Don’t Miss 2010-11 High School Hoops Match-Ups

Rivalry games bring out big crowds and big taunts

If you want to get out and see the best of Wichita and Kansas City high school hoops this year, we have provided some help. Here is a look at games we think are “don’t miss” match-ups, either because of the top players involved or because these teams downright hate each other.

Thursday, December 2 – St. James Academy vs. Ottawa – This has turned into a high-stakes 4A rivalry in Kansas with last year’s game ending in a thrilling two point win for Ottawa. It also features two big-time prospects in Clint McCullough and Semi Ojeleye as well as the Cyclones four-year starting guard Adam Hasty.

Craig Nicholson and Wichita Northwest will be one of many strong CL teams

Friday, December 3 – Wichita Northwest at Wichita Southeast – Both of these teams have a chance to challenge Heights for the City League title, and as far as a season opener goes, this is as good as it gets. Three premiere bigs in this game with Thurman, Gales and Gunter and we have heard chatter all fall about which team is better.

Tuesday, December 7 – Maize vs. Derby – These are two of the best teams in the AVCTL and Maize went undefeated in the league last year while Derby should be much improved led by the physical Cameron Cornelius and Jabril Richardson. Maize will have 6’7″ 290 pound Steven Wolgamott in the middle and the confidence of a team that fared very well at last year’s state tourney. This will be a battle with title implications.

Friday, December 10 – Wichita Heights at Wichita Northwest – Two of the best teams in the state who don’t exactly like each other in the CL.  Two-time defending state champs Heights will be favored but NW has 6’7″ Spencer Gales inside and water-bug Craig Nicholson at the point. Expect a frenzied fan environment and some big dunks.

Wednesday December 15 – Saturday December 18 – Hy-vee Shootout with Kansas against Missouri – Among the many state line battles that will take place at Avila this year, you can include teams from the kcprephoops power rankings such as Lee’s Summit North(#7), Wichita Heights(#1) and O’Hara. Columbia Rock Bridge and Maize are two good teams that will also be in town. But the two marquis match-ups are on the 18th. Ray South’s(#2) Corey Hillard will go head-to-head with Sumner‘s Bennie Parker at 730pm and then Rockhurst(#5) and Blue Valley NW(#3) will battle in the last game of the showcase. These will be big-time games and will be sell-outs so get there early. Metro Sports will televise these games in case you can’t get in.

The Hy-vee Shootout is always great hoops and 2010 may the best year ever for top teams

Friday, December 17 – Wichita East at Wichita North – The terrific East backcourt of Ja’ln Williams and Jalen Love join 6’5 PF Nate Jackson as three of the best players in the City League, but North’s electrifying sophomore Conner Frankamp is worth the price of admission all by himself.

Tuesday, December 21 – Lee’s Summit North at Lee’s Summit West – North’s Chase Salazar and BJ Dunbar are gone but the Broncos have David Kravish, Tory Miller and Kenny Berry back. West will feature a strong senior class led by Roderick Clark, and 6’5″ youngster Trevor Gregory should help ensure an improved season for the Titans. The city of Lee’s Summit has a great basketball tradition and this game is sure to draw a big crowd.

Tyler Funk and Kearney took down the 2009 Nelson Division Bank Midwest Tournament championship

December 27-30 – Bank Midwest William Jewell Holiday Tournament – This is probably the best showcase all year of teams from Missouri (Kansas teams not eligible due to KSHSSA hiatus rules). Programs such as Liberty, O’Hara, Park Hill South, Rockhurst and St. Joe Central will be playing in multiple divisions. No better place to camp-out and watch hoops for four days, especially when you look through the record books and see who has played in the past. It is a who’s who of top college players.

Tuesday, January 4 – O’Hara vs. St. James Academy – Coach Mark Scanlon inherits a talented O’Hara team that we have ranked as the fifth best team in KCMO. Maybe the best backcourt in the city with Jevon Lyle and DJ Jackson, but St. James has two McCulloughs and transfer Jonathan Anakwe from our #9 team on KC’s Kansas side.

