What memories do you have of your first varsity game?
Ryan Kriener, Spirit Lake: My freshman year in the first round of the playoffs, I was still at New Hampton, and we’re up by 30 or so. Coach yelled down to the end of the bench for me, and I got so nervous because they’d only had me practicing varsity for the playoffs. The first shot I put up almost went over the backboard, but they called a foul on it and I put in the free throws. I was so nervous, but I got pretty pumped about that.
Jaylan White, Interstate 35: My first game had us playing at a 4A team, Des Moines North, and I had played some of those guys in AAU with Kingdom Hoops. As a team it didn’t go as bad as I thought and we had a chance to win the game. I had five points going up against Teyontae Jenkins. It was a great game. I was really nervous going out, but after the first quarter everything started to flow.
Cordell Pemsl, Dubuque Wahlert: I remember running out and seeing everyone. When the names were being called out, I stood up and heard the roars and I knew it was time. I felt like my time had finally come and it was time to show what we could do.
Joe Wieskamp, Muscatine: I was nervous and I don’t even remember running up and down the court. It’s like I wasn’t even there, it felt so surreal. When I knocked down my first 3-pointer, I was able to come down again and hit another one and it all went from there. Hitting that first shot gave me the confidence I could do it.
How would you describe the difference between playing AAU and school basketball?
Cordell Pemsl: The pace of high school is a lot slower. And you have to be a lot smarter on the AAU circuit. The mistakes you make in school ball you can’t make in AAU or else you’re going to turn around and either get dunked on or turn the ball over.
Connor McCaffery, Iowa City West: The athletes that you see in AAU are something else and there are a lot more of them. Playing on the Nike circuit last year in Milwaukee and Chicago tournaments, the kind of athletes you have to play against, make shots over and go by are different. The overall intensity of the games at certain points is really high. But the defensive principles in high school games compared to AAU are just way, way better. There’s help defense, team defense, when AAU teams don’t practice that much together.
Jordan Bohannon, Linn-Mar: School basketball has a lot more structure and AAU gets crazy. There aren’t a lot of fouls called and it’s a battle every game. Your body gets beat up. It’s a big opportunity to play AAU and get ready for high school.
Ryan Kriener: AAU can be a slugfest and it can be who can beat who each other up the most. In high school you have to stay really fundamental and solid, hands off. AAU they let things go, but it’s a lot more up-and-down and you see better athletes. High school can really be dominated by one or two players, too. AAU teams can have six or seven Division I guys on the same team.
Go-to shot in a game of HORSE?
Jordan Bohannon: It’s a turnaround, behind-the-head, one-handed shot from half-court. I’ve been working on it quite a bit, because every day after practice I shoot some trick shots like that.
Ryan Kriener: Either a shot over the backboard or a behind-the-back layup. I can hit those pretty well.
Levi Jansen, MOC-Floyd Valley: It’s just a 3-pointer. Make it and then keep making them move out a little deeper.
Connor McCaffery: Probably a step-back 3-pointer, something simple. To be honest I don’t play that much HORSE, but the trick shots are good ones, too.
Favorite gym to play in?
Connor McCaffery: Besides West, it has to be (Iowa City High). When we play at City every year, the environment, the intensity of that game and playing in that gym, because it’s so small with so many people packed in, I just love it.
Levi Jansen: There’s no other gym like MOC. It’s a great home atmosphere and we have one of the nicest gyms in the state. Coming out of the locker room our band plays “Championship” for us and they’ve been doing it as long as I can remember, and my brothers experienced. I get chills listening to it when we come out.
Jaylan White: Pleasantville. I love the way their stands are set up with their court. It’s a great atmosphere playing there because it’s a giant crowd each time.
Joe Wieskamp: I’m going to say Muscatine. With us being more successful and getting fans to fill up the stands, I feel like it could be a great atmosphere this season and in seasons to come.
Cordell Pemsl: Wells Fargo Arena, no doubt.