The Oskaloosa boys’ basketball team had a ton of hype going into the 2016-17 season following two six-win years under Head Coach Ryan Parker.
The attention of the state was drawn to Osky thanks in large part to 6’10’’ freshman Xavier Foster, who was named to several All-State watchlists before even playing a minute of high school basketball. As coaches from around the region started to scout Foster, 6’8’’ sophomore Cole Henry also emerged as a much improved player.
Add those factors to a team that returned a large chunk of contributors and there was no denying that Oskaloosa would make noise this year.
A 5-2 start is extremely encouraging, especially considering the huge double-overtime win over Pella Christian to start Little Hawkeye Conference play, 76-70. That win over a top flight team in Class 2A gave the Indians reason to hope that a conference title was definitely a possibility.
But, as everyone knows by now, the Little Hawkeye is as tough a conference as there is in the state of Iowa. There is a supreme lack of weak teams and there are no off nights. A road loss at Grinnell and a home loss to Newton displayed exactly the type of competition that is displayed on a nightly basis in the LHC.
The 1-2 conference start isn’t a death blow to conference title hopes by any means, however. Dallas Center-Grimes is the lone team who hasn’t lost a Little Hawkeye game this season, while Pella, Grinnell, Norwalk, Newton, Pella Christian and Oskaloosa have lost either once or twice. Indianola, in their first year in the LHC, has yet to get a win on the season overall, as they find out exactly what they’ve gotten into.
The conference race may be up for grabs, but that is purely for bragging rights. The real goal this season for Oskaloosa is to finish with a winning record for the first time in several years, and make a run towards the state tournament.
Class 3A is wide open, and with two make-up games on the slate, the next six weeks of the season is loaded with 14 more games to improve and find an identity. That time will also allow for the growth of Xavier Foster, who has been limited in minutes while he catches up to the speed of the varsity game.
Osky should be well on their way to passing their win totals from the last two years, but with non-conference affairs against Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Albia, and Chariton and two conference tilts against Indianola (all of which Oskaloosa should be heavily favored), a 10-win season is a legitimate possibility.
The excitement continues Friday, January 6th, as the Indians go on the road to face Norwalk. You can watch the game in high-definition online at radiokmzn.com and also on MCG with a live stream. The games can also be heard on 99.5 FM/740 AM KMZN. The boys’ game will follow the girls’ varsity, which tips off at 6:15 PM, with the coverage beginning at 6.