SJA's 6'6" Clint McCullough is considered a top D1 prospect and will now be joined by his 6'6" freshman brother Conner

Wednesday, January 5 – Liberty vs. Park Hill South – In the renewal of a great rivalry that saw a split last year, this is your chance to see the Bluejay’s Princeton-bound Denton Koon and a Park Hill South team that made a deep run in the state tourney last year and returns some size and scoring with seniors 6’9″ Adam Schemenauer and scoring guard Christian Hildebrandt.

Friday, January 7 – Olathe Northwest vs. Olathe South – This has been one-sided for the Falcons in years past, but the Ravens have a talented junior class with Shavon Shields, Davis Reid and 6’10” transfer Willie Cauley. They will face Olathe South’s terrific backcourt with DJ Cole and Charles McCallister. You might see some big-time college coaches in attendance too.

Two-time Kansas player of the year Perry Ellis

Saturday, January 8 – Wichita Heights vs. Wichita Southeast – Heights, the reigning state champs, will be led by D1 future stars Perry Ellis and Evan Wessel, but you can expect to see a great match-up inside where SE’s twin towers Gavin Thurman and Kevin Gunter will definitely challenge Ellis.

Friday, January 14 – Rockhurst vs. Raytown South – Dan Tapko, Frank Arbanas, Pat Jones and company vs. Corey Hilliard, Ishmael Wainright and Nodie Newton. One of the best rivalries in KC and a game that promises alot of scoring from both teams. Ray South is likely the best team in the metro but The Rock will give them plenty.

Tuesday, January 18 – Central vs. Lincoln Prep – There is nothing like the IL for run and gun hoops, and this night you will be able to see some talented players from Central such as SG Kyle Murray, who led his team past Northeast last year despite 57 points from the legend, Daylen Robinson. Lincoln Prep features seniors 6’4″ Maurte Harrison (KC Keys AAU) and 6’2″ Marcus Mondaine who both can score it.

January 20-22 – Saints Classic – This tournament at St. Thomas Aquinas always draws big crowds and great rivalries. Top teams on the Missouri side such as Ray-Pec and Grandview will join Kansas teams including SM Northwest and a much improved Aquinas team featuring Joe Downey and a host of juniors who will contribute. A re-building Bishop Miege team will feature talented sophomore Montel Cozart around seniors Curtis Okafor and Bobby Lacy.  Great taunting battles between student bodies and the energy in the Saints gym is off the charts.

Lawrence and Lawrence Free State games bring out the city's passion for hoops

Tuesday, January 25 – Lawrence vs. Lawrence Free State – One of the area’s best rivalry games as this town still hasn’t gotten over the two-school split.  Get there early if you want seats and be prepared for wild fans. Danny Manning, Kevin Pritchard and Bill Self will all have sons in this game, and Free State is featuring Georgi Funtarov, a 6’6″ junior transfer from Bulgaria, as well as a deep team with balance. Lawrence will be much improved too.

Friday, February 4 – Shawnee Mission Northwest vs. Olathe East – This game features two of the Sunflower League championship contenders plus two great guards in the Hawk’s Tyler Kalinoski and NW’s AJ Spencer. And the Northwest gym has the feel of a great, old hardwood arena.  SMNW is ranked #5 and East #6 in our pre-season Kansas City (on the Kansas side) poll.

Senior Jauan Wilson will set multiple career records at Harmon - click for highlights

Tuesday, February 8 – Harmon at Schlagle – These two teams have a shot at the KCKL title, and the Rozell Nunn vs. Jauan Wilson match-up will feature two of the best scorers in the city. Mix in some young talent like Harmon junior Jordan Horn and the Stallion’s LaRay Young and you have some legit battles. This rivalry takes on a new wrinkle with a new head coach at Harmon after the sudden dismissal of Heath Cooper.

Tuesday, February 15 – Blue Valley Northwest vs Blue Valley North – No love lost between these two teams, which both reached the Kansas state tournament last season. This game features a loaded NW team led by Brett Fisher and Morgan Smith while North may have lost a bunch of seniors but returns players from an undefeated JV team. This game has a key impact on sub-state seeding when you consider the 8-team bracket will have several programs capable of winning a state championship.

Tra'vaughan White is one of our favorite players here at KCPREPHOOPS

Friday, February 18 – Sumner Academy at Washington – Nothing better than the KCKL for scoring, and in the old Wildcats gym on Leavenworth Road you will see the pure scoring of Washington’s Tra’vaughan White against the up-tempo style of the Sabres Bennie Parker and Eli Alexander. Big-time energy and buzz for this one.

