Although it does not seem to be in the works at the moment, a Kansas City vs. Wichita holiday tournament would be a good grudge match and interesting to settle a long debate about how the two would fare head-to-head. In our recent poll, Wichita edged Kansas City for having the best talent.
Historically, both cities have produced tremendous players – – from the Rush brothers, Anthony Peeler and Earl Watson in Kansas City to Antoine Carr, Darnell Valentine and Steve Woodberry in Wichita. And, both cities have produced plenty of state championships, recently highlighted by Wichita Heights back-to-back Kansas championships and Kearney High School’s title in Missouri.
But what if you were to put together a team from each city’s current players? What would those rosters look like, and who would have the edge on paper? KC has a much larger pool to choose from and probably has more talent top-to-bottom, but Wichita features several nationally ranked players who are considered to be possible NBA prospects. Let’s look at each city.
Celebrity Coach – John McFall – the hall-of-famer is now out of coaching but he won multiple state championships at Olathe South and Shawnee Mission West. His teams have produced scores of Division I players and he has been coach of the year 12 times in Kansas.
Backcourt – At the point, you’d have to go with Corey Hilliard (2011, Raytown South) and at the two, either Zach Large (2012, Truman) for a dead-eye shooter or Jevon Lyle (2011, O’Hara) if you prefer a wing that can break-down a defense with penetration. Bennie Parker (2012, Sumner Academy) could come off the bench for defensive tempo (if you have ever seen the 5’6″ PG play, you understand that he could cause problems for Wichita ball handlers) and we like 6’5″ G/F Dominique Washington 2011 from Hogan Prep as an all-around force as well as Tra’vaughn White (2011, Washington) if you want a pure scorer.
Frontcourt – At the three, AJ Spencer (2011, SM Northwest) would provide a slasher and athleticism that would be a tough match-up for larger 3/4s, and inside we would go with 6’9″ David Kravish (2011, Lee’s Summit North) and 6’10” Willie Cauley (2012, Olathe NW). Team KC could then bring Clint McCullough (2012, St. James Academy), a 6’6″ SF with a strong mid-range game, 6’9″ Dominique Wilson (2012, Piper), a player with still great potential, and Bubba Starling (2011, Gardner-Edgerton commit to Nebraska in football and baseball) off the bench. With Coach John McFall at the helm, you could see this team mixing defenses, playing a movement-based offense and going inside-out with what would be a huge line-up. Every player on this hypothetical roster is a D1 talent and mixes many great aspects on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Celebrity Coach – Steve Eck – With over 30 years coaching in Wichita high schools and at the college level, you have in Coach Eck someone who knows how to blend talent and manage a game. He won six state championships at Wichita South and has one of the highest winning percentages in state history.
Backcourt – There are many point guards to choose from in Wichita, but our choice would be 6’1″ Ja’ln Williams (Wichita East). The 2011 prospect has the attention of several MOVAL colleges and would be the perfect floor general for the Wichita squad. And you add to the guard tandem Evan Wessel (2011, Wichita Heights), the 6’4″ commit to Wichita State who can score and be a physical force all over the court. We have not seen Trey Unrau (2012, Moundridge) play but continue to see the huge numbers he has put up for two years, so he has a spot on our squad. Unrau would come off the bench along with Conner Frankamp (2013, Wichita North), who as a freshman turned heads in the City League as one of its top players.
Frontcourt – We would anchor this group with Perry Ellis (2012, Wichita Heights), the only player in Kansas history to win MVP honors in both his freshman and sophomore years. Not much more we can say about Ellis that has not already been said. Gavin Thurman (2012, Wichita SE) and Nate Jackson (2012, Wichita East) would be our selections to join Ellis inside, and although they are often over-shadowed by the more well-known Ellis, Joanna Chadwick of the Wichita Eagle points out that both are tremendous athletes who are tough defensive players. They are also refined scorers in both half-court and up-and-down games.
The comparisons in the backcourt lead us to believe that the two mirror each other closely. Hilliard might have a slight edge at the point, but Evan Wessel probably brings a bit more at the two for the Wichita side. However, if Hilliard or Benny Parker are allowed to get ball penetration, Large (who once hit 8 threes in a game) can go on big runs from the perimeter. KC would have a hard time keeping Wessel from creating match-up problems with his size and strength, and as he has done at Heights, he knows how to get the ball to the bigs for finishes. Frankamp and Unrau have proven they can score in bunches but no one scores like Washington’s White. In the end, the guard edge goes to KC, only slightly, based on Hilliard’s continued improvement and more shooting firepower.
Inside, Wichita would bring a stronger physical presence on the boards and around the rim offensively while KC’s height would surely mean a lot of blocked shots. We do think that Ellis and Thurman would get Cauley and Kravish (who both need to put on weight) into foul trouble in this fantasy game, and although Starling and McCullough are a bit more stout inside, they would have their hands full with the three Wichita stars. Although Kravish and Cauley both run well for players their size, it is also likely that the Wichita 4s and 5s would run the floor better in transition. If KC struggled to score inside, it would mean a chance for Wichita to defend any perimeter shooters and create its own tempo in offensive transition. Based on how Ellis can control a game inside with his significant athletic ability and strength. Wichita probably wins the battle inside.
The benches could be endlessly long in both cities because of the deep talent, but we would give the edge to KC with a larger pool to choose from. Players such as Denton Koon (2011, Liberty), Lawrence Brown (2011, Barstow Academy), RJ Leverette (2011, Grandview) and Ishmael Wainwright (2013, Raytown South) would likely mean an advantage over players such as Craig Nicholson and June Johnson (Wichita NW), Kevin Gunter (2011, Wichita SE) and Jalen Love (2o12, Wichita East), but again, a close call.
Of course there is no way to pick a winner here, but our poll indicates Wichita is the winner by a 51%-49% result. So much would depend on how Ellis could score against the giant shot blockers of KC, and on how well perimeter shooters knocked down shots. We can only hope that there will someday be either an all-star showdown or holiday tournament match-up so that we can see how programs and players stack-up.
Note – Although players such as Christian Kirk (Kickapoo) and Avery Dingman (Branson) play on KC AAU programs, we did not include them on these rosters.