The basketball season in Kansas City and Wichita was a memorable one this year for many reasons. The dominant performance of Wichita Heights. The 10+ players in our area that averaged over 20 points per game. The major post-season surprises we had on both sides of the state line. But the best part for us was seeing the continued growth of our area’s reputation for Division 1 basketball talent. What a run in the 2010-11 high school basketball season.
One of the greatest performances of the year came on December 7 when Wichita North sophomore Conner Frankamp had 52 in a close loss to Wichita Northwest. Frankamp went on to lead the league in scoring (at almost 28pg) and will be on the US 16U National Team this summer as well as play for KC PumpNRun in several local tourneys. We also saw 35+ scoring nights from players such as Washington’s Tra’vaughan White, NKC’s Brandon Shively, Olathe Northwest’s Willie Cauley, Park Hill’s Chris Nsenki and University Academy’s Martez Harrison. But it was Smithville’s Dillon Deck, who did his best Kevin Love imitation with 31 points and 23 rebounds in a Pleasant Hill tourney game that probably impressed us the most.
Perry Ellis was called the greatest player Kansas has ever produced in this story by Rivals and he certainly has put up some numbers in three years that turn your head. The three-time state champion and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year is now averaging for his career 21 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocked shots, which is incredible considering his senior year is still ahead of him. On top of that, Ellis has learned to play inside Coach Joe Auer’s system as an unselfish part of a great team. In our poll last year, we asked readers who the best that ever was in our area, and although Ellis received only a small percentage of votes (Danny Manning was the easy winner), if he ends up at KU and wins a title. he may just push the legend down the list. We have decided although it is the popular choice, it is also the right choice for us to name Wichita Heights 6’8 junior Perry Ellis our area’s best player.
If not Ellis, we would have given our POY to Christian Ulsaker. The 6’7 senior had a great career scoring over 1300 points and averaging over 20 ppg as well as leading the Bullpups in rebounds, assists and blocks. McPherson was lucky to have Jack Pyle on their squad as well (both guys had huge nights in their 5A title game), but Ulsaker was the anchor for the 5A championship team and both times we saw him play this year, he was a game changer.
For the DiRenna award in Kansas City, our choice is Tra’vaughan White. Not
only did he average 23 points per game on an efficient 54% shooting, but every time we watched him play, he was unselfish and tough on the defensive end. He will go down as one of our favorite KC high school players and he passed Earl Watson this year as WHS’s all-time leading scorer. We also bid farewell to athletic phenom Bubba Starling of Gardner-Edgerton and AJ Spencer (SMNW) who both became their schools’ all-time leading scorers this year. Shay Wooten had a phenomenal career at Salina Central, ending with over 750 career points and 430 rebounds, and Denton Koon at Liberty got into the 1000 point club in his senior season, while also leading his class academically. David Kravish at Lee’s Summit North showed us that a superstar player can not only impact the game at both ends of the court but also involve teammates in a way that got the Broncos very close to a Class 5 Missouri title. RJ Emery-Leverette ended his solid career at Grandview with over 850 career points and 230 assists. Of course there are many other seniors we would like to recognize if we had the time.
Our all-area team – two at each position:
POY – Perry Ellis – Jr – Wichita Heights
PG – DJ Jackson – Sr – O’Hara, Tyler Kalinoski – Sr – Olathe East
SG – Tra’vaughan White – Sr – Washington, Conner Frankamp – Soph – Wichita North
SF – Christian Ulsaker – Sr – McPherson, Bubba Starling – Sr – Gardner-Edgerton
PF – Dillon Deck – Sr – Smithville, Dominique Washington- Jr – Hogan Prep
P – David Kravish – Sr – Lee’s Summit North, Denton Koon – Sr – Liberty
Best Out-of-Town Player – Ryan Rippe, Kickapoo (during William Jewell Tourney)
Defensive Player of the Year – DJ Cole, Olathe South
Duo of the Year – Adam Woods/Devin Spencer, W. Chrisman & Colin/Ryan Murphy, B-L
Newcomer of the Year – Georgi Funtarov, Lawrence Free State
Sharpshooter of the Year – Zach Large, Truman
Sixth Man of the Year – Garrett Fugate, Blue Valley Northwest
Small School Player of the Year – Jared Holthaus, Douglass
Surprise Player of the Year – Martez Harrison, University Academy
Teammate of the Year – EJ Dobbins, Heights and Davis Reid, Olathe Northwest
Underrated Player of the Year – Jordan Lewis, Liberty
Among other under-appreciated players, we saw four play this year:
Christian Hildebrandt – Park Hill South – Hildebrandt had a great career and was the main reason for the Panthers success. At 6’3, he has the size to get to the rim but he also has a nice perimeter game and was PH’s best defender. He was named to the all-tourney team at William Jewell.
Rozell Nunn – Schlagle – The Stallions had a great year in one of the more competitive KCKALs in recent memory. The 6’4 Nunn is a physical and complete player that can score off the dribble and has now added a good 15-foot jumper. He put up huge numbers this season and if not for Tra’vaughan White would have been KCKAL POY. Nunn will be a force at the next level.
Gavin Thurman – Wichita Southeast – In the Buffalos game against Heights at Koch Arena this year, we got a full appreciation for this 6’7 junior. Thurman is a smooth, long athlete that can face and shoot, block shots and pass from the post. With CL buzz around Ellis and Frankamp, he was sometimes overlooked.
