For the past four seasons, Lee’s Summit West has opened its boys basketball season with a four-day journey to Arkansas.
It’s a good chance for the Titans to engage in some team bonding and escape the local spotlight, but coach Michael Schieber’s squad jumps back into that spotlight Saturday night.
West has one of the marquee matchups on the second day of the Cable Dahmer Shootout at Avila University. The Titans, the No. 2-ranked team in the latest Class 5 state poll, take on defending Kansas Class 6A champions Blue Valley Northwest at 6 p.m.
“It ought to be good for us to put ourselves in a situation where we have to go compete,” Schieber said. “At the end of the day, when you’ve got a group that’s been around and played a lot of basketball. You hope that they’re just going to come out and do what we do to the best of our ability.”
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That group includes three returning starters — senior guards Philip Brooks and Mario Goodrich along with 6-foot-8 senior forward Christian Bishop — from last year’s team, which finished 26-3 and reached the Class 5 state final.
But Schieber has had to work in some new faces, most notably 6-11 senior Yor Anei, who transferred from Shawnee Mission South and recently signed with Oklahoma State.
Schieber said the three-game stretch at the Bulldog Classic in Fayetteville, Ark., helped move that blending process along.
“We had some new guys to acclimate and I thought it really helped us,” Schieber said. “I thought we progressively got a little better every day.”
West started off with a 55-44 victory against Springdale, Ark., a game in which Bishop had 16 points and 23 rebounds and Anei blocked eight shots.
The Titans then beat Conway, Ark., 67-51 in the semifinals and won the tournament with a 66-24 drubbing of Jacksonville, Ark., in the final.
Bishop scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the final and was selected to the all-tournament team. RJ Johnson, another newcomer, scored 19 points and was selected the tournament’s most valuable player.
“It got better every single game,” said Bishop, who has signed with Creighton. “I think we’ll just get better from here on.”
West should get an idea of what strides it’s made versus Blue Valley Northwest, which also has some size in 6-8 senior forward Parker Braun and 6-4 junior guard Christian Braun.
“We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be, but I thought we took some steps everyday down there,” Schieber said. “We’re going to have to take some very big steps this week. Blue Valley Northwest is a really good team that’s every bit as big as we are. It’s going to be an opportunity for our guys to compete against a really high-level opponent.”
Lee’s Summit North’s boys and girls will also take part in the annual showcase of high-school basketball formerly known as the Hy-Vee Shootout. North’s girls will play Bishop Miege at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by North’s boys against Miege at 7.