5 names to keep an eye on during 2016-17 hoops season

I’m still trying to come to terms that the high school basketball season is over.

Over the course of the past three months, I have watched plenty of Class B boys basketball action in a variety of locations.

To be exact, I’ve covered games in Parshall, Stanley, Burlington, Berthold, Velva and Drake as well as numerous games in various locations inside Minot city limits.

And while the traveling certainly added up, there was always a player, or two that stood out in my eyes.

With the 2015-16 season now officially in the books, it’s never too early to start thinking about next season. Although, there are some of you out there who may very well think otherwise.

The Class B boys basketball season provided us with a lot of talent in both Region 6 and 8.

However, a lot of those talented players will graduate later this spring and move on to the next chapters of their lives.

Not all is lost for Class B basketball fans.

There’s plenty of returning talented players in both regions that should make basketball fans in the area anxious for the season to get here.

The following is a list of athletes are must-see players for any basketball fan next season.

In no particular order, here we go:

1. Drew Pearson, Des Lacs-Burlington, senior

The Lakers have a roster full of players, who can flat out shoot it, but none better than Pearson. In his junior season, Pearson paced the Lakers with a 20.6 points per game average during the regular-season. He also connected on 83 percent of his free throws – I wish all basketball players could shoot free throws like this – and for good measure, Pearson dished out 82 assists throughout the course of the season.

He’s only going to get better and I expect Pearson to be in contention for some district and region awards.

2. Deyondre Simpson, Parshall, senior

Simpson may be the best player nobody knows about. He is silky-smooth 6-foot-5 player, who can play in the post or on the perimeter. He is a matchup nightmare for most teams.

Simpson scored his 1,000th career point late in the regular season.

He averaged 18.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest. Simpson had 26-point efforts against Des Lacs-Burlington and Dunseith, as well as a 25-point night against Our Redeemer’s Christian School.

If he continues to play at the rate that he is playing, Simpson should be in the discussion for postseason awards at the state level.

3. Garrett Hanson, Lewis & Clark-Berthold, senior

Hanson was as crafty a player as anyone I saw this season. His 30-point effort against Stanley on Dec. 18, made me take notice.

On the season, Hanson finished the regular-season with an average of 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to help lead the Bombers to a fourth-place finish in Region 6.

The Bombers do lose five players to graduation in the spring, but with Hanson and teammate Alex Nelson coming back next year, there’s no reason to think Berthold can’t continue its tradition as a contender in not only District 12, but also Region 6.

4. Anders Johnson, Rugby, senior

The 6-foot forward did a little bit of everything this past season for Panthers, leading them to a 15-8 mark and an appearance in the Region 6 tournament.

On the season, Johnson was among the leaders in five different statistical categories for Rugby. He led the team in scoring at 12.5 points per contest and also led the team with 1.9 assists per game.

Johnson was second on the team in both field goal (46) and free throw (71) percentage and as if that wasn’t good enough, he also pulled down five rebounds a game.

It’s a very real possibility that Johnson and Pearson could be competing against each other for not only for Senior Athlete of the Year, but a spot in next year’s state tournament. Stay turned.

5. Hunter Rodin, Kenmare, senior

Rodin, a 5-10 guard, shot Kenmare to one of its best seasons in recent memory.

Rodin paced the Honkers with a 17.5 points per game average as they made their first state tournament appearance since 1988.

Rodin hit big shot after big shot this season as the Honkers won 18 straight games and the Region 8 tournament championship. Perhaps, the biggest shot he will remember was the halfcourt shot in drained last week’s state tournament game against Northern Cass.

Rodin should have an even bigger season in 2016-17.

Honorable mention: Trimming the number of players to watch to five was difficult, so here are a few other names to keep in mind heading into next season: Anthony Vetter, Bishop Ryan; Trent Marquart, Glenburn; Leyton Lang, Our Redeemer’s; Jayden Wetzel, Our Redeemer’s; Alex Nelson, Berthold; Rylan Bachmeier, DL-B; Max Henry, Bottineau; Isaac Undlin, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood.

This is the opinion of Mark Jones a sports reporter who covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @hoopsfan27_MDN.