Even though the Ankeny boys’ basketball team struggled to a 9-15 record last year, head coach Brandt Carlson didn’t view it as a disappointing season.
“I guess if we view every season through the lens of wins and losses, then last year wasn’t ideal,” he said. “But I believe that last year our players moved our program forward and handled a lot of adversity better than anyone could have expected. They didn’t quit, they finished strong and were in a great spot to achieve a state tournament opportunity. We believe that we cannot always control our circumstances, but we can always choose our response.
“This year will be no different. I am excited to work with this group and honored to serve in my coaching and teaching capacity here at Ankeny High School,” he added.
The Hawks will rebuild around the senior trio of Lio Aguirre, Carson Johnson and Cash Schoolen. Both Aguirre and Johnson are beginning their fourth season of varsity play, but Aguirre got off to a late start after completing the football season with Ankeny’s state runner-up squad.
Johnson, a point guard, averaged a team-high 15.0 points and shot 42.0 percent from 3-point range (58-of-138). He also made 89.0 percent of his free throws (65-of-73).
Johnson scored in double figures 20 times. He poured in a career-high 24 points in the Hawks’ biggest win of the year–a 56-51 upset over then-No. 3 Waukee.
Johnson, who also led Ankeny with 33 steals, was named to the Class 4A all-state second team by the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association. He was selected to the CIML Conference first team.
Johnson, a Minnesota State University Moorhead recruit, was also named to the all-substate team in Substate 6. He led his team to a win over Ottumwa in a substate quarterfinal before the Hawks ended the season with a semifinal loss at Ames.
Aguirre, a guard, averaged 14.3 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds. He was named to the all-conference third team.
Schoolen, a forward, averaged 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. He earned all-conference honorable mention.
“Those three guys have been in a lot of big games and love the game of basketball,” Carlson said. “They appreciate each other and believe strongly in our program. They have been integral parts of our past success, and I believe strongly they have improved and will be focused to finish their careers at a high level.”
Two other seniors, Devon Akers and Nolan Morrison, won’t play after suffering season-ending injuries. Morrison injured his knee last summer, while Akers injured his shoulder late in the football season and will be using the winter months to rehab and get his body ready for the spring.
The 6-foot-6 Akers averaged 4.0 points and 4.5 rebounds as a junior.
“We will miss his rebounding and athleticism,” Carlson said of Akers. “He, along with Nolan, will be a great supporter to his teammates this winter. Nolan’s leadership and toughness will be missed greatly.”
Junior guard Luke Anderson, who played in seven games last year, will likely have a bigger role this season. He is coming off an outstanding season on the football field, where he passed for 2,243 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Sophomores Rio Aguirre and Drew Sorensen have been promoted to the varsity roster. They are expected to see immediate playing time.
“We have some younger guys who early in the season are taking advantage of our football guys being absent to compete and show what they can do,” Carlson said. “We are blessed with athletes who love Ankeny and want to represent our athletic programs well. This season is no different, and we are impressed with our guys as they showcase the consistent behavior qualities that we expect.”
The Hawks have been working hard to prepare for their season opener on Tuesday, when they’ll travel to Waukee for a conference game against the Warriors.
“We got through the first practices with no setbacks so that was a positive first step,” Carlson said. “Consistent with previous seasons, our players come to practice hungry to learn and a desire to get better.”