Jamborees are both a dress rehearsal and a learning session. Lee’s Summit boys basketball coach Blake Little saw plenty of things to delight and concern him Nov. 16 after the Tigers’ jamboree.
One of those delightful things didn’t happen on the court, but Little still wanted to review it and make note of it.
“The thing I’m most excited about is they all like each other, they all root for each other,” Little said. “I’m looking forward to watching our bench on film, just how into the game they were.”
Lee’s Summit is close-knit team, one that showed a some swagger and confidence during 12-minute scrimmages against Liberty, Belton and Lee’s Summit North. It’s a different feel than last year, when most of these players were new to varsity action during a 7-20 season.
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Last season, Little had to replace all five starters and virtually all of the scoring from a team that rolled undefeated into the Class 5 state tournament. He still doesn’t have the talent that team possessed, but he does have an experienced squad with players accustomed to working together on the floor.
“Last year, we came in to the season with only two guys who had been on the varsity floor in meaningful minutes,” Little said. “This year, we’ve got five or six, so there is a little bit more comfort level.”
The top two scorers are gone from last year, Delshaun Presley graduated and Somaj Brewer didn’t come out for the team, but Lee’s Summit still has a core group of five players who logged plenty of minutes last season.
Will Eames, a 6-foot-4 junior forward and the top returning scorer at eight points game, is the big man on what will be another small, guard-oriented team.
Seth Romi, a 5-11 senior guard, showed off his shooting range while scoring 13 points during the jamboree. Guards Nate Jones, a 5-11 senior; Trevor Langenbahn, a 5-10 senior; and Mike Cleaves, a 5-9 senior, also played a lot of minutes last season.
The backcourt also added Deron McDaniel — a 5-10 senior guard, who averaged 15 points a game last season while playing at O’Hara.
“You’ve got five guys who played a lot of minutes last year,” Little said. “I think we’ve got them in some roles they can really succeed in right now, and I think they’re really confident in that.”
Lee’s Summit displayed that confidence with good ball movement on offense and a scrappy, turnover-producing defense. The bulk of the points, as expected, came from guards driving or pulling up from the outside.
“What I liked about tonight is the ball didn’t stick,” Little said. “If the ball keeps moving and we keep moving, we’re pretty hard to guard.”
Little played 13 players during the jamboree and isn’t close to deciding on a starting five, but he has some time. Lee’s Summit’s first game isn’t until Dec. 2, when the Tigers battle Shawnee Mission North as part of the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic at Liberty.
However, Little is certain about one thing — whoever makes up that starting five will work nicely together.
“We always talk about playing the game with passion, playing the game with confidence, and playing the game together,” Little said. “I thought we had a lot of guys tonight that were together, and that’s a lot of fun.”