All-star basketball games are usually high-scoring affairs during which the players let loose without worrying about Xs and Os or defense. Sam Ward, Joe Pleasant and Parker Braun all took advantage of that opportunity April 13 in the Kansas vs. Missouri High School All-Star Challenge.
They also got an opportunity to be teammates one last time.
Ward, Pleasant and Braun are likely going their separate ways next year after forming the nucleus of Blue Valley Northwest’s back-to-back Class 6A state championship teams. They didn’t win their final game together — the Kansas All-Star squad lost to Missouri 114-92 — but they didn’t leave Avila University’s Mabee Fieldhouse disappointed that evening.
“I won two state championships with those guys,” Ward said. “To be in an all-star game together was really exciting.”
Ward, who was the Huskies’ leading scorer last season at 15.4 points per game, made three three-pointers and scored 13 points for Kansas, second on the team only to the 17 points scored by Schlagle’s Tyon Grant-Foster. Pleasant had 10 points and Braun finished with seven in the annual event presented by the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association and Nike.
“I felt like I shot the ball well,” said Ward, who hasn’t decided where he will play college basketball. “My team was giving me the ball when they needed to and we just played as a team. We didn’t get the win but that’s OK.”
The Kansas team didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with a Missouri squad sporting several future NCAA Division I players.
Missouri — led by Liberty’s Jalen Lewis, who had nine three-pointers and 27 points — led 24-12 after the first quarter.
“We just came out here and wanted to give the crowd a good show and have some fun and play some basketball,” said Pleasant, who has signed with Abilene Christian. “The crowd came here to see a good game and that’s what we tried to give them.”
The crowd also got to see another former BV Northwest star when Clayton Custer made an appearance before the boys’ game.
Custer, who along with fellow former Husky Ben Richardson led Loyola-Chicago’s surprising run to the Final Four, also helped judge the slam dunk contest at halftime, which was won by Michigan football signee Ronnie Bell of Park Hill.
Ward said seeing Custer, who played on BV Northwest’s 2014 state championship team with Richardson, made the evening even more special.
“When they come out and show support it’s like when you come through Northwest, it’s just like a family,” Ward said. “I wasn’t there when they were there, but we scrimmaged with them and worked with them all the time, so it was pretty cool.”
Having Custer on hand was also a highlight for BV Northwest coach Ed Fritz, who served as head coach of the Kansas stars — almost as big as having his latest group of champions together for their high school finale.
“We’ve had a great run,” Fritz said. “Being able to go back-to-back with state titles has been awesome. We’re now ready for the next group.”