Last season, the Roland-Story boys’ basketball team returned to the state for the first time in ten years.
The Northmen went 22-3 overall and won the Heart of Iowa Conference a year ago with a 14-0 undefeated record. They defeated Garner-Hayfield-Ventura in the Class 2A Substate Finals and made it to Wells Fargo Arena, where they lost to Pella Christian 69-62 in the state quarterfinals.
This year’s team wants to top all that.
“The goal is to finish better than last year,” said Roland Story Senior Guard Isaiah Naylor. “We’re all focused and coming in with a better attitude.”
But the Norsemen know it won’t be easy.
“We have a lot of experience from a very successful year last year, so it’s exciting, but it comes with a lot of different challenges than in previous years,” said Roland story coach Darrin Berggren. “You know you get the best of everyone every night. We have to be ready to go.”
Roland story is led by the talented combination of Naylor and junior forward/guard Jonovan Wilkinson.
Naylor averaged 17.1 points, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals a year ago. He shot 46.2% from the field, made 72 3-pointers at a 39.8% clip, and converted 83.3% of his free throws.
Wilkinson does a little bit of everything for Roland story. He averaged 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 49.6% from the field and 79.2% from the line in 2021-2022.
“Jon and I make a pretty good two guardian combo,” Naylor said. “To be honest, I don’t think anyone can shut us down. We got a lot better in the summer.”
The duo do a fantastic job of playing each other off and involving their other teammates.
“He brings a lot of energy and so do I,” Wilkinson said. “We cheer on each other and everyone else on the pitch.”
More:Why Roland-Story Could Be a Class 2A Dark Horse at Iowa Boys State Basketball
But Naylor and Wilkinson are also surrounded by an excellent supporting cast.
Luke Patton, a powerful 6-foot-5 post player, averaged a double-double with 10.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game during his junior year last season. Ben Greenfield averaged 5.0 points and 3.7 rebounds and was a sneaky defender, as was 6-foot-4 forward Kale Lande, who averaged 2.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last year.
“Kale, Ben … all these guys have been stepping up defensively and offensively,” Naylor said. “They’ve gotten a lot better all summer.”
Senior Dillon Lettow averaged 3 points and two rebounds last year. Junior guard Boaz Clark averaged 3.9 points and hit 25 3-pointers and Nick Butler averaged 1.4 points and rebounds apiece at the post.
“One of our strengths will be our depth,” said Berggren. “I don’t know many teams in 2A that can go as deep as we can.”
Roland-Story will have to face a big challenge from Nevada in the HOIC. The Cubs’ only conference losses last year came at the hands of the Northmen.
Berggren expects the rest of the conference to go well for the Roland story.
“Nevada has a strong program with a lot of tradition,” said Berggren. “Greene County has two of the better players in the league (seniors Richard Daugherty and Jesse Miller). PCM (Prairie City-Monroe) always field a really good team… it seems like they lose their top two scorers every year, but come back with a win-15 team. We will not take anything for granted or overlook anyone. Night after night it could be everyone’s game.”
This year’s Roland Story Team is built to handle whatever the competition throws in their way.
“Last year our boys were determined to take the next step,” said Berggren. “I think you can say the same thing this year. We got to the point last year, but I don’t think anyone was satisfied. They’ve put a lot of time into this summer and we’re really looking forward to getting started.”
Roland-Story opens the season with the host of old rival Gilbert on November 29th in Story City.