We have been talking for some time about the unbelievable talent in Wichita this year, especially in the 2012 class. As a result, we expect some very competitive match-ups in the area, with the City League featuring the best of these but with some other programs that could be strong. Here are our top 10 teams for the Wichita area:
1. Wichita Heights – Not only are the Falcons the two-time defending Kansas 6A champs, but we believe they are the best team of those we track in all of Wichita and KC. With Ellis, Wessel and Dobbins, they are extremely talented. But one concern for Coach Joe Auer will be the playing status of guard Dreamius Smith, who has committed to play football at KU and is unlikely to play hoops in his senior season.
2. Wichita East – East has a very strong backcourt in Jalen Love and Ja’ln Williams and mixes in junior Nate Jackson and 6’6″ sophomore Larry Dennis. If Jackson can challenge the other talented bigs in the CL, East has a chance to not only win the league but also win the state championship after their 16-6 season last year.
3. Wichita Southeast – It was only three years ago that this school won the state championship, and we love this year’s bookend junior power forwards for the Golden Buffalo. Gavin Thurman, a 6’7″ force inside, and 6’6″ Kevin Gunter are good enough to carry this team, and Reggie Williams will handle PG duties in his senior season. Few teams will be able to match-up inside with SE and they will definitely improve on what was only an average ’09-10 campaign.
4. Wichita Northwest – Probably the most balanced team in the ranking, NW has strong guard play with terrific PG Craig Nicholson, who had a big summer with KC PumpNRun, and big man Spenser Gales, who plays bigger than 6’7″. Mix in 6’2″ juniors June Johnson and Kendrick Miller as well as senior Grant Landenberg and you have a team that could surprise.
5. McPherson – We are including the Bullpups in this ranking and we like their prospects to make a run at the 5A state championship. Returning 6’5″ star Christian Ulsaker had some huge games last year, including 38 points against Washington (KS) in the state tourney, and teammate Jack Pyle will bring balance. McPherson is small in the frontcourt but has almost everyone back from a very good ’09-10 team.
6. Kapaun-Mount Carmel – Although Dyllon Knox has graduated, Coach Pearson’s team could actually improve from their 13-9 season. This year’s version of the Crusaders will need to rely on all-around athlete Keaton Lewis and 6’4″ Michael Reynolds. 5’9″ Michael Martin will also need to make nice contributions if they hope to avenge last year’s sub-state loss to Bishop Carroll.
7. Wichita North – The Indians do not have a lot of depth after losing four starters to graduation, but what they do have is one of the finest sophomore guards in the entire midwest. Conner Frankamp is a 6’1′ phenom that can knock down jumpers and create off the dribble. If juniors Javontae Holloway and Cody Bridges can improve, Frankamp and company could better last season’s 13-9 performance.
8. Bishop Carroll – The Eagles were below .500 last year, but five of their losses were within three point margins. They return a collection of good players, led by 6’4 senior Brian Rohleder, that made the 5A state tourney before losing to eventual champs Bishop Miege. And they will have depth and experience for the tough CL schedule.
9. Andover Central – Another 5A team that could sneak up on people after a 21-3 record one year ago. The Jaguars lost a lot of scoring with Marshall Miller and Randall Vautravers gone, but they return size in 6’7″ senior Adam Wilks and 6’4″ Boston Stiverson. And this team always plays well together.
10. Derby – We saw 6’0 Cameron Cornelius play this summer and really like his game. Along with PF Jabril Richardson, the younger Steadman (Kyle) and a solid senior class, Derby has a chance to improve on its 2nd place AVCTL finish. Maize will be its biggest hurdle in the conference.
Other teams to watch:
Wichita Collegiate – Yes, this is only a 3A team, but they have consistently won with four state championships in 17 years and the program seems to re-load each season.
Goddard – The Lions struggled last year but return most of a team that showed flashes with wins against Andover Central and Salina South.
Maize – MHS had an impressive showing last year, losing to Leavenworth by two in the state tournament after going undefeated in AVCTL conference play. They have size inside and could be dangerous.