Class A Top 25

#1 Farmington is large with experience

By Frank Rusnak
    Despite returning four starters from an Elite Eight qualifying ball club, and size with one of the biggest teams in Class A, Farmington coach Tom Wierzba knows that a few kinks have to be worked out for his preseason number one ranked Farmers.

    Expected to lead Farmington is the electrifying 6'5" senior Ryan Welker who averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds last season for a 26-7 team. Supplying help to Ryan will be his 6'7" twin Gavin Welker (12 points, 7 rebounds), 6'6" senior combo forward Trevor Williams (10 points, 5 rebounds) and 5'11" senior guard Chris Agnoletti.

"Ryan [Welker] I think is turning out to be a really really good player. We don't have anyone that can stop him in our practices."

Coach Tom Wierzba
Farmington H.S.

    But Wierzba still doesn't see a point guard that has stepped up for his team.

    "They talk about in baseball bull pen by committee, and I think our point guard will be point guard by committee," said Wierzba, who has posted 283 wins in the last 12 years at Farmington.

    While Ryan Welker has the capability to step in at the lead guard position, Wierzba feels that he would be best suited at the shooting guard spot.

    "Ryan I think is turning out to be a really really good player," said Wierzba. "We don't have anyone that can stop him in our practices. Ryan is a possible option for the point guard, but I think he can be much more effective at the 2-guard because he causes a lot more matchup problems for our opponents. He's more valuable at the 2-guard than the point because our point guard isn't a big scorer for us and Ryan is our leading returning scorer."

    Junior Tim Finney is another option for the point guard position for the Farmers. At 5'10", Finney is lighting quick, but sometimes too quick for his own good, according to Wierzba.

    The player who will most likely get the start at the point guard spot is Agnoletti. Posing averages of 1.3 point per game and 2.4 assists per game last year, Wierzba knows that it isn't Agnoletti's flashiness or a monstrous stat sheet that will jump out at you.

    "Chris does a lot of things that don't go noticed in the scorer's book," said Wierzba. "He takes care of the basketball and gets it to the open man."

    While the point guard dilemma is worked out, the recovery of Gavin Welker will be watched with a close eye. Having his gall bladder and spleen removed seven weeks ago he is not fully recovered with the start of the season tomorrow.

    "Gavin is not 100-percent but has come around much more than I had anticipated him," said Wierzba. "He's still a little weak, but I can see he's getting stronger every day at practice."

    Falling to Pana in the quarterfinals last year by a score of 66-62, Farmington knows that it will have to continue to raise it's level of play after every game. With a tough schedule ahead, the Farmers face fellow Olympic Conference foe Macomb -- also an Elite Eight qualifying team last year and returning four starters -- a possible three times and have added Peoria Central onto their slate.

    "We just got better every single game last year and that's what we are preaching to our kids today," said Wierzba. "We've got a bull's eye on our backs this year, and that number one spot just increased it. I think we are better from a year ago in our aggressiveness, and pressure on the full-court level, and we have more depth. We have the ingredients to be pretty good and we're big, which will present mismatch problems for a lot of teams."

