Some of the area’s biggest names from last year’s basketball season are gone. Colt Idol, Ben Cutler and Mackey Nolan were household names for Montana basketball observers, earning all-state honors and bringing quite a bit of attention to Northwest Montana. Between Idol and Cutler, it might be a long time before we see pure scorers like that again.
Likewise, gone from the girls ranks are names like Kate Klundt, Roxy Thurman and Kelsey Hildal, among others. But Northwest Montana certainly isn’t lacking big-time talent this winter. Here are a few names you should keep in mind as the young season progresses.
-Nick Emerson (Jr., Columbia Falls) – You might not find another 6’4″ point guard in the state, particularly one this talented. Coach Cary Finberg said: “He has a chance to be a very special player.”
-Mitchell Wassam (Sr., Columbia Falls) – He’s the returning leading scorer and rebounder on a Wildcats team that, for my money, is the team to beat in Class A basketball.
-Keenan Evans (Sr., Bigfork) – A varsity player since his freshman year, Evans now has the chance to be the go-to guy on a Bigfork team that is favored in 7-B.
-Karl Ingram (Sr., Flathead) – En route to an all-conference selection last year, Ingram averaged 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds. Look for him to put up big numbers this winter.
-George Sherwood (So., Flathead) – He’s 6’4″ and athletic, as he proved during several strong late-season performances as a freshman. Could be a breakout year.
-Shay Smithwick-Hann (Sr., Glacier) – Named Class AA all-state last year, Smithwick-Hann is expected to carry more of a scoring load with Cutler gone.
-Tim Rausch (Sr., Polson) – Though not very tall, Rausch plays like a big man. Likely to be one of the top scorers in Northwestern A.
-Kyle Bagnell (Jr., Polson) – Showed signs of being a star late last season. Could emerge as one of the top players in the region this winter.
-Jackie Mee (Sr., Libby) – This perennial all-state selection is poised to have her finest year yet. Don’t be surprised if she’s the top scorer in the state by the end of the year, or at least very close to the top.
-Kayla DeWit (Jr., Columbia Falls) – Named Class A all-state last year, DeWit has the ability to average 20 points/10 rebounds per game. Few players in the state can make that claim.
-Kelsey DeWit (Sr., Columbia Falls) – Kayla’s older sister, Kelsey is a multiple all-conference selection. She’s a solid rebounder with good moves on the block.
-Breanne Kelley (Jr., Polson) – A speedy guard with a knack for getting to the basket, Kelley has the ability to score 20 points on any given night. Look for her to lead the conference in steals.
-Brooke Watkins (Sr., Glacier) – Watkins can shoot from about anywhere on the floor. Will probably be one of the top three-point shooters and scorers in the state.
-Jessica Slaybaugh (Sr., Whitefish) – The young Bulldogs will look to Slaybaugh for leadership. On any given night, Slaybaugh can knock down several three-pointers and score double digits in a hurry.
-Mallery Knoll (Jr., Bigfork) – Knoll is an energy player. A track star, Knoll uses her speed to disrupt teams on defense and get to the basket on offense. She can score in bunches.
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