Van Meter came into last season with a handful of veteran contributors that helped the Bulldogs to 20 wins the previous season. That resulted in a 16-7 campaign in 2022-23, pushing the program to its eighth straight winning record. But the team had an early postseason exit in the district semifinals. Now the Bulldogs stay on course and make a deeper run with a refreshed roster.
Getting Valuable Minutes
This year isn’t all that different from previous iterations. The 2021-22 that went 20-3 was led by three seniors who all averaged over 10 points per game for the second year in a row. While there’s a bit more depth lost this year, the Bulldogs have five of their top seven scorers missing, leaving the roster in the hands of a pair from the Class of 2024.
Cael Trudo and John Braun look to be the team’s go-to talents, having averaged 6.1 and 5.3 points per game last season behind the senior class’ top four contributors.
Trudo looks to make a bigger impact now with his elders out of the picture. Beyond leading in scoring, he’s the top returning player in steals (0.7 per game), assists (1.5 per game), rebounds (4.7 per game), and field goal rate (49 percent).
By comparison, Braun’s specialty last year was at the foulline as he leads returning players with a 66 percent free throw percentage. With the team sinking just 59 percent of its tries in 2022-23, the Bulldogs will certainly have a larger focus on getting the number back up (they made 70 percent the previous season). No other player made even 60 percent of their tries.
One other question mark is what will the offense look like without previous sharpshooters. Players like Aydn Netten (40 percent three-point rate) and Carter Durflinger (35 percent) made over half of the team’s shots from downtown. Braun is the only returning player who connected on 30 percent of his tries, with just 20 shots.
According to GoBound, the only teams last year’s team lost to were teams with a ranking inside the top 100 statewide RPI. With wins over Des Moines Christian and Madrid, the Bulldogs went 2-7 in such games and were #104 themselves.
Season Opener Preview: At Interstate 35 (Friday, Dec. 1)
Starting off the season with some WCAC action, the Bulldogs head to Truro looking to extend their win streak against the Roadrunners. It’s been 16 straight for Van Meter after winning 71-34 and 70-28 over I-35 last season.
It’s been a rough few years for the Roadrunners with five consecutive losing seasons no matter the roster construction. But this year looks to have one of their most balanced and experienced crews, as only two of their top six scorers are missing. Though, both of those seniors were the team’s biggest muscle, leaving question marks of who will be working the glass.
Still, I-35 returns a consistent scorer in the form of Will Goering (#23) who packed nearly 10 points per game as sophomore. He’s one of the few players on the roster from last year that can be trusted at the free throw line, having made 74 percent of his shots. The rest of the team averages about 50 percent. And as a freshman, Ben McCuddin (#33) provided some hope from the perimeter with 5.2 points per game after making a team-high 37.5 percent of three-pointers.