Friday, February 25 – Shawnee Mission East vs. Shawnee Mission South – A big-time Johnson County rivalry game that will showcase

Rockhurst and SM East battle on January 28 as Coach Hair and Coach Nussbaum renew their long-time rivalry

the Raiders post-Will Spradling era versus an East team that has been down but features two strong sophomores in Vance Wentz and Zach Schneider (the league’s frosh of the year last year). Get there early for a seat, its senior night at East. And if you can’t make this game at East, hit the SME at Rockhurst game on January 28. They hate each other too!

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High School Coaching – The Good and Bad

Joe Auer and Heights have won two straight 6A championships (photo: Lawrence JW)

There is great high school coaching talent in Kansas City and its surrounding area and we are not just talking about coaches that win. The best coaches understand that in high school, winning has a lot to do with what talent ends up at your school, a factor out of the control of most programs. So success on the scoreboard can be only one important part of a season that teaches the larger lessons of discipline, hard work and a love for the game of basketball. The coaching profession requires countless hours, a thick skin and a commitment to kids that extends well outside the court.

When you talk to successful adults who credit the lessons of sports for many of their professional achievements, you find that former players remember their prep days for much more than the wins. Former players mostly talk about memories associated with having fun with teammates, playing games in front of big crowds and the lessons learned from coaches about hard work and teamwork. All things a coach most directly affects.

Rockhurst's Mark Nusbaum has over 500 victories but he offers much more than that as a coach

So, for the 95% of coaches who understand this, you can probably skip the rest of this story. But for you guys who continue to squeeze the love out of the game and make the high school season a job instead of an exciting journey, you should take a look at the following and then sit back to evaluate what kind of environment you create in your program. We salute coaches such as BJ Hair at Shawnee Mission North, Roger Stirtz at Liberty, Anthony Perry at Park Hill South, Mark Nussbaum at Rockhurst and Steve Blue of Goddard as examples of the many high school coaching leaders who understand these principles.

We recently asked coaches what things they focus on to keep their own high school programs on the proper track and what mistakes they have seen made over the years. The following represents a summary of their responses including some actual direct quotes:

1.  “Stop acting like you’re a college coach – you’re not.” These are much different kids with much different goals and responsibilities than a 21 year old college student. “Prepare your kids the right way without making heads and bodies explode.”

Would Bobby Knight's hot-headed style work in today's high school landscape

2.  The Bobby Knight era is over – “Constant negativity does not work today. Hold players accountable, but you can’t tear them down and expect results. Build players up and they will be better for it.” One coach highlighted “PPT – the power of positive thinking.”

3.  “Make it fun” – the whole point of high school athletics is creating positive memories for everyone involved in the program and for lasting “confidence to do whatever they set their mind to do.”

4.  “In our program, our coaches know most of these student athletes will never play another game after their high school career ends.” Recognize this reality and become a “mentor, counselor, and academic advisor that helps turn these teens into quality young men.” and “we think the basketball team can do good things in our community that have nothing to do with basketball.”

5.  Don’t coach every player the same way – teenagers have different mental and physical abilities and some want to play hoops at the next level while others do not. “Create consistent expectations for everyone but inspire and improve each player individually to get the most that they are able to give.” We heard the word “teach” many times and several coaches discussed the importance of helping players who want to play in college to get exposed online and through coaching channels.

Coach Gary Belcher at Kearney has a reputation for creating a spirited program while also being a terrific in-game tactician

6.  “Don’t make the game seem like a job” and “Make sure you leave players wanting more, not ready to quit the game.”

7.  “Participate in the spirit and hype of high school athletics. Remember that you will go through a season many times, but your players will only have one chance. Make it special through their eyes.”

8.  Hand the game to the kids and let them have it – “don’t overcoach and overmanage games and practices.” Don’t waste time. “95% of my scouting is done on teams who are in our sub state. I do not usually worry about regular season records or who we are playing. We worry about ourselves until playoff time.”

9.  The best lessons in athletics come from holding players and teams accountable for discipline, behavior and their performance, without allowing outside factors to influence this  – “It is a priviledge to represent your school” and “Don’t let parents become active in your decision making.”

