High School Sports

KU-bound duo win annual DiRenna Awards as top high school basketball players in KC

Chandler Prater, left, and Christian Braun are both headed to KU to continue their basketball careers.
Chandler Prater, left, and Christian Braun are both headed to KU to continue their basketball careers. File photos

It’s a heck of a thing, being able to accomplish every goal you set out to achieve.

That’s exactly what North Kansas City senior Chandler Prater and Blue Valley Northwest senior Christian Braun did in their final high school basketball seasons, winning state titles and leaving legacies that will be difficult to match.

Prater and Braun capped their high school careers by winning the 2019 DiRenna Awards Thursday night at the College Basketball Experience in the Power & Light District, honoring them as the top basketball players in the Kansas City Metropolitan area.

Prater, who won last year, became the fourth two-time winner of the DiRenna Award, joining Olathe South’s Natalie Knight (2010-11), Pembroke Hill’s Emeisa Bailey (2003-04), and Tracy Lozier from Blue Valley North (1999-2000).

Prater led the Hornets to their first state title this year, and was speechless when her name was announced.

“It’s definitely a cherry on top, because my main goal was winning state this year. The personal accolades is honestly just a bonus to that, and I’m just proud of myself and my team,” Prater said. “It’s definitely a different type of felling than last year. Last year was definitely a shock, and I guess I didn’t know how big of an honor that it was. This year, it’s just a cherry on top. That’s all I can say.”

The other nominees were seniors Brionna Budgetts (Lincoln Prep), Sara Beth Gueldner (Olathe Northwest), Alecia Westbrook (Park Hill South), and Bishop Miege sophomore Payton Verhulst.

Braun already collected plenty of hardware this postseason, including Blue Valley Northwest’s third consecutive state title, and Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year. The 2019 DiRenna Award was a natural culmination to a dominant senior campaign that saw him score nearly 30 points per game.

“This is one of my last goals, so it means a lot. There’s a lot of good players who have won this before me,” Braun said. “There’s a lot of guys I competed with, and they’re really good players, and competing with them and winning this award means a lot.”

In his acceptance speech, Braun told coach Ed Fritz he wasn’t sure if he would ever achieve some of the goals the two talked about when Braun was a freshman who hadn’t yet gone through a growth spurt.

“My roles on the team were a lot smaller, just to get in and play,” Braun said. “It was just win as a team, so this year I set some goals and ended up getting them.”

The other male nominees were seniors Javaunte Hawkins (Lee’s Summit North), Darrius Hughes (Rockhust), Tymer Jackson (Olathe North) and Spencer Jones (Bishop Miege).

Prater and Braun will both play at Kansas next year. Before that, they’ll play in Friday’s 2019 DiRenna All –Star Games

Boys and girls teams from both sides of the state line will face off at Shawnee Mission South High School. The girls game starts at 6 p.m, with the boys game set for 7:45 p.m.

Braun was nominated by his Kansas All-Star teammates to say a few words to hype the team. He declined, but there will no doubt be plenty of talk going on tomorrow.

Other honorees on Thursday included Grandview boys coach Reggie Morris and Northtown girls coach Jeff Lacy, who were named the area’s top head coaches this season. Both led their schools to state titles.

Former Rockhurst University men’s coach Bill O’Connor and Blue Springs South girls coach Brad Oyler were inducted into the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. The 2019 Player inductees were former Iowa State Cyclone and Boston Celtic Martinez Denmon, uncle of 2008 DiRenna winner and former Mizzou standout Marcus Denmon. Former Wyndotte and Kansas standout Calvin Thompson was also inducted.

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