There was plenty of Buzz at the Kansas State Tournaments this year, and with players such as Clint McCullough (2012 St. James Academy), Gavin Thurman (2012 Wichita Southeast), Deonte Hooks (2010 Harmon) and AJ Spencer (2011 SM Northwest) missing from the tournament, you would think some of the individual performances worth seeing might have been missing, too. In fact, this year may have been one of the more memorable on record.
The 6A tourney opened up with a quarterfinal OT battle between Shawnee Mission South and Blue Valley North with Will Spradling (2010 commit to Kansas State) finishing with 34 but falling short to North and its senior guard Sean McLarren, who ended with 21. It is fun to watch Spradling’s command of the court and his effortless scoring, but in the end, he could not control the overtime as his high school career ended with over 1000 points and a place in KC’s high school hall of legends. Blue Valley Northwest handled Blue Valley North in the next night’s semi-final led by senior Tyler Brashears, who went for 25 points and 7 rebounds. Brashears is a whirling mix of slashing and finishing and carried the Huskies all season.
Another 6A quarterfinal saw Kansas State commit Nino Williams (2011) lead all scorers with 18 points as his Leavenworth team advanced over Maize. Williams is a tremendous athlete with shooting range and finishing ability, and with his team trailing most of the game, he came up with huge baskets and a block down the stretch to seal the game.
You can’t talk about Kansas high school basketball without talking about top 10 national player Perry Ellis (2012) and Wichita Heights. Despite being double and triple teamed throughout the tournament, Ellis (the reigning 6A player of the year and only player in history to win the award as a freshman) was solid in all ways throughout the tournament finishing with averages of 18 points, 9 rebounds and three blocks. Teammate Evan Wessel (2011 commit to Wichita State) was also solid with big rebounding and shooting performances, The highlight of the tournament may have been the semi-final match-up between Heights and Leavenworth, where two of the state’s best players did battle. Ellis, who may be headed to KU, against Leavenworth’s Williams was intriguing because they could hook-up in future Big 12 battles. On this night, Williams was the better player and kept his team close, but after fouling out in the fourth quarter, Heights went on to win the semi-final game. The next night, Heights handled Blue Valley Northwest easily behind Ellis’s 20 and 11 to win the 6A state championship.
Other top performers in the 6A Final Eight:
Kyle Wiggins (2011) – 6’0 PG – Leavenworth – quick and can score as well as one of the better defenders in the tourney
Dreamius Smith (2011) – 5’11” PG – Wichita Heights – plays in the shadow of Ellis and Evan Wessel but solid at the point as well as big-time running back on football field
Wes Ehlers (2010) – 6’3″ SG – Blue Valley North – a terrific scorer off the dribble, who had multiple 25 point games this year
Kansas 5A would best be described as Bishop Miege (ranked 31st nationally and undefeated) versus everyone else. And Miege was never really challenged as seniors Trevor Releford (2010 commit to Alabama) and Justin McCay (2010 commit to Oklahoma (ftbl)) dominated games on both ends. Complementing the two seniors, Curtis Okafor (6’4″ junior) and Rodney Givens (2010 6’1″ SG) made life difficult for Bishop Carroll, Gardner-Edgerton and Topeka West en route to Miege’s state championship and undefeated season. Could be the best high school team in Kansas City history with three
D1 players and a blue-chip football recruit. 6’6″ Alex North (senior headed to Washburn University) led Topeka West into the finals with 24 points in semi-final upset of McPherson before falling to Miege.
Other top performers in 5A Final Eight:
Bubba Starling – (2011) – 6’5″ SF – Gardner-Edgerton – had 25 points and 14 rebounds in 3rd place game
Connor Langrehr – (2010) – 6’3″ SG – Gardner-Edgerton – son of the coach and plays like it; solid and hard-working with two double-doubles in tourney
TreVaughn White – (2011) – 5’10” PG – Washington – a pure scorer who would be a find for teams looking for a transition PG
In Kansas 4A, prohibitive favorite Sumner Academy needed OT to beat Topeka Hayden in the first round and then cruised to the state championship behind a collection of athletes. It was not only Reese Holliday (2010 commit to Wisconsin GB) that came up big but also 5’6″ Bennie Parker (2012) who used his speed and unrelenting defense to score 20 points in the first round win. Holliday, who at 6’5″ and 210 pounds was the most dominant athlete in 4A this year, had some nice games in the tourney including 22 and 10 in the final, but Parker and 6’5″ Eli Alexander (2011) also made great contributions. Sumner easily beat Ottawa in the final, a team that features three fine players: 5’10” Adam Hasty (2011) is a nice PG with great court awareness and a terrific shooting touch; Kevin Barber (2010 who is likely headed to Butler CC) is 6’3″ and extremely athletic; and freshman 6’6″ Semi Ojeleye, who has turned heads all year and recently made a trip to Iowa to workout with Harrison Barnes. Kurt Walker (2011 PG) of Topeka Hayden impressed in semi-final game versus Sumner with balance of scoring and playmaking, and although only 5’11” could be nice D2 player.
One of the big questions of the tournament was about 6’10” sophomore Willie Cauley and his 2A Spearville High School squad. Cauley, who was just featured in SLAM Magazine as one of the nations “best unknowns” plays on a small stage in western Kansas. And, we wondered if the smaller, less equipped competition could control his size and athletic ability. Well, the 22-1 Lancers had that question answered in the first round as 13-9 Nemaha Valley upset them 52-48. Cauley struggled from the field against double and triple teams and was unable to control the game from the post, even with 13 rebounds and 9 blocks. Cauley, who is soft-spoken and not yet ready to assert himself physically, says he is currently leaning to Oklahoma State in his recruiting process.
There is nothing like high school playoff basketball, and the Kansas tournaments in 2010 offered great performances and some teams that will go down as some of the best in recent memory.