Missouri Coach of the Year Anthony Perry has built a strong program at Park Hill South

10. Set the tone for your team – “A team will take on the personality of its coach. When I am enthusiastic and loose, my team is too. If coaches have no passion or set a negative tone, their team will behave the same way.”

We also heard feedback that AAU and high school basketball are constantly in conflict with each other, and that coaches should be clear where their loyalties are. One coach commented, “There is a lot of money being made by coaches who are using their position to generate additional income and I’m not sure if that is always right.”

John Wooden, a former high school coach and the greatest basketball teacher who ever lived

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Wichita and Kansas City High School Basketball Pre-Season All-Area Teams

As the high school season nears, here is a look at the players we believe will make the biggest impact on the Kansas City and Wichita hoops scene. After evaluating 2009-10 performances as well as the accomplishments many of these players enjoyed over the summer, we have listed eight teams and honorable mentions for the 2010-11 season.

2011 AJ Spencer of SMNW

Kansas City (Kansas side) – In the past several years, Kansas has boasted big-time recruits such as Issac Miles (Murray State), Robert Lewandowski (Texas Tech), Denver Holmes (Evansville), Nino Williams and Will Spradling (Kansas State) and Trevor Releford (Alabama). This year will again feature a number of top prospects, with many on this Kansas list getting serious D1 attention from power conferences such as the Big 12, Big 10 and Pac 10. Kansas has certainly grown its reputation as a hoops community.

Willie Cauley is ranked as one of country's premiere big men

1st Team

Player of the Year – AJ Spencer

  • PG – Bennie Parker – 5’7″ Junior – Sumner Academy
  • SG – Tyler Kalinoski – 6’2″ Senior – Olathe East
  • SF – AJ Spencer – 6’4″ Senior – Shawnee Miss NW
  • PF – Semi Ojeleye – 6’6″ Sophomore – Ottawa
  • P – Willie Cauley – 6’10” Junior – Olathe Northwest

2nd Team

Soph Semi Ojeleye is considered a D1 major prospect


  • PG – DJ Cole – 5’11” Senior – Olathe South
  • SG – Tra’ Vaughan White – 5’10” Senior – Washington
  • SF – Colin Murphy – 6’6″ Junior – Basehor-Linwood
  • PF – Clint McCullough – 6’6″ Junior – St. James
  • P – Bubba Starling – 6’5″ Senior – Gardner-Edgerton

    Bubba Starling will set career records for points and rebounds at 5A Gardner-Edgerton

Note – Dominique Wilson would be represented on this team, but the talented 6’9″ PF who played at Piper HS in 2009 has transfered to a prep school in Maine (Maine Central Institute). He, along with Bret Comer who played his early career at BVNW, are two of the city’s best players who have moved to schools outside of the state. Comer plays with Austin Rivers at Winter Park HS (FL) and has committed to Florida Atlantic and Coach Mike Jarvis.

3rd Team

Davis Reid was named to The Joy of the Game All-American Academic Showcase team

  • PG – Davis Reid – 6’2″ Junior – Olathe Northwest
  • SG – Rozell Nunn – 6’3″ Senior – Schlagle
  • SF – Shavon Shields – 6’4″ Junior – Olathe Northwest
  • PF – Eli Alexander – 6’5″ Senior – Sumner Academy
  • P – Curtis Okafor – 6’5″ Senior – Bishop Miege

Other players to watch – Kalen Allen – 6’0″ Senior – Washington; Anthony Buffalomeat – 6’3″ Junior – Lawrence; Dylan Christie – 6’6″ Junior – Shawnee Mission South; Johnny Dee – 6’2″ Senior – Blue Valley West; Joe Downey – 6’3″ Senior – St. Thomas Aquinas; Brett Fisher – 5’11” Senior – Blue Valley NW; Adam Hasty – 5’9″ Senior – Ottawa; Charles McCallister – 5’11” Senior – Olathe South; Evan Manning – 6’1″ Senior – Lawrence Free State; Rakim McCoy – 6’6″ Junior  – Washington; Terry Moore – 6’2″ Senior – Wyandotte; Ryan Murphy – 6’6″ Junior – Basehor; Preston Padgett – 6’1″ Junior – Leavenworth; KJ Pritchard – 6’2″ Junior – Lawrence; Zach Schneider – 6’4″ Sophomore – SM East; Morgan Smith 5’10” Senior – Blue Valley NW; Desean Warren – 5’10” Junior – Blue Valley West; Mason Wedel – 6’0″ Junior – DeSoto; Kyle Wiggins 6’0″ Senior – Leavenworth; Jauan Wilson – 5’10” Senior – Harmon

