Five players to watch
Mitchell Ballock, Eudora, sophomore
News spread quickly when Ballock burst onto the scene last year, and it is easy to see why. He led the Cardinals to the Class 4A Division II title with 20.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He will be joined by Austin Downing, who had 13.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Blaise Gammon, Blue Valley West, senior
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The son of former Chiefs long snapper Kendall Gammon, Blaise may be one of the most dynamic athletes in the Eastern Kansas League. He was a first-team selection in basketball as a junior and has a number of Division I offers. He also played tight end for the football team this year.
Lucas Jones, Shawnee Mission East, senior
Jones, who committed to Eastern Illinois, is one of two returning starters for the Lancers this year. He averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds per game and landed on the Sunflower League second team. He will be paired in the post with Joey Wentz, who averaged 12 points and six rebounds.
Louis Rollins, Shawnee Mission West, senior
As one of only five seniors on the Vikings’ roster this year, Rollins will need to play a big role. He got off to a solid start with a team-high 23 points in the season opener after averaging 12 last year. He is joined by Tyriq Gunnels, Tarik Watson, Michael Kinkelaar and Asher Goldston.
Mason McDow, Paola, junior
At 6-foot-7, McDow proved to be a force for the Panthers last year. He shot 53.3 percent from the field and averaged 19.4 points, eight rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. The All-Frontier League first-teamer also showed that he can be a threat from beyond the arc, shooting 37 percent.
Five teams to watch
Blue Valley North
The Mustangs will come back hungry after a championship loss to rival Blue Valley Northwest last season. Blue Valley North will return Cooper Cook, who was first-team All-Eastern Kansas League, averaging 13.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Senior Mychal Masterson also started a handful of games last season.
Blue Valley Northwest
The Huskies lost the starting lineup that won the last two Kansas Class 6A state championships, but don’t count out Ed Fritz’s team. It returns sophomore Matt Wilkinson and junior Dalton Schoen, who received second-team and honorable mention honors last season.
The undefeated and defending Kansas Class 5A state champions lost all five seniors, but return a lot of experienced talent. Krystian Abbott played 22 games and averaged 3.2 points, with 1.5. rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Kenneth Banks played 25 games and averaged 2.8 points with two rebounds per game.
The Chesty Lions return four of their five starters and should be inspired by the return of coach Mike Lewis, who was reinstated earlier this spring. His top returner is Justin Roberts, who averaged 17 points per game. Lawrence also returns Colorado State signee Anthony Bonner, who averaged 16 points and four rebounds.
Although the Hawks lost seven seniors, they still return a handful of experienced players such as Josiah Talbert, Cameron Hunter and Cedric Roland who played more than 20 games as sophomores. The Hawks went 18-5 last season and fell in the first round of the Class 6A tournament.