Welcome back hoop fans!
This is Part 2 of my high school basketball analysis, and this time I will be focusing on the boys side. Last season, Blue Springs South was the top area team as the Jaguars went 14-11 and advanced to the Class 5 state quarterfinals.
This year could be different as the Jaguars lost DiRenna award finalist KJ Robinson and star forward Briley Moore-McKinney and have a host of new players who will enter the fray this time around.
This should be a very interesting season on the boys side in our coverage area as there is no one team that really stands out as a clear contender. There are a few teams I like to potentially win a district championship and perhaps make it to the state quarterfinal game. That doesn’t mean that it will be any less exciting to watch. Well, here it is, my breakdown of our local teams:
Blue Springs South: This will be an intriguing team to watch. The Jaguars lost eight rotation players from last season and head coach Jimmy Cain will have to look for some new faces to make an impact. Starting center Ethan Swanegan will lead the team as the lone returning starter and he provides a solid post player and rebounder for the Jaguars. Dorian Wright, who saw some minutes of the bench last year, is a potential star in the making. He was a good mid-range shooter and did very well when he drove to the basket. Jared Ravencamp played a little bit last year and gives South someone who can stretch the floor with the 3-ball and can play defense. Cale Connors is the other player with varsity experience who plays solid defense. Many of the other guys will be playing varsity basketball for the first time, so it is hard to see this team advancing as far as last year. But I won’t doubt that this squad could win another district title and post a winning record. You can’t underestimate a team coached by Cain.
Blue Springs: I really like the team Blue Springs will put on the floor. A dynamic backcourt in Tyree King and RJ Lawrence come back as returning starters, and both are fantastic all-around offensive players who can drive and shoot from the perimeter. The other returning starter is Daniel Parker, and while he flashes a lot of of his prowess in football, he is a heck of a basketball player, too. He has some nice post moves and has the strength to bully taller defenders out of the paint and outmuscle them for rebounds. Corey Bonner could play a big role in the starting five. Head coach Adam Jones raved about Bonner, saying he comparable to 2016 graduate Justin Hall in terms of athleticism and length. The Wildcats also have very good rebounders in a pair of 6-foot-4 guys – Curley Williams and Ryan McMahan. Hunter Grobmeyer should provide some solid minutes off the bench, and newcomer Keilen White could potentially crack the starting lineup. This is a team I could see winning a district title and maybe even make it to the quarterfinals. At the very least, the Cats should improve from their 16-9 record they posted last year.
William Chrisman: It’s hard to see the Bears not improving this year despite the loss of Eli Henderson and a bonafide scorer in Randall Horn, who was a tremendous shooter and a good all-around player. Chrisman went 3-21 last year but returns some talented players, so expect that record to go up this year. Daniel Carson returns as the starting center who showed flashes of brilliance last year. At 6-foot-5 and weighing 230-plus pounds, he should match up well with other centers in the area. Kelyvn Mason returns as the team’s point guard and is good at passing in traffic and getting his teammates involved. Bryan Cox provides energy and rebounding for the team as he is a likely starter. The one big question facing this team: Where will the scoring come from? That was Henderson and Horn’s job last season. Who will it be this year?
Fort Osage: The Indians lost some good players from their 8-17 team in 2015-16, but head coach Josh Wilson said he has the deepest team he’s ever had. The team has just two seniors, but they are role players. Isaiah Wilson is a solid big man, while undersized at 6-foot-2, he can still go get rebounds and can finish around the basket. Dez Griswold and Jared Larson are players who Wilson believes will fill up the stat sheet in nearly every category. The team will be running a new offensive system, so that will take some time for them to get used to. It will be interesting to see what this team can do.
Van Horn: The Falcons lost their best scorer from last season in Samila Sua, so one of the main questions head coach Daniel Beiser has on his mind is who will be able to score? James Posey could be a solution as he’s specialized in knocking down 3-pointers. Terrion Seddens and Tyrone Thornton are a pair of players who are athletic and can drive to the basket. Sam Baker comes back as a senior guard, and he also can shoot it from outside. This is a squad that Beiser feels will be better defensively, but the Falcons will have to find a way to put up points. They will need to if they want to improve on their 13-14 record from last season.
Truman: This is a team that is rebuilding. The Patriots big three of Reid Titus, Derek Sykes and Zack Rader have all graduated. Truman has a new coach in Rod Briggs, and he has no returning letterwinners. The majority of the team will be those who’ve been upgraded from junior varsity. One of those players that could make an impact is Zio Piper, who is 6-foot-6, is athletic and can provide some rebounding and shot blocking. Max Titus, Donald Edmonson and Nikolas Tanner are some other players Briggs said he has high hopes for. It will take some time for this team to develop some chemistry and an identity.
Grain Valley: This Eagles team looks like it will be pretty solid. Even though the team lost some very good players in the speedy Zack Ehlen, a solid defender in Isaiah Duong and sharpshooter Ethan Lasley, this year’s Grain Valley squad should still be pretty solid. Jake Salisbury will lead this unit. He’s the best big man the Eagles have had since Bobby Barrow, who played in the early 2000s and owns the school scoring record. Salisbury can do it all. He can shoot, he can rebound, he can protect the rim and he can score inside. The Eagles will go as far as he takes them. Dylan Meredith is a solid guard for the team who can shot from outside and penetrate to the basket. And the 6-foot-4 Ethan McCoubrie and Josh Quintrell will give Salisbury plenty of help on the boards. If the Eagles can find some scoring help from some of their newcomers, expect them to improve on their 16-10 record from last year.
Lee’s Summit North: This Broncos team is one that could surprise some people. This team had just 13 wins from the past two seasons combined, but don’t expect that trend to continue this season. Big man Elijah Farr is a star in the making. He is 6-foot-8 and can shoot the 3-ball, rebound and score inside. That kind of value can’t be understated. Cameron Hairston is a super-athletic guard who can drive to the basket and is a good passer in traffic. The team also adds former Hogan Prep player Da’Ron Davis, whose pure athleticism and speed will provide a new dynamic to the squad. Emil Spriggs returns as the team’s point guard and is a very good passer and can handle the ball well. Most of the players on this year’s team got significant varsity minutes so this team has the experience. It has the talent, too. The question is: Can they finally put it together?
Oak Grove: Admittingly I haven’t had a chance to go down to the Panthers gym this year and only saw them play once last year, so I am not too knowledgeable about this team. Jaxon Althaus is a returning starter from last season’s team and can score the basketball. Kenton Wilhoit is someone else who could provide a scoring threat for the Panthers, but everyone outside of those two didn’t get a ton of minutes last season. The Panthers finished 11-15 last season and probably will finish around that mark this year, too.