KANSAS BOYS BASKETBALL: Five teams to watch
Shawnee Mission North
The Weathers brothers, Michael and Marcus, burst onto the Kansas City-area scene last year and helped guide the Indians to a fourth-place finish in the Kansas Class 6A state tournament. They return for their senior seasons as double-digit scorers, with postseason experience that earned them spots on both the All-Sunflower League and all-state teams.
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The Hawks are poised to be one of the most experienced teams in the Kansas City area, with three returning all-conference selections in Josiah Talbert, Cedric Roland and Dion Union. Olathe East will try to build on last year’s second-place finish in the Sunflower League and third-place finish in Kansas Class 6A.
The Stags should have instant credibility with former NBA player Manute Bol’s son, Bol, on the roster. He was restricted last season to junior varsity action, due to a late transfer. Bol, a 6-foot-10 sophomore forward, will add size and length in the post. The Stags also return Semaj Ray from their Kansas Class 4A Division I third-place squad.
The Bobcats made an undefeated run to the Kansas Class 4A Division I state title game last season, falling just short with a loss in the final. That experience should serve them well as they enter this season as the Kaw Valley League defending champion. Jahron McPherson, Jack Dale and Brock Gilliam will lead the way.
The Chesty Lions lost some firepower from their Kansas Class 6A runner-up squad to graduation, but return All-Sunflower League first-team selection Justin Roberts. He sustained a knee injury in the spring, but was cleared to play before tryouts started this season. He will get some help from fellow returning starter Price Morgan.
KANSAS BOYS BASKETBALL: Five players to watch
Jay Guastello, Shawnee Mission East, senior
The Lancers lose a lot of size from last season, but an experienced guard like Guastello should help ease the transition. He averaged 10.5 points per game and shot 36 percent from three-point range last year. SM East has just one other returning starter — forward Zeb Vermillion.
Colby Bullock, Blue Valley North, junior
The Mustangs will not be at full strength until football quarterback Joey Dolan recovers from a broken hand, but Bullock should provide stability early. Bullock set a program record — shooting 89.7 percent from the free-throw line last season — and leads the returnees with 6.7-points-per-game average. He added five assists per game.
Matt Wilkinson, Blue Valley Southwest, senior
Wilkinson, a guard, returns after averaging a team-high 14.5 points per game last season. He shot 38 percent from three-point range, 75 percent from the free-throw line and was an All-Eastern Kansas League first-team selection.
Mason McDow, Paola, senior
Although he’s committed to play baseball at Neosho County Community College, McDow has thrived on the basketball court. He led the Panthers with 15 points and seven rebound per game last season, utilizing his 6-foot-7 frame and athleticism to his advantage. He is a right-handed pitcher and outfielder on the Paola baseball team.
Austin Downing, Eudora, senior
With the Cardinals’ top prospect, Mitchell Ballock, likely out for the basketball season, the spotlight falls on Downing. He comes off an impressive season last year when heaveraged 19 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. He also helped lead Eudora to the substate title game.