Some of the top high school basketball talent in the country has converged in Kansas City this week for the Metro Sports/KC Prep Invitational.

Some of the top high school basketball talent in the country has converged in Kansas City this week for the Metro Sports/KC Prep Invitational.

With a gaggle of college coaches streaming in and out of the MidAmerica West Sports Complex in Shawnee (Kan.), the opportunity is certainly there for players to distinguish themselves individually. But early Thursday afternoon, one squad seemingly lacking in jaw-dropping star power was drawing raves for its collective performance. And its effort had an Independence flavor to it.

The U-17 Pumas – which starts three local players in Fort Osage’s D’Vante Mosby and Austin Regier and Truman’s Lane Titus – clipped the Seattle Friends of Hoop 63-62. The Independence trio was in the middle of everything, scoring 17 of the Pumas’ first 22 points and tallying a combined 45 points by game’s end.

Mosby finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Titus knocked down five straight free throws late in the game and registered 15 points and a pair of steals while Regier chipped in with seven points and four boards.

And in a tournament where the temptation is there for players to try to raise their own stocks, Pumas coach Bud Nelson said his guys stand out because of their unselfishness.

“I coach high school ball and I wish those three were on my team,” said Nelson, who coaches at Holden High School. “All three of them are just great kids.”

That’s not to say that all three aren’t personally benefiting from Nelson’s program. Each player noted specific areas of their game they’re trying to improve before the high school season. Mosby is hoping to develop into more of a perimeter threat after establishing himself as a force in the post the last three seasons. Regier wants to hone his jumper and ballhandling. And Titus, a point guard for the Pumas and Patriots, is working on becoming a better floor general.

“Every game you have to get better at at least one thing,” Mosby said. “Whether it’s shooting or dribbling or seeing the floor. But the overall goal of the summer is to win.”
Nelson’s system is ideal for refining each player’s desired skills. He runs a four-out motion offense and occasionally will play five players on the perimeter. He emphasizes quick passing and constant movement as the Pumas shift the defense from one corner to the next as fast as possible.

That means all players on the floor have to dribble, make instant decisions and always be a threat to shoot.

“It really helps you work on all facets of your game,” Regier said. “Even though you’re a big guy doesn’t mean you’re going to be playing post all your life – 6-6 in high school might cut it but not in college. It really helps you prepare for the next level.”

Mosby and Regier’s familiarity with each other has certainly helped the Pumas establish a strong chemistry that had fans on the sideline buzzing on Thursday. The high school teammates are hoping to build on last season’s success after leading the Indians to the program’s first district championship.

“Me and Austin, we’re boys,” Mosby said. “We’ve  been hanging out so much this summer. ... It’s just been a blast.”

And while Mosby and Regier’s Indians are rivals with Titus’ Patriots come winter, there’s nothing but good will in the offseason.

“We love each other, dude,” said Titus, who has played with Mosby in the summer since middle school. “We play together so good. I love those guys, love playing with them.”

It’s an I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine arrangement, as each player is helping the other improve individually. And that’s forming an AAU team that Nelson says is a pleasure to coach.

“They just gel well together,” he said. “Good teams gel and they play well together. It doesn’t matter what their talent level is.”