Kansas City – June 27 – Some good area high school programs competed in the annual KAMO Tournament during the one week that allows players and their head coach (by Kansas state rules) to compete together over the summer. A number of high-profile local players were on area high school floors at Blue Valley West, Rockhurst, Shawnee Mission East and Shawnee Mission South, with a final top bracket taking place on Sunday.
Teams – Johnston (Iowa) was defending its 2009 KAMO championship and after winning all of its pool games made it to the semi-finals along with Kickapoo, St. James Academy and Olathe South. Kickapoo and South then advanced to the final, with Kickapoo taking the title game after going undefeated for the weekend. The Chiefs were not the only top team from Missouri as Rockhurst was also among the top 14 to advance in the upper bracket, but the Hawklets ran into the Kickapoo buzzsaw in the quarters. Rockhurst did use strong guard play and pressure defense to make a good showing all weekend, but they simply ran into the tourney’s finest player in Christian Kirk and had no answer for his inside game as Kickapoo cruised to the win. This was our first chance to see Olathe NW since being told that Willie Cauley may end up on their roster for 2010. No sighting of the 6’10” post who has quickly risen the national ranks of the 2012 class big men, and NW lost in the first bracket game without him. Surprising performances came from Shawnee Mission South, who despite losing Will Spradling to Kansas State, has some kids left that play well together. South should have beaten St. James Academy in the quarters but blew a huge lead late and SJA then handled SM North to advance to the final four. St. Thomas Aquinas also seems to have improved with a bit of a surprise win over Topeka Hayden in the tourney. In Kansas, most people believe that Perry Ellis and Wichita Heights will be the overwhelming favorite for a 6A three-peat state title, but Olathe South has the ingredients to be very good with their guard play and athleticism. They advanced to the KAMO final on Sunday afternoon before losing to Kickapoo 49-43 in what was an exciting back-and-forth. Based on what we saw, we would expect the Falcons to be the early favorite in the Sunflower League this year. Olathe East, with Tyler Kalinoski (2011 SG who was not playing Sunday against Olathe South), could be in the top-tier in Kansas 6A, and although Wichita East was not in this tourney, they also may be one of a few teams that could be a roadblock for Perry Ellis and Heights. We also expect Blue Valley Northwest (state runner-up from 09-10) to be one of the top teams in Kansas 6A. In Missouri, Rockhurst looks like they have the makings of a good squad but too early to know where the best teams fall on their side of the state line. Hillcrest (Springfield), Cardinal Ritter and Raytown South should all be good in this upcoming Missouri season.
Players – Some highly touted players were a part of KAMO, led by Clint McCullough (2012) of St. James Academy. The 6’6″ SF is a great mid-range player and shows a toughness on both ends of the court that college coaches will appreciate. Christian Kirk (6’7″ PF) has now transferred back to Springfield Kickapoo after leaving for St. Charles West briefly, and as mentioned, he led his team to the KAMO championship without a loss over the entire weekend (10-0). It is easy to see why Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota are all interested in the senior-to-be. Some top players were missing in action this weekend, such as Kalinoski and Anthony Buffalomeat (2012) of Lawrence High School. DJ Cole did play for Olathe South, and the 5’10” senior point guard, who we have featured in the past, continues to struggle with his jumper. But, he has good speed with the ball and can create offense out of defense. If he can develop a 12-15 foot shot, he could be a nice mid-major prospect. We’ve not seen much of Rockhurst’s point guard Pat Jones in the past, but the 6′ member of the 2012 class is relentless on defense and creates off the dribble. We plan to watch him more closely this high school season. St. James Academy got some good wins on Saturday and Sunday, and in addition to Clint McCullough, another McCullough has joined the summer roster. Connor McCullough (2014, 6’6″ SF), the younger brother, can really shoot from deep with an unorthodox stroke that is deadly accurate.
Hard to tell too much in June, but KAMO was one of the rare opportunities to see varsity high school programs play together over the off-season when players are not spread all over the AAU landscape. Well run tourney in Kansas City and hoping Wichita will put together something similar soon.