Action gets underway Wednesday in Kansas high school basketball state tournaments in all classes at various sites. In Missouri, the Class 1, 2 and 3 state tournaments begin on Thursday in Columbia. Here are five things to watch:
1. Future Division I talent
By now, most everyone in Kansas City has heard of Blue Valley Northwest senior guard Clayton Custer, who is headed to Iowa State next season, but he is just one of several future Division I players from the area in the Kansas state tournament. Teammates Ben Richardson (Loyola Chicago) and Vince Fritz (Sacred Heart) are also going Division I, along with Lansing’s Joe Schneider (Air Force) and Olathe East’s Ezra Talbert (Liberty) on the boys side. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Kendra Weledji (Princeton), Shawnee Mission West’s Marleah Campbell (Wyoming) and Olathe South’s Kylee Kopatich (Kansas State) will represent the Kansas City area girls.
2. Experienced winners
Last season, two Kansas City area teams emerged as Kansas state champions, and those two each have a chance to repeat this season.
The Blue Valley Northwest boys basketball team went undefeated on its way to the Class 6A state title and then returned all five starters this season. The Huskies are the top seed with a 20-2 record.
The St. Thomas Aquinas girls won the Class 5A title last year and returned Eastern Kansas League MVP Kendra Weledji. The Saints are the No. 4 seed with a 20-2 record.
3. New faces
The Shawnee Mission Northwest boys basketball team is making its first state tournament appearance since 2009 after winning its sub-state tournament last week. The Cougars, who won a share of this year’s Sunflower League title, are the third seed in the 6A tournament, with a 19-3 record.
Although the St. Thomas Aquinas boys basketball team has been to the state tournament six of the last eight seasons, it will be new territory for this year’s starters, who did not play there last year.
4. Local matchups
The first round of the Kansas state tournaments will bring three games that pit two metro-area teams against each other. In Class 6A, the Olathe South girls will face Sunflower League foe Shawnee Mission Northwest on Wednesday, and then the Shawnee Mission Northwest boys will face Blue Valley North on Thursday. In Class 5A, St. Thomas Aquinas will play Lansing on Wednesday.
5. A date with the champs
The Barstow boys team will travel to Columbia on Thursday to play in the Missouri Class 3 state semifinals. The Knights, 26-2, will face defending state champion College Prep at Madison at noon on Thursday, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s title game.
Barstow is a young team — its leading scorers are sophomore Jeriah Horne and freshman Jacob Gilyard — but coach Billy Thomas says his team is playing its best basketball of the season. The Knights haven’t lost since Jan. 23.