Area boys’ basketball teams are making their final preparations to begin the 2019-2020 season.

It’ll be a most interesting season as someone seeks to rise to the top after Exira-EHK came one step short of the state tournament a year ago, but are having to replace virtually their entire team.

ATLANTIC

Despite graduating six seniors, including do-everything athlete Chase Mullenix, coach Jeff Ebling figures to have plenty of talent to improve on a 9-12 season from a year ago.

A lot of good pieces from last year are back. Tyler Moen will probably be at the forefront, as he returns with a 13.7 ppg average and 123 rebounds, including 88 on the defensive side. He also dished out a team-best 59 assists and added 28 steals, showing off his creativity and opportunity.

But then there’s also junior Skyler Handlos. After starting last year on the junior varsity, the sophomore came into his own with a 9.0 ppg average and adding 37 assists.

Nile Petersen, Bradley Dennis and Craig Alan Becker were primarily role players last year, while Grant Sturm played junior varsity. All are now part of the varsity team and figure to be important parts of the team.

Ebling says that the team to beat most likely will be Denison-Schleswig, with Goanar Biliew and Charlie Wiebers their top tandem.

The Trojans open up the year Tuesday at home against Creston, as part of a boy-girl doubleheader. The team recently beat Exira-EHK 72-33 in a Hall of Pride game, a game that does not count toward their record.

ACGC

The Chargers have a good core of veterans to lean on in a quest to improve from a 6-16 season a year ago. Back are senior Bryce Litler, the team’s leading scorer with 13.8 ppg, and top rebounder Quynton Younker (155, including 99 defensively), also a senior. Littler also had a team-best 93 assists last year, while junior Lucas Marsh had 21 steals, the top returning mark.

Eli Kading and Miles Kading look to see their opportunities increase this season.

The season kicks off for the Chargers Friday at Madrid.

AHSTW

Three-point shooting could be the Vikings strength, as seniors Clayton Akers, Joey Cunningham and Sam Porter, and sophomore Raydden Grobe had 115 three-pointers last year. Akers is the top returning scorer with 9.7 ppg and had 65 assists. Michael Mantell added 6.6 ppg.

Expect seniors Brody Langer and Ethan Hoepner, junior Blake Holst and sophomore J.J. Madsen to aso make solid contributions on what traditionally has been an athletic team. Plus, with several of the athletes also playing football, familiarity with coach G.G. Harris’ expectations could also be a plus.

The Vikings played .500 ball for the balance of the season and ended their season in the district semifinals. The Vikings will be in contention for an upper-division Western Iowa Conference finish, where Treynor is a heavy favorite.

AHSTW hosts Woodbine tonight and Riverside Tuesday to begin the 2019-2020 season.

AUDUBON

Key pieces of a 16-7 season are graduation casualties, and several others were also on the state runner-up basketball team.

Of all that are back, Kaiden Smith will likely be the leader with 11.9 ppg, 76 assists and 75 steals, top stats for those returning. A strong core of players include Jackson Jensen, Ethan Klocke, Joel Klocke, Marcus Olsen, Skyler Schultes, Gavin Smith and Braden Wessel, and they all figure to be part of another good run and an upper-division WIC finish for Coleman Mullenix’s team.

South Central Calhoun tonight at Audubon is the Wheelers’ season-opening opponent.

CAM

After a year of transition and players gaining experience, CAM could be among the Rolling Valley Conference teams in position to contend for the league title.

Coach Nick Hodges has plenty of experience back from a 7-12 season.

“We had seven, eight games which we had a chance to win. By the end of the season, we were playing two sophomores and several of juniors, and we’ve got a lot of them back.”

The Cougars bring back six of the team’s top eight scorers, including their best three from a year ago. Senior Jacob Holste leads the pack with 10.1 ppg, and also had just over five rebounds per contest and had 41 assists and 31 steals on the season. Two other seniors – Nathan Hensley and Ben Tibken both have more than seven points per game back, and both had at least 70 rebounds on the year.

Junior Ethan Arp, and sophomores Lane Spieker and Colby Rich also had solid minutes last year. Seniors Kolby Nelsen and Ethan Steffenson, junior Connor McKee and sophomores Joe Kauffman and Cade Ticknor are also expected to provide a big lift for the team.

Many of the players were on the football team that reached the quarterfinals, and Hughes said their success on the gridiron could pay dividends on the court this season.

“We have a lot of athleticism and talent,” he said. “We can go 8-10 guys deep which really helps us because we’re a team that can really push the ball and move the ball.”

The Cougars travel to Boyer Valley on Tuesday for their season-opening game. This could be a preview of the the RVC title chase, as they along with Woodbine are expected to comprise the top tier of the league.

EXIRA-EHK

The Spartans have to replace four seniors who all averaged in double figures and combined for 57.9 ppg a year ago, led by all-stater Dakota Rold and his fellow 1,000-point scorer Cole Burmeister. The five seniors who started virtually every game also led in most of the important statistical categories, including rebounding (691), assists, steals and blocks.

Senior Creighton Nelson is statistically the top player returning, with 3.5 ppg, 61 rebounds and four steals. Hunter Andersen, Jayden Jensen and Tyler Petersen will fill key leadership positions after playing primarily reserve roles, but the rest of the lineup will be all new.

“We got some good guys to work with,” head coach Doug Newton told the Audubon County Advocate Journal. “It’ll take a little time to learn what we’re good at and what we are not good at, and things we need to stress to get better. There will be a lot of new faces in new places, but we definitely got great kids to work with and we’ll be all right.”

The Spartans open the year Tuesday at home against Glidden-Ralston.

GRISWOLD

Coach Mark Carlton’s team had a 3-17 record last year, and will have some pieces to replace from a team that averaged just 30.3 points per game.

Jayden Amend had the most potent scoring presence for the Tigers, with his 7.4 ppg, and also might be counted on to shoulder the load for rebounds (70 rpg a year ago), assists (21) and steals (17), all returning highs.

Derek Mueller is out for the sport for the first time, after having been a wrestler. The rest are all juniors or younger, and of that group, sophomore Adam Houser has the most experience with 11 games and 2.7 ppg. Others Carlton will be counting are juniors Colton Turner, Lane Muelle, and sophomores Alex Hartman, Brayden Stirek and Zander Luft.

East Mills and Stanton figure to be the leading contenders for the Corner Conference title.

The Tigers host Southwest Valley tonight to begin the season.

RIVERSIDE

Another year, another new coach, as Nicholas Kroon will be leading the Bulldogs in an effort to improve on a 6-16 season last year.

Brogan Allensworth will be the key building block for the ‘Dawgs, with team highs in rebounds (152, including a team-high 103 defensively) and blocks (30). He also averaged 9.4 ppg.

Junior Drake Woods is the top returning three-point shooter with 21-of-62 attempts. Senior Taten Williams was second on the team’s rebounding list with 81, while classmate Mason Bivens will be looking to see his playing time and opportunities to contribute increase.

The Bulldogs are talented up front , but how much of a jump they’ll make in a talented, athletic WIC remains to be seen. They open at AHSTW Tuesday.

Editor’s note: Austin Heinen contributed to this article.