Denton Koon is headed to Princeton in 2011

Probably the best big man in Kansas City, David Kravish has committed to Cal for 2012 (Photo by Julie Scheidegger LS Journal)

Kansas City (Missouri) – The top five in Missouri could make-up a good Division One college team. And though there is no Alec Burks (Colorado/Big 12 Newcomer of the Year) or Daylen Robinson (Moberly JC and DiRenna winner), there is a strong crop of talent throughout the metro that should make for an interesting season and a difficult job for selection of all-district/all-state teams.

1st Team

Player of the Year – David Kravish

Jevon Lyle will play at Northern Iowa next year

  • PG – Corey Hilliard – 6’1″ Senior – Raytown South
  • SG – Jevon Lyle – 6’4″ Senior – O’Hara
  • SF – Ishmael Wainwright – 6’6″ Sophomore – Ray South
  • PF – Denton Koon – 6’8″ Senior – Liberty
  • P – David Kravish – 6’9″ Senior – Lee’s Summit North

2nd Team

  • PG – RJ Leverette – 5’11” Senior – Grandview
  • SG – Zach Large – 6’3″ Junior – Truman
  • SF – Dominique Washington – 6’6″ Senior – Hogan Prep
  • PF – Dan Tapko – 6’5″ Senior – Rockhurst
  • P – Dillon Deck – 6’8″ Senior – Smithville

Note – Tyler Rambo would be represented on this team, but the 6’5″ swing has transferred to Humble Christian Life Prep (TX) to join Raytown’s Frank Williams, who had signed with Detroit but then headed to prep school.

3rd Team

Dominique Washington led Hogan Prep to the state championship game last year

  • PG – DeRon Hill – 6’3″ Junior – Ruskin
  • SG – Antonio Winn – 6’1″ Junior – Truman
  • SF – Lawrence Brown – 6’5″ Junior – Barstow
  • PF – Trevor Gregory – 6’5″ Sophomore – Lee’s Summit W
  • P – Tory Miller – 6’7″ Sophomore – Lee’s Summit N

Other players to watch – Frank Arbanas – 6’6″ Senior – Rockhurst; Kenny Berry – 5’7″ Senior – Lee’s Summit North; Cameron Coffman – 6’3″ Senior – Ray-Pec; Tyreek Freeman – 5’11” Junior – KC Southeast; Eric Gant – 5’10” Junior – Oak Grove; Darrion Geiger – 5’10” Senior – Blue Springs South; Darrien Harris – 5’11” Senior – Truman; Christian Hildebrandt – 6’1″ Senior – Park Hill South; Daniel Hurtt – 6’3″ Sophomore – O’Hara; Maurte Harrison – 6’3″ Senior – Lincoln Prep; DJ Jackson – 6’0″ Senior – O’Hara; Pat Jones – 6’1″ Junior – Rockhurst; Maurice Mason – 6’0″ Junior – Hogan Prep; Shawn Meyer – 6’5″ Senior – Blue Springs South; Chris Nsenki – 6’2″ Senior – Park Hill; Preston Oakes – 6’4″ Senior – Winnetonka; Earl Peterson – 6’2″ Junior – Raytown South; Adam Schemenauer – 6’9″ Senior – Park Hill South; Shun Williams – 6’5″ Sophomore – St. Joe Central

Wichita – The 2012 class in Wichita may be the city’s best ever and the overall talent will provide for a very competitive City League. Wichita Heights probably features the most talent and will be seeking its 3rd consecutive 6A state title, with a team largely in-tact from 2009-10 as well as one of the country’s top big men.

