By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
Give or take one or two games, most teams in Wyandotte County and in the Kaw Valley League have played at least four or five games.
Since there are 20 regular season games, this means that 25 percent of the season is already over.
This point of the season also gives us some early indications of where basketball is going this year.
Here's what we know so far on the season:
• This might be the best shooting team Sumner Academy's had since the 2008-09 season. The past two Sumner teams have done the damage inside behind Reese Holliday, Eli Alexander, Anthony White and Vernon Vaughn. However, this year's team is a dangerous one behind the three-point line. Since no stats are made available for the Sumner Academy boys basketball team, I can't give you specific details. But I can tell you this - Benny Parker's outside shot is better, making him a big threat from behind the line. It seems like every game so far Jowell Daniels and Alex Garvin have hit three or four big threes between them. When you begin to plan for Sumner Academy, the obvious direction is Parker. However, Garvin and Daniels can shoot the ball and they've given Sumner a big boost in offense. On the other note....
• Both Sumner Academy and Schlagle are vulnerable inside. It feels like both teams are playing with essentially five guards on the court. As good as Marcus Allen can be (and I'm a big fan), it's never a good sign when you see him be the player who jumps for the ball at the tip. Vaughn's injury was tough for Sumner in this regard. Still, their guards have been very good at rebounding, particularly Deon Tripp and Allen. With Schlagle, it's the same way. Both Sumner Academy and Schlagle will have to work extra hard at defending the post from Dominique Wilson of Washington, along with Harmon's Mike Carson and Wyandotte's Shaquille Smith.
• For those thinking the KCK Player of the Year Race was going to be a coronation for Benny Parker, they were wrong. Branden Roark of Harmon is putting up 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and nearly 3 steals a game. Adrian Goodlow of Wyandotte had a 34-point game in the Leavenworth tournament. Though he's struggling right now a little bit from the field, Bonner Springs' B.J. Watson is averaging 17 points and 4 steals a game. And, by the way, Dominique Wilson is coming on. His 22 point, 8 rebound, 5 blocks and 3 steal game against Raytown was excellent. Parker remains the favorite at this time, but Roark is charging hard. He's been special at points this season. I hate to tell Sumner fans this, but it's no slam dunk. It's hard to ignore what Roark is doing right now. You have to give him a lot of credit. To please former Arizona Cardinals head coach Denny Green, I'm not crowning anyone yet.
• Right now, Basehor-Linwood is both the class of 4A and the Kaw Valley League. Lansing was my preseason pick to win the Kaw Valley League, but Basehor-Linwood is quickly winning me over. It's very close, but right now Basehor has the slight edge on my power-rankings. Basehor's offense can be outstanding at times and the defense of the Murphy Twins and Ben Johnson has improved. Basehor is a very tough match-up for Sumner Academy this year. Eli Alexander played arguably the best game of his career against Basehor last year. There's no Eli this year. Though I think Ottawa's Semi Ojeleye is one of only two players in Kansas who can pull a Danny Manning and carry his team to a state title (Perry Ellis being the other), Basehor's more complete. Though Lansing is deeper, Basehor's 1-2-3 punch of the Brothers Murphy and Johnson is the best in the KVL. And for the record - I'm always skeptical of Basehor. Go look back on some of my Kansan posts at about this time last year. I'm sold on them this year.
• When healthy, Bonner Springs will be a dangerous team to deal with in 4A. Two things in particular impressed me with the Braves against Lansing last week in their double-overtime loss. One, the ability the team has to create turnovers. They had 14 steals against Lansing, while the Lions just had 4 in the game. That helped make-up for Lansing's rebounding advantage. Bonner can play a little defense. Two, I was encouraged by how many players had key moments in that game. Daemon Franklin, for example, had a huge five-point burst early in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback effort. Brett Steuart made nice plays throughout the game. Same with Jourdaine Smallwood. The Jackson brothers (Jordan and Johnathan) also stepped up, particularly Jordan with his 10 points. Stevie Williams and B.J. Watson are outstanding on that team, but some players grew up that night. Bonner's bench will be key in a potential sub-state showdown with either Basehor-Linwood or Topeka-Hayden.
