The 2018-19 Wyoming high school boys basketball season is only a few short hours away. Some programs hope to build off the confidence and results they built last year, while others hope to break through for unprecedented success and some cling to development and an upset mindset.
Last year set the bar high. On the final days of the season alone fans saw one of the state’s best scoring performances (Class 4A), a double-overtime thriller (3A), the third annual installment of an enthralling rivalry (2A) and a last-moment buzzer-beater to end hopes of a four-peat (1A). This season will need a lot of excitement to not appear like a disappointment by comparison.
Luckily, this season is shaking up to be a continuation of excitement.
Reclassification alone would be an interesting enough reason to keep track of each day and each weekend, but add in the talented players who are expected to return to the court this season and sparks could fly.
This is a brief overview of what to watch for in each classification:
The field is wide open. Gillette lost the bulk of its scoring output to graduation — senior Trase Olsen is their leading returning scorer after averaging 8.4 points per game. The Camels should still be a tough-out when the time comes but they face a loaded field.
Cheyenne East appears the toughest competition on the surface. Not only do the T-Birds return seniors Erik Oliver (20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds), Xavier McCord (10.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks) and Demetrius McCord (5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds), but they add sophomore Rock Springs transfer Graedyn Buell (20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.9 steals). Buell should be back on the court mid-season after being injured at the end of the football season. Not to mention Rusty Horsley takes over as boys’ head coach after a successful stint leading the East girls’ team.
Then there’s Cheyenne Central, which will be led by 6-foot-10 sophomore Lawson Lovering. The Tribe also returns athletes in Dawson Macleary and Blaine Lyman, meaning they have a high ceiling.
Returning semifinalist Kelly Walsh returns essentially its entire squad for this season, including senior Davion McAdam (13.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists). The new addition of Riverton will be interesting, as senior Treyton Paxton (15.4 points, 1.4 steals) returns for the Wolverines after making the 3A semifinals last year.
Sheridan remains a championship threat with seniors Tristan Bower (16.6 points, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals) and Parker Christensen (10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds) both back for another shot after a runner-up finish.
Buffalo seniors Aaron Thiele (9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals), Luke Glassock (8.6 points) and Dawson Hatch (7.2 points, 3.1 rebounds) return from last year’s championship team, giving them solid leadership at the top. That alone should keep the Bison near the top of the classification until further notice.
But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Torrington returns seniors Bryan Lemmon (14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds), Jordan Malm (14.6 points, 3.9 rebounds) and Jared Lemmon (9.7 points, 7.4 rebounds), making the Trailblazers a serious threat.
There’s also Pinedale, which returns senior duo Danny Gosar (17.7 points, 6.7 rebounds) and Blake Illoway (10.9 points). The Lander rebuild continues with senior Antonio Conando (17.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals) returning after a stellar season where he led the class in scoring. There’s also Mountain View, which returns the young core of Braeden Walk (14.1 points) and Briggen Bluemel (9.0 points, 7.0 rebounds).
Newcastle could find itself in the title hunt as well with Cade Ostenson (16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals) and Dylon Tidyman (12.4 points, 4.8 rebounds) returning.
Pine Bluffs has some weapons returning from last year’s potent offense. Both Tucker Norman (14.8 points, 7.6 rebounds) and Michael Shain (13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds) return to defend the Hornets’ championship. Seniors Jarrick Trumbull (12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.1 steals) and Jackson Clair (6.6 points) return for the Hornets’ postseason nemesis, Wind River.
Out of some emerging teams, there’s Glenrock. The Herders return both Tucker Bopp (18.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 steals) and Kale Kuhlman (9.3 points, 7.6 rebounds) from last season, and they’ll be aided by the transfer of Jaren Fritz, who averaged 16.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists at Tongue River last season.
Upton returns both Clayton Louderback (17.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists) and Dillon Barritt (10.9 points, 3.0 rebounds) from last year’s semifinalist team. Big Horn returns nearly its whole team in Kade Vandyken (13.8 points, 5.2 rebounds), Kade Eisele (10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals), Quinn McCafferty (9.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists) and Carson Bates (9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds).
Wright and Wyoming Indian could also find themselves in the mix late.
Kaycee ending Burlington’s run for four straight titles sends this season into a spiral. Both the Buckaroos and Huskies lost a lot to graduation, although senior Dontae Garza (14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.4 steals) does return for Burlington.
Farson stands as a contender, returning both Lain Mitchelson (20.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.8 steals) and Clancy Gines (12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds). Hanna has its own dynamic duo in Shane McGraw (17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds) and Conor McGraw (17.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 steals), making the Miners a team to watch.
Sophomore Dalton Peterson returns after powering Encampment with 16.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. Junior Reid Schroeder (11.5 points, 6.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds) also returns to make the Tigers a threat.
Individually, Senior Vincent Brown (15.2 points) should put on a show for St. Stephens and Ten Sleep’s Zane Taylor returns after averaging 17.2 points and 12.7 rebounds as a sophomore.