1st Team

Player of the Year – Perry Ellis

Wichita's first team is loaded with talent including Ellis, Thurman, Wessel and Jackson

  • PG – Ja’ln Williams – 6’0 Senior – Wichita East
  • SG – Evan Wessel – 6’3″ Senior – Wichita Hghts
  • SF – Nate Jackson – 6’5″ Junior – Wichita East
  • PF – Perry Ellis – 6’8″ Junior – Wichita Hghts
  • P – Gavin Thurman – 6’7″ Junior – Wichita SE

2nd Team

We are unsure of Dreamius Smith’s status for his senior season but believe he will not play for Heights.  The tough PG would be on our list if playing.

Conner Frankamp was invited to USA Basketball Mini Camp

  • PG – Jalen Love – 6’1″ Junior – Wichita East
  • SG – Conner Frankamp – 5’11” Soph – Wichita North
  • SF – Kevin Gunter – 6’6″ Junior – Wichita Southeast
  • PF – Christian Ulsaker – 6’6″ Senior – McPherson
  • P – Spenser Gales – 6’7″ Junior – Wichita Northwest

Other players to watch – Cameron Cornelius – 6’0″ Senior – Derby; EJ Dobbins – 5’10” Senior – Wichita Heights; June Johnson – 6’3″ – Wichita Northwest; Keaton Lewis – 6’0″ Senior – Kapaun; Michael Martin – 6′ 0″- Kapaun; Ryan McCarthy – 6’2″ Senior – Maize; Terrence Moore – 6’0″ Junior – Wichita Heights; Craig Nicholson – 5’9″ Junior – Wichita Northwest; Brian Rohleder – 6’2″ Senior – Bishop Carroll; Micah Swank – 6’0″ Junior – Pratt; Tre Unrau – 5’11” Junior – Moundridge; Reggie Williams – 5’9″ – Wichita SE

Pratt's Micah Swank (right), with his brother and coaching dad, will be one of the state's leading scorers


If you know players we should see play, email us at and give us the details. In the subject line, use Attention Dave if you are in Wichita and Attention Joel if in the Kansas City area.

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David Kravish commits to California

David Kravish will be a Cal Bear in 2011

After being pursued by schools from many of the major conferences across the country, 6’9″ Lee’s Summit North star David Kravish has announced his intention to attend California next season.  After narrowing to Cal, Colorado, Creighton, Iowa and Wichita State, the decision was announced on Thursday according to multiple sources. Many had speculated that Iowa was the odds on favorite to score his services or that Creighton or Colorado might have the inside track because of MOKAN Elite AAU teammates Avery Dingman and Alec Burks. But, Kravish’s pre-med interests might have been the deciding factor.

Kravish was late to the recruiting landscape, but after growing six inches from his freshman season, he began to catch the eyes of college coaches. His junior year and 2010 summer circuit then allowed the power forward to show his speed and touch in the mid-range game that more resembled a much smaller player. He is now rated 89 by ESPN and has shown off a motor and aggressiveness that made him one of Kansas City’s best 2011 prospects and our choice for 2010-11 player of the year in KCMO.  In his February match-up against Princeton commit Denton Koon with Liberty High School, Kravish went for 13 points and 10 rebounds in helping his team win a tight game. The next week, he followed-up with 17 and 11 in a District Championship win over Rockhurst.

Kravish has steadily improved the last 18 months

In helping to lead the Broncos to the state tournament in his junior year, he averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds on a team that featured two seniors also making significant contributions (Chase Salazar and BJ Dunbar). In his senior season, he will be the featured player and should put up big numbers in the Suburban 7 league.

Many recruiting services including NY2LA Sports and Scout feel Kravish still has untapped potential and could be a force at the D1 level. “He has tremendous offensive skills. He can put the ball on the floor and attack you off the dribble, he’s a great passer, and from 20 feet can knock down the jump shot,” said his coach Mike Hilbert. As for his smaller frame, Coach Hilbert is confident he will work to get bigger, “He’s a great kid, a tremendous worker. He’s done everything he can to be in the weight room.”

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Wichita Basketball Pre-Season Area Rankings

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:

Wichita State commit Evan Wessel is key to Height's success

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.

Kevin Gunter and Gavin Thurman will challenge Perry Ellis this 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.

Senior Christian Ulsaker is athletic and a proven scorer

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.

Sr Brian Rohleder is a top Wichita player flying under the radar

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.

Cameron Cornelius has a slashing game that translates to high school points

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.