• The three most underrated players in Wyandotte County are Piper's D.J. Stewart, Bishop Ward's C.J. Vallejo and Bonner Springs' Stevie Williams. Stewart is averaging 8 points a game and 9.8 rebounds an outing. He had a 17-rebound performance against Bonner Springs, a team that's improved in the post. Stewart has consistenly been Piper's best player and he's arguably the best rebounder in Wyandotte County. Vallejo is a four-year varsity starter at Ward who's athletic and can shoot. He's on a winless team right now, but he's a solid player and someone who should make at least the second-team on the All Kaw Valley League Roster. Finally, here's Williams' sneaky good stat line that's not receiving enough notice: 11.3 points a game, 6.3 rebounds a game, 4.0 assists a game, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks a night. All those numbers may not be individually remarkably high, but them coming from one player is pretty good. He's in the top two of all of those stats except steals for Bonner.
• I have no idea who's going to win the KCKAL. On paper, you would think Sumner's the favorite. But then I remember that Dominique Wilson will only get better and those Wildcat juniors will only build more experience. Once I get on Washington's bandwagon, I keep remembering to myself that Benny Parker and Marcus Allen are a very special duo. Then, there's always the possibility of that talent down in Harmon putting a solid month of play together and stealing the league. I even think Schlagle still has potential with the Houston Shackelford-Devante Clark-J'veyon Browning-D.J. Sayles guard rotation. Schlagle has good talent at the guard position and teams get better throughout the year. The Washington team that made state two years ago had some horrible losses early in the season. The Sumner team that won state two years ago lost to little ol' Eudora during the regular season. Right now, I would put it in tiers - Sumner Academy and Washington are the co-favorites (Sumner might be a slight favorite), Harmon's in that second tier, Schlagle's in a third tier and Wyandotte and Atchison are at the bottom. The KCKAL race will be interesting this year and it's tough to get a feel for it. Had Vernon Vaughn been in the lineup, I think Sumner would have been the easy selection based on his size and ability to get the job done inside.
• Will Parker, Roark or Goodlow wear down during the season? One thing that concerns me is how much these guys are playing early and how much they're having to do. All three of those players have been barely off the court this year and have been required to exert great energy. There's a lot of pressure for those guys to deliver. Last year, Roark had Jauan Wilson and Shane Hooks on his side. Parker had Eli Alexander and Vernon Vaughn. Goodlow was Terry Moore's Robin at Wyandotte. This year, Allen's solid performances against Lee's Summit West and Hogan Prep aside, that second or third guy is not always there. Even though Washington's 12-man rotation hasn't answered all the questions, I do think it's getting experience for a lot of players and Dominique Wilson, Deandre King and Jaamie Trevillion are able to get a breather here or there.
• The top seven players in Wyandotte County so far this season
1. Benny Parker, Sumner Academy - Delivering so far early in his senior season.
2. Branden Roark, Harmon - Scroll back up and see that stat line again. Have a good day.
3. Dominique Wilson, Washington - He could be above both if he continues to play and continues to improve.
4. Adrian Goodlow, Wyandotte - He's had two 30-point efforts for a Wyandotte team that's struggled all year.
5. Marcus Allen, Sumner Academy - When Allen is on, Sumner Academy is a very tough team to beat. Allen (and Parker) spurred the upset of Hogan Prep and Allen's tough game against Lawrence opened the door for Sumner to be upset. He needs to find a little more consistency. I know he can do it, though.
6. B.J. Watson, Bonner Springs - B.J. had a tough night from the field against Lansing, but still hit 14-of-18 free throws in a 19-point game. B.J.'s a very tough player and perhaps the best defender at the guard position in the Kaw Valley League. He forces turnovers and plays outstanding defense at times.
7. Stevie Williams, Bonner Springs - A solid stat-line and a great athlete for the Braves. Like Watson, Williams is a defensive presence and even at just 6'2", he's a good to great rebounder on any night.
Fun fact - ALL of those guys are seniors. Time to step up, underclassmen.
• Including the Basehor-Linwood guys, here's my early 10-man rotation.
C. Dominique Wilson, Washington
PF. Colin Murphy, Basehor-Linwood (better defensively and like Roark, can score anywhere on the court)
SF. Branden Roark, Harmon
SG. Adrian Goodlow, Wyandotte
PG. Benny Parker, Sumner Academy
Bench - Ryan Murphy (Basehor), Marcus Allen (Sumner Academy), B.J. Watson (Bonner Springs), Ben Johnson (Basehor), Stevie Williams (Bonner Springs)
Coach: Mike McBride, Basehor-Linwood - Basehor's offense is beautiful to watch and the experienced