FIVE TEAMS TO WATCH
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
The Hawklets won their fourth state championship in school history last season, but they return only one letterman — junior Cartier Dean — from that team. That means first-year coach Pete Campbell has a tough assignment in filling the scoring void left by the graduation of Kyle Wolf, the Missouri player of the year last season. Campbell takes over for Mark Nusbaum, who retired last spring after 32 years of coaching. JP Deck and Ben Johnson are the only two seniors on the team.
Lee’s Summit West
A promising 2012-13 season ended with a blowout loss to Rockhurst in the district championship game, but the Titans are well-equipped to make another run. A year after winning 21 games, they return six players who saw substantial playing time a year ago. Lee’s Summit West is particularly strong in the backcourt with a rotation of Gary Davis, Jarred Dixon and Ryan Williams. Monte Harrison and Thomas Ganaden will start at forward after leading the football team to a state title last week.
Nine seniors graduated from a team that reached the Missouri Class 4 state tournament last March for the second straight season. That puts a heavy workload on senior power forward Brinkley Jolly, the lone returning starter. Jolly, a returning all-state selection, has started all four years of his high school career. While he will serve as the offensive focal point, the Eagles expect to again rely on their defense to win games.
One of the biggest surprises in the state last season, West Platte won its first 30 games before falling in the Missouri Class 2 state championship. The Blue Jays played that game without Adam Roe, the Class 2 player of the year, who tore his ACL in the semifinals. Roe was cleared to return to play in October. West Platte graduated five seniors, but they will also welcome back Bryce Cashman, a 6-8 center who signed with North Dakota.
St. Pius X
The Warriors fell one game shy of winning the first state championship in school history, falling to College Prep in the Missouri Class 3 title game last March. Coach Chad Wright has since moved on to William Chrisman, and his replacement, Kelly Mason, is charged with replacing four starters. Point guard Marshall Mason is the lone returner from the starting five. Kyle Deters will supply a go-to option in the post.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tyrone Taylor, Grandview, senior
Look for Grandview to be one of the area’s most-improved teams this season, and Tyrone Taylor is a major reason why. Taylor was chosen Suburban Blue Conference player of the year last season after averaging 20 points per game. A host of Division I schools have shown interest in Taylor, who will move from point guard to shooting guard this year. He also led the Bulldogs in assists, steals and three-point makes last season.
Kevin Puryear, Blue Springs South, junior
A smooth, 6-7 forward, Puryear has the ability to play from the perimeter as well as the low block. He has been on college radars since his freshman season with the Jaguars. Now a junior, he will be counted on to provide leadership for a Blue Springs South team that replaces its entire backcourt. Kendall Blanton also returns for the Jaguars, who won 24 games and a district championship last season.
Kellan Turner, Liberty, senior
Perhaps one of the most underrated players in the Suburban Gold Conference, Turner returns after leading the Blue Jays in both scoring (14.5 points per game) and rebounding (4.5 per game) last season. Winners of 19 games last season, the Blue Jays figure to be in the mix for the league championship with Turner leading the way.
Drew Lock, Lee’s Summit, junior
He stars on the football field, where he led Lee’s Summit to 10 victories in the fall, but Lock is equally impressive on a basketball court. He has already received scholarship offers from Missouri, Oklahoma and Wofford. Lock, a 6-5 wing player, scored 20 points per game last season, though the Tigers won only 10 games.
Brock Mick, Smithville, senior
A tough, hard-nosed player, Mick enters his senior season with more than 1,200 career points. He averaged 20.1 points per game last season for the Warriors, who finished 19-8 and reached the district championship. Mick can light it up from anywhere. He shot 52 percent from the field, 45 percent from three-point range and 84 percent from the free-throw line.