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Kansas City Pre-Season High School Basketball Rankings

The 2010-11 high school basketball season in Kansas City could turn-out to be one of the more competitive we have seen in several years.  With teams such as Raytown South, Ottawa, Truman and Blue Valley Northwest returning a great deal of talent from ’09-10, and as new programs emerge such as Olathe Northwest and Lee’s Summit North, the Kansas and Missouri side of the state line are hard to project.  A number of programs such as Kearney and Sumner Academy are losing top scorers after championship seasons while long-time powers like Bishop Miege are in full-on rebuilding campaigns.

Sumner Academy took home the 4A Kansas championship in 2009-10

In Kansas, we have four 4A teams in our top 10, and in Missouri we have noted four teams alone from Class 5, District 13 and three teams from District 16.

Though these rankings don’t include Wichita or Springfield programs, we do believe that Wichita Heights and Springfield Kickapoo would likely be at the top of these polls had they been considered. So, here’s our shot at the KC metro and surrounding area:

Kansas – Last year’s state champions included 6A Wichita Heights, 5A Bishop Miege, 4A Sumner Academy. Several teams in our 2010 rankings of Kansas City area schools also have real prospects to hold trophies in March.

Blue Valley NW and Brett Fisher will hope to get another shot at Dreamius Smith and Wichita Heights in the state final

1.  Blue Valley Northwest – With a group of strong guards returning, including the team’s leading scorer – Brett Fisher- and super-fast Morgan Smith, the 2009-10 state runner-up Huskies should again be a contender. Watch-out for frosh PG Clayton Kuster and Coach Fritz is rumored to have picked-up a big man transfer from Highland Park in Topeka.

2.  Olathe South – The Falcons are always strong and will be one of the most athletic teams in Kansas with Derek Cole and Charles McAllister in the back-court. They also add 6’7″ junior Tyler Thomas inside and have tradition on their side – South has been in the top three of the Sunflower League for 11 of the last 13 years.

3.  Olathe Northwest – With what is probably the best junior class on either side of the state line, this relatively new school could contend for a championship. 6’10” junior transfer Willie Cauley doesn’t hurt as he continues to move up the national rankings and could become one of the most notable players in Sunflower League history. Add him to the mix in a steadily improving program and you have a team that could win it all.

4.  Ottawa – Led by the best sophomore in Kansas (Semi Ojeleye) and a veteran guard in Adam Hasty, Ottawa is the 4A favorite even with Sumner, Basehor-Linwood and St. James still strong. Ojeleye is considered a high-major prospect and Hasty has started for three years in a system that will feature a cast of role players such as Dustin Burnett and 6’5″ James Peoples.

In his second season, SM South's coach Brett McFall will now have to face the Sunflower League without Will Spradling

5.  Shawnee Mission Northwest – With AJ Spencer, the Cougars will be in a position to win every game as long as he stays healthy and out of foul trouble. Spencer will have help with the perimeter scoring of Trey Fruehling and the inside physical presence of 6’5″ Drew Goodger.

6. Olathe East – With probably the strongest senior class in Johnson County, the Hawks will be led by Tyler Kalinoski and he will be surrounded by a deep and talented group including Cole Cooks, Logan Souder and several players from last year’s dominant JV squad.

7.  Sumner Academy – Another 4A power that will make the state tourney interesting, the Sabres return Benny Parker and Eli Alexander from their state championship team.

8.  Washington – Tra’ Vaughan White is the best pure scorer in the metro and he has some help this year with Kalen Allen, 6’6″ junior Rakim McCoy as well as Myles and Michael Hibler also back. The KCKL will make for a competitive schedule, but the Wildcats could contend for a 5A title.

9.  St. James Academy – 6’6″ Clint McCullough is a mid-range force and he has transfer Jonathan Anakwe to bring an athletic, up-tempo game to a team that hasn’t managed to get past the other 4A powers in their school’s brief history. The McCullough/Ojeleye(Ottawa) match-up should be one to watch this year.

10.  Basehor-Linwood – The Murphy twins – Ryan and Colin – are both big, superior athletes, and BL has a number of good role players returning including Ryan O’Donnell and Austin Stubbs. If not for Sumner in their sub-state last year, they would have been even odds for the 2009-1o 4A state title.

