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Lake City boys basketball coach Jim Winger’s Timberwolves could be a factor when the state tournament comes along. (Dan Pelle)

Idaho boys basketball preview

Lake City tabbed in IEL 5A

It’s not a surprise that the Lake City Timberwolves have been picked to win the 5A Inland Empire League.

As far as Lake City coach Jim Winger is concerned, though, his team has much to prove before it can lay claim to anything yet. LC returns three starters.

“We have good height and some experience back but we’re still pretty young,” Winger said. “We should be good again on defense and the offense should come along.”

Post Falls coach Mike McLean expects LC to earn a state berth and be a factor come postseason.

“Lake City is loaded with everything you need to be state champions – size, experience and depth,” McLean said. “They should be playing Saturday night in the state championship game.”

Coeur d’Alene coach Kent Leiss agreed.

“I would be surprised if they’re not playing for the state title,” Leiss said. “This should be their year.”

• In 4A, Moscow coach Don Dudley returns for a third time as head coach. His team is a slight favorite over Lakeland.

• In the Intermountain League, Timberlake has been tabbed as the clear-cut favorite to win the league title.

• In the North Star League, Wallace is picked to capture the league title.

Returning all-league players

In 5A, junior Kyle Guice of Lake City is the lone returner and no returners are back in 4A. In the Intermountain League, Garret Wendt of Kellogg, Dalton Sommer of Priest River and Trevor Masterson of Timberlake return.

Around the region

5A IEL: Winger made it his top off season priority for his team to become tougher minded. “I think we have improved on the toughness meter,” he said. “If we play hard and somewhat angry we will be pretty tough.” LC takes on a difficult schedule put together by the athletic director – Winger. “It’s probably the hardest schedule we have ever had here,” Winger said. “Which is exactly what we need.” … The league, overall, will be young. Post Falls returns no starters and the same is true with CdA. Post Falls will find out quickly what life will be like without four-year starting point guard Marcus Colbert, who is at Montana State. “We will have some growing to do as a team and we’ll have to refine our roles,” McLean said. “By mid January, we should be playing with a real edge. We have depth. We’ll play 10 guys and the intensity will be very high.” … CdA will have just one senior on its roster and two returning lettermen. “These kids are basketball players,” Leiss said. “Most of them played on our 16-4 junior varsity team last year. They’ve also been successful at the AAU level. They look to play hard. Eventually this group will be very good.” CdA’s early schedule features 10 games in 22 days. “That will be very challenging,” Leiss said. “By mid to late January we will be pretty good. We want to get to state and win a trophy.” … With six seniors and three juniors, Lewiston is poised to climb out of the league’s basement.

4A IEL: No proven standout players return. By season’s end, though, a handful could emerge. … Sandpoint brings back no starters and just three lettermen. Despite the youth, coach Tyler Haynes is optimistic. “Although we are young, our players have been very dedicated and they’re experienced athletes,” Haynes said.

IML: Timberlake returns three starters and six other lettermen. “We have a lot of depth and senior leadership,” coach Tony Hanna said. “These kids have a strong will to win and competitive natures. They are smart – which allows us to run multiple offenses and defenses.” Although Timberlake hasn’t been competitive in the IML, Hanna expects those fortunes to change. “We like our chances,” Hanna said. … Wendt is Kellogg’s lone returning starter. He was a second-team All-Idaho pick last year. “We expect to play well as a team,” Kellogg coach Jeff Lambert said “We have very unselfish players. We expect to be playing well in the late stages of the year.” … Priest River returns two starters and four other lettermen. “We’re a year older and have more experience,” Spartans coach Ryan Bodecker said. “We are deep and fast on the perimeter. We should be able to use our athleticism to speed up the game to our advantage.”

NSL: Wallace returns just one starter, but it’s a good one in junior point guard Brock Arthun. “We have a strong work ethic and we’re fairly big inside,” Wallace coach Bruce Bailey said. “It will be a positive year with this group.” … Lakeside must replace five starters. The Knights also welcome a new coach, Brad Calkins. He previously was a head coach at three other schools in Idaho – Potlatch, Soda Springs and Parma. “Our success will be dependent upon how well the team responds to quicker tempo offensive scheme and varying defensive alignments,” Calkins said. “Our surprising depth should provide us with assets in what we lack in experience and size.”

Greg Lee

IEL 5A Predicted finish
  1.   Lake City

2. Post Falls

3. Coeur d’Alene

4. Lewiston

IEL 4A Predicted finish
  1.   Moscow

2. Lakeland

3. Sandpoint

IML Predicted finish
  1.   Timberlake

2. Kellogg

3. Priest River

4. Bonners Ferry

North Star Predicted finish
  1.   Wallace

2. Kootenai

3. Lakeside

4. Clark Fork

5. Mullan