When Steve Stitzer took over the Shawnee Mission North boys basketball program last season after 14 years at Hogan Prep, he had a few very specific goals. All of them involved the idea of speed.
So far, it has been working for the Indians who have already matched last season’s win total with a 6-3 record. Stitzer said it is their best start since 2005. They are also ranked 10th in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll.
“Our guard play hurts a lot of teams,” Stitzer said. “We don’t have a big man, but we play an up-tempo offense and a really harassing defense to try and make teams work their offense against a defense (that makes them uncomfortable).”
The majority of SM North’s power at the guard spot comes in the form of a one-two punch from brother Michael and Marcus Weathers, who have scored in double figures in every game this season. Michael is averaging 20.7 points per game and Marcus is at 18.5 points points per game.
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Stitzer said the biggest challenge for his Indians is still youth. They play without a single senior in the starting rotation and he said the inexperience showed most in a loss to Shawnee Mission East. In that game, SM North led by 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“They’re coming together as a team and I am pretty proud of them for the role they have to accept as guys who have never played together,” Stitzer said. “That’s hard to do when you don’t have the luxury of kids work up through the ranks and playing with kids their own age.”
The Indians have bounced back well from the SM East loss and have won each of their three following games, including two against Sunflower League opponents.
“I feel like we still haven’t played our best basketball,” Stitzer said. “We are a young team and we are still trying to put things together. I’m making a lot of changes to suit my kids. Hopefully, we’ll be ready for the second half of the season.”
Games to watch
Olathe East at Blue Valley West, 7 p.m. Wednesday
To say that the Olathe East’s boys basketball season has been an up-and-down ride would be an understatement.
First, two of the Hawks’ four losses have come against Barstow. One of their other losses came against Shawnee Mission West, but Olathe East was able to avenge that just a few weeks later with a three-point victory.
Then, there’s the victory over previously undefeated Bishop Miege last week in the first round of the Saints Classic.
Blue Valley West, meanwhil, was enjoying a 5-1 start to its season, then dropped back-to-back games to Blue Valley North and SM East before winning its next two games.
Even though Olathe East and Blue Valley West are in different leagues, this game will look good on the winner’s resume.
Blue Valley Northwest at Blue Valley North, 7 p.m. Friday
Even though both of these teams have struggled this season, the appeal of this rivalry matchup cannot be denied.
Blue Valley Northwest lost all five starters from last year’s state champion squad, including Iowa State guard Clayton Custer. But the Huskies are steadily finding their way. They are coming off a loss to Raytown South and will have to play Blue Valley Southwest before meeting BV North.
Blue Valley North has had to make a lot of changes, as well, with Cooper Cook as its only returning starter. The Mustangs were 3-3, but have won four of their last five games to improve to 7-4.