  1. Farmington- The Farmers will look to its main three of 6'5" Ryan Welker, 6'6" Trevor Williams and 6'7" Gavin Welker as three of their returning four starters from an Elite Eight qualifying team. "Those three being as big as they are, aren't your prototype post players," said coach Tom Wierzba. "They are probably some of our better 3-point shooters. And will present some mismatch problems for teams."
  2. Lisle- Joe Cortez, a 6'3" senior point guard will look to redeem coach Mark D'Amico's Lions off of their loss to Wheaton Academy last year in the semifinals of the Timothy Christian regional. Cortez averaged 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals last year for a 24-3 ball club. Teamed with Cortez in the backcourt will be 6'0" senior Terrance Parker, the brother of current San Antonio Spurs point guard, Tony Parker. Parker averaged 13 points last season. Seniors Tom Buchholz, Jonathan Parker and Jon Johansen round out the starting five.
  3. Macomb- Another team returning four starters from an Elite Eight qualifier, the Bombers eventually fell to Bureau Valley by a score of 65-51 in the quarterfinals. Top returning scorer Blake Bainter (14 points) is coming off of a rough football season, but looks to provide leadership and defense. Three-year starter, junior Chad Cox will run the Bombers who are coming off of a 25-6 season. A regular target of Cox's will be senior big man, 6'10" Garret Grimm.
  4. Pana- The state runner-up, Pana returns two starters in 6'1" senior Justin Shrake and 6'6" senior Josh Evans. Shrake is the team's go-to-guy averaging 21 points last season while shooting 52-percent from the field and 43-percent from 3-point land. Currently with 1,081 points in only two years of varsity, Shrake is close to breaking the all-time Pana record of 1,442. A State tournament first team performer, Shrake is an IHSA record holder. Evans will be counted on for a lot in the post, coming off a year where he averaged nine points and five rebounds. Look for 5'11" senior Todd Beyers to hold down the point guard duties. 5'10" junior Troy Pinkston will get the spot at shooting guard after placing third in the State 3-point contest. Shrake will fill in at the small forward spot with 6'3" 225-pound senior Joe Pitzpatrick at the power forward spot, and Evans rounding out the starting squad at center. Coach Gary Bowker has been working this team hard to top last year's finish.
  5. Pleasant Plains- Senior all-purpose man, 6'6" Jordan Roth heads the Cardinals in the post Dusty Bensko-era. Helping to guide coach Cliff Cameron's bunch will be 6'2" senior Ryan Sunley, who has a 34-inch vertical, post player Joe Miles who stands at a strong 6'4" and 230-pounds. Also watch for 5'11" Joey Albsmeyer who is a vocal leader and junior John Edminson, a 6'4" combo guard.
  6. Cissna Park- Coach Kevin Long brings back a strong 29-2 ball club from a year ago. Leading the Timberwolves will be 6'5" senior Mike McKean who can -- and will be asked to -- do it all for his team. McKean averaged 16 points and seven rebounds while shooting 61-percent from the field a year ago.
  7. Breese Mater Dei- Southeast Missouri State signee, Cole Grapperhaus looks to lead the Knights into action. Averaging 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks a year ago for a 22-10 ball club, the versatile Grapperhaus will be counted on for big things from coach Marvin Eversgerd.
  8. Providence St. Mel- Led by Minnesota signee Stan Gaines, a 6'7" senior swingman, the Knights will once again be competitive. Bringing back a 16-12 team, Tim Ervin's team was hurt by the graduation of DePaul's Levar Seals and transfer of 6'7" Shaun Pruitt to West Aurora. But receiving a transfer of its own in 6'2" sophomore post player David Evers from Prosser, some strength is added to a small team (compared to tradition). While St. Mel isn't deep, a lot will be asked out of sophomore point man, 6'3" Justin Ceresoli. 6'1" senior sharp-shooter Emmanuel Ford will also be looked upon to help the scoring load.
  9. Bureau Valley- With a large setback due to graduation by the second place Storm, coach Brad Bickett will look to 6'3" senior Phil Endress for versatility and leadership, as the forward brings in averages from a year ago of 12 points and 2 assists. 6'3" senior Adam Gutshall will need to provide the Bureau Valley with a large post presence.