Myles Hibler – Washington – The 6’4 senior Hibler, along with his brother Michael, made huge contributions to one of the best teams in the state this year. T White got alot of deserved recognition for the Wildcats, but Myles put up big numbers at 11ppg, 10rpg and 2 blocks per game and made big plays in wins over Schlagle (21 rebounds) and Hogan Prep (5 blocks).
Besides Frankamp, six young players that really impressed us this year:
1. Semi Ojeleye – Soph – Ottawa – At 6’5, 205, Ojeleye already has a college frame and plays inside/out very well. He will play at major college level
2. Ishmael Wainwright – Soph – Raytown South – He is a premiere athlete with a physical game unmatched in KCMO. He and Earl Peterson will be the featured Cardinals players next year
3. Khadre Lane – Fr. – Bishop Seabury – The 6’4 wing already getting D1 major interest and with his bounce of the floor, shooting range and quickness, why not.
4. Nelson Nweke – Fr. – Grandview – The big bodied 6’7 post really made progress this season and he will lead a talented Bulldog team in 2011-12. He is physical and tough in the post and will be difficult to control over the next three years.
5. Clay Custer – Fr – Blue Valley Northwest – He is undersized but plays with the poise of a senior already. His ability to run the point for Coach Fritz this year allowed other Husky shooters to have great seasons and he was solid defender at crucial moments all-year.
6. Jeff Leeson – Fr – St. Joe Lafayette – The 6’6 frosh appears to still be growing and can shoot it from long-range in addition to going inside. He was a big reason for late season heroics this year by the Irish.
Our shot of the year by St. James Academy’s Clint McCullough:
We also encourage readers to check-out the great work the Wichita Eagle did this year identifying the best players in Kansas tournament state history here.
Four coaches passed milestones this year lead by O’Hara coach Mark Scanlon who got his 500th win. Larry Hogan (400) at Leavenworth, Kurt Kinnamon (300) at McPherson and Mike McBride (200) at Basehor-Linwood all reached impressive win totals. It was also great to see Ben Meseke return to the SM Northwest bench in 2010 after a health hiatus. For our coach of the year selections, we have chosen:
Coach Rod Briggs, Lansing – Coming off a .500 2009-10 season, we certainly did not expect the success that the Lions enjoyed this year. Not only did they advance to the state tournament, but they won the Kaw Valley League title with a sweep of Basehor-Linwood before losing in state semis.
Coach Clint Meitler – The former Douglass coach led Washburn Rural to the state tournament and an 18-5 record in his first season and won a bunch of close games. He also led the Blues to wins over Wichita East, Ray-Pec and Aquinas as well as the Saints Classic tournament crown in January.
Coach Rick Hodge – Platte County came from nowhere for us this year and the Pirates finished the season at 19-6 and champions of the Small Six after beating Grandview late in the season. The team really played well together and was one of the big surprises for us this year.
Coach Eric King – Washington – Its one thing to have talent and its another to take that talent and make it successful. Coach King has made the Wildcats better every year since he was hired in 2005, and through one of the toughest 2010-11 schedules of any KC team, Washington went 23-2 and almost got themselves a 5A title.
It has to start with Wichita Heights. By winning their third straight 6A championship, they have cemented their standing as one of the best teams in Kansas state history. And give Blue Valley Northwest credit for a great 24-2 year, including a close call in the 6A title game. Our last live game was in Columbia on March 11 where Lee’s Summit North and McCluer North gave us an unbelievable Class 5 semi. The Broncos were the best team in KCMO this year but came up short as MN’s 4-star recruit BJ Young scored 30 points in a come from behind win.
Other schools such as Ottawa, St. Joe Lafayette. Wichita Northwest, Topeka Hayden and Andover Central had great years, and we also think that programs such as Blue Springs South, Olathe Northwest and St. James had strong seasons but ran into tough district or substate situations. If not having been tripped up in sub-state, we might have called Olathe South the best team (other than Heights) in Kansas. A final salute to McPherson, Hogan Prep and Sumner (who won their second straight 4A title) for their championship runs, and we have to admit we were wrong all season about Dodge City. The Red Demons beat Leavenworth in the 6A tourney and Rico Hogan had a brilliant year. Schools such as Blue Valley West and St. Thomas Aquinas also over-achieved at the end of the season and we had no idea that Olathe East was going be so good this year. Coach Jim Super deserves major shouts for taking that team to a level we did not think they were deep enough to reach, leading Heights at halftime of the 6A state semi before falling by 8.
Final Area Rankings (prior to post-season games)
1. Wichita Heights
2. Olathe South
4. Lee’s Summit North
6. Blue Valley Northwest
8. Olathe East
9. Olathe Northwest
10. Sumner Academy
As we look ahead to the 2011-12 season, here is our Top 10:
1. Wichita Heights
2. Olathe Northwest
3. Wichita East
5. Sumner Academy
6. Wichita Northwest
9. Raytown South
10. Blue Valley NW
We think the two top teams will be led by players with NBA prospects. We hope Perry Ellis and Willie Cauley will go head-to-head at some point next year.
Others teams to watch: O’Hara, Ruskin, Lansing, Grandview, Barstow, Wichita North, Washburn Rural, St. Thomas Aquinas, Lawrence, St. James Academy, Blue Springs South, Olathe South