With the high school basketball season upon us, The Kansas City Star’s boys preview zeroes in on five teams to watch this season.
Blue Valley Northwest
Ranked first overall in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll for Kansas Class 6A, Blue Valley Northwest boasts a bevy of talent. Forward JaMichael Morgan (an Oral Roberts signee) will lead the way, as will Darien Jackson (ranked No. 142 in Rivals’ national top 150). The Huskies lost in last year’s state semifinals to eventual champion Shawnee Mission North.
St. James Academy
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Missing out on the Kansas Class 5A state tournament last season will drive St. James, and the team has the talent to make the jump this year. Nebraska Omaha signee Zach Thornhill will lead the way, as will Keenan Fitzmorris. Fitzmorris averaged 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last year, and has received Division I interest. Defensively, Will McKee will pace the Thunder (and last year, he threw in 8.5 points and 6.7 boards per game, too).
A loss in the Kansas Class 6A semifinals was how the Lions’ season ended last year. Lawrence lost some experience from that team, but still brings back a few contributors. Several who led last year’s team include current seniors Braden Solko, Kobe Buffalomeat and Austin Miller.
The Stags lost 7-footer Bol Bol to a transfer last month, but still return several from last year’s Class 4A-DI state championship team. There’s senior power forward Francesco Badocchi (10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last year) and senior guard Semaj Ray (12.9 points and 2.8 assists per game). Sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, at 6-foot-8 will also be strong, after a freshman season averaging 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a contest.
If anyone is to challenge Bishop Miege in Kansas Class 4A-DI, it could be Basehor-Linwood. The Bobcats finished 19-3 last year, and lost four future collegiate athletes from that team. But the program has been through several rebuilds over the past few years, and is no stranger to the process. They could use a small lineup this year, including guards Eric Scott and Kade Tatkenhorst, but 6-foot-4 Zach White could contribute on the inside too.