  10. Leo- Coming off a 20-6 record, the Lions have the capability for big things, led by 6'6" senior Chris Burras (22 points, 13 rebounds) who is a highly sought after division one prospect. The loss of 6'7" Spencer Carter who moved to Iowa will hurt, but 6'5" sophomore Frank Claire is progressing quickly.
  11. Cairo- Big things are expected out of coach Larry Baldwin's team. Led by seniors, 6'3" Byron Wright and 6'5" Kenny Simelton, the Pilots will be athletic and versatile.
  12. Lewistown- Evansville signee, 6'1" senior Nathan Koster is the heart and soul of this team. Jumping into the backcourt with Nathan will be his sophomore brother Matt Koster. The Indians will also look to senior swingman Billy Grzanich and 6'9" 230-pound senior Zane Beekman who has received mild Division One interest.
  13. Freeburg- Ironically, the Midgets bring in a rather tall team this year, led by seniors Jason Guyette (6'5") and Jim Dibble (6'4"). Guyette averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds a year ago. Coming off of a 21-9 season, coach Norm Toenjes has high hopes for this year's squad. Look for Jake Bayers, a 6'0" senior point guard to direct this team flawlessly.
  14. Ridgeview- The Mustangs will look heavily to a player that has only been playing the game for two years. After growing six inches after his freshman year, 6'8" senior Cody Lewis looks to provide a big impact for coach Rodney Kellar's club. Modeling his game after Florida's David Lee, Lewis looks to go the junior college route after this year, then head to a Division One. Lewis's junior cousin, 5'11" Chad Hobbs will man the point guard spot for the Mustangs. Also look for 6'2" junior guard Kyle Simpsen, 6'0" senior shooter Tyler Norton and Nathan Fincham, a three year starter at 6'3" 220-pounds.
  15. Rockford Christian Life- The Eagles could surprise some people this year with a big and athletic squad led by 6'6" senior post man Joe Box. Also look for 6'7" junior Luke Berry to open eyes, while coach Frank Hood may look to 6'2" freshman Ryan Leek sooner than expected.
  16. Pickneyville- The defending state champions return no starters from a 31-4 ball club, but coach Dick Corn looks to have his Panthers ready come March. 6'2" junior forward Michael McConachie will be looked upon heavily.
  17. Mt. Carroll- Sophomore guard Jordan Delp looks to shoot the Hawks into the elite category as he leads Chris Payne's team which returns a 23-6 ball club from a year ago.
  18. St. Anthony- The Bulldogs will be led by 6'2" junior Chris Bochtler, Ron Niebrugge and 6'7" senior Jon Wente, who's older brother plays at Princeton University.
  19. Stewardson-Strasburg- Josh Preumer is a supreme scorer and a lot will be asked of the 6'1" senior for the sake of the Comets' success.
  20. Prairie Central- Led by junior star, 6'5" C.J. Wrede, along with a cast full of other talented juniors that equal a deep bench, the Hawks don't look to be falling off anytime soon. Losing to eventual state champion Pickneyville in the Elite Eight last year, watch for juniors 5'10" Trevin McColloh, 5'9" Harry Pick, 6'3" Josh Anderson, 5'10" Brad Frye, and lone senior starter 5'10" Scottie McGuire.
  21. The Latin School- The loss of the supremely athletic, 6'3" Tyrell Bell could hurt the Romans badly. Bell will possibly sit out the year to focus on his academics. Coach Dave VandeMeulen will look to 6'7" junior Mike Rudoy for leadership. 6'0" junior guard Yosef Johnson will provide quickness in the backcourt for Latin and 6'10" Providence St. Mel transfer, sophomore Kennith George could provide dividends down the line.
  22. Princeton- The Tigers move from Class AA to A has created championship hopes. 6'7" senior Jon Foss is a big time player and capable of playing any front court position. Colgate-bound, Foss averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds last season. Coach John Rumley will also look to 6'4" Eric Kastor, 6'2" Scott DeVore and 6'3" Matt Wright for athleticism.
  23. Robinson- The Maroons are led by 6'5" junior Nick Brooks and 6'1" junior point guard Tyson Schnitker.
  24. Quincy Notre Dame- 6'6" senior marksman Patrick Cook leads the Raiders into action coming off a 19-9 season last year. Cook averaged 16 points and six rebounds last season for coach Scott Douglas' team.
  25. Anna-Jonesboro- Wildcats coach Benjy Johnson will look to 6'9" senior Nathan Neal even more now that Josh Alley blew out his knee and is likely done for the season.


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