophomore starter Jalen Johnson. The heavily recruited Jalen Johnson and his younger brother Kobe Johnson transferred to Glendale Nicolet.

The lowdown: Sun Prairie has a lot of new faces getting significant playing time and began the season with Schaefer and Nelson working their way back from injuries. Boos believes the team will come together as the season progresses and players return from injuries. Sun Prairie has won outright or shared the past three Big Eight titles.

Quotable: “I feel we should be in the thick of things in the conference,” Boos said. “There will be a lot of balance in the league this year. It should be a very interesting league.”

Verona Wildcats

Coach: Jevin Budde, second year (9-14).

Returning starters: Tyler Slawek, 6-0, sr., G (10.7 ppg); Ryan Van Handel, 6-4, sr., F (9.2 ppg); Reagan Klawiter, 6-2, sr., G (5.2 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners/key players: Crew Risgaard, 5-11, sr., G (3.5 ppg); Haakon Anderson, 6-1, jr., G; Adam Bekx, 6-2, jr., F.

Key fact: Verona lost two starters from last season’s team — Bui Clements and Grant Kelliher — and hope to make a move up after finishing seventh in the league standings last year.

The lowdown: Budde said Slawek, Van Handel and Klawiter had solid seasons as juniors last year and are expected to lead the team this year. Slawek has the potential to be one of the top offensive players in the league and could be asked to defend opponents’ best players, Budde said. Van Handel is expected to demonstrate the ability to play inside and outside, while Klawiter sees the floor well and is unselfish, Budde said.

Quotable: “I see us in the middle of the pack in the Big Eight Conference,” Budde said. “I think we have a group of very unselfish young men who put the team ahead of themselves. I believe that this will carry over onto the floor for our team.”

-- State Journal staff, Kelsey Justin, Jon Masson. 

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.