Tyler Kalinoski and Olathe East are among three strong Olathe teams

Other contenders on the Kansas side of the state line include:

Blue Valley North, Gardner-Edgerton, Harmon, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Schlagle, Shawnee Mission South

Missouri – Raytown South and O’Hara are both threats for state championships in Missouri, and a number of other teams could build on KCMO’s success in 2009-10. MO State champions last year included Class 5 Hillcrest, Class 4 Kearney, Class 3 Cardinal Ritter (Hogan Prep 2nd in Class 3).

Nebraska commit Corey Hilliard and Ishmael Wainwright lead a stacked Ray South squad

1.  Raytown South – Loaded. Just loaded.

2.  Rockhurst – Oklahoma football commit Dan Tapko is a good high school post player and has good guards returning around him in Pat Jones and Matt Lampo. At 6’5″, quarterback prospect Frank Arbanas will make the Hawklets a tough match-up.

3.  Liberty – Denton Koon, 6’7″ PF who has committed to play at Princeton, will lead the Bluejays back from a disappointing loss to Park Hill South in last year’s playoffs. He is joined by fellow-senior Austin Weese after a 23-6 2009-10 season. With a JV team that was 17-3, LHS should have depth at every position.

4.  Lee’s Summit North – At 6’9″ and getting stronger, David Kravish is KC’s best big man and he is flanked by another big-time player in 6’8″ sophomore Tory Miller. Watch out for the Broncos out of District 14, especially if they improve their guard play.

5.  O’Hara – Great talent coming back with guards Jevon Lyle and DJ Jackson to go along with bigs Daniel Hurtt and Josh Rupprecht. If they can play together under a new head coach, they could be dangerous in Class 3.

6.  Truman – The one-two punch of Antonio Winn and Zach Large builds on their years of playing together as young players. The Patriots will also have Darrien Harris back at the point and hope that 6’9″ Derek Kern will make big contributions this year.

7.  Park Hill South – From a team that made the Class 5 semis last year, you have 6’9″ post Adam Schemenauer back, the team’s leading scorer in Christian Hildebrandt returning and leading defenders from a team that allowed only 37 PPG last season. Last year’s Missouri coach of the year, Anthony Perry, will have a tough road in the Suburban Big 6 to make it back to the state final four.

8.  Grandview – With a vastly improved RJ Leverette at the point to go along with 6’5″ SF Tyler Rambo, GHS could make a run for the very competitive District 13 title. Leverette also has a younger brother that apparently could make an impact. Update – Tyler Rambo has left the program for Texas but Bulldogs have young players that could fill gap.

9.  Park Hill – Led by 6’2″ senior guard Chris Nsenki and strong returning veterans including Dearius Flint and Brady Kreitzer, Park Hill should build on last year’s solid season in the Big 6.

10.  Ray-Pec – The Panthers started the season 17-1 last year before faltering late, but they return a core of players like gritty Cameron Coffman, the Hill brothers and Deron Washington.

Junior Lawrence Brown is a player on the rise that could lead Barstow deep into the playoffs

Other Missouri schools to watch: Barstow, Blue Springs South, Hogan Prep, Kearney, Lee’s Summit West, Raytown, Ruskin, Smithville

We love to hear from hoops fans in KC and Wichita so post a comment here or email us at Take your shots.

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Olathe Northwest becoming popular with D1 coaches

2012 6'10" Willie Cauley

Between three juniors at Olathe Northwest, the newest

2012 6'4" Shavon Shields

Olathe high school is apparently hosting a lot of college coaches this fall. The main attraction for the high majors such as Cal, Oklahoma, Kansas State and UCLA is 6’10 P Willie Cauley. Cauley has been steadily rising on most scouting boards and is now projected in the top 20 of the 2012 class. But, teammates Shavon Shields  (6’4″ SF) and Davis Reid (6’2″ PG) are attracting interest from mid-majors in the WCC, MVC, Ivy and Mountain West. The word is that Coach Mark Grove is receiving a flood of calls from assistants wanting to make trips into KC to see one of the three 2012s.  It’s no wonder that some consider the Ravens a threat to the Wichita Heights reign in 6A Kansas hoops.

2012 6'2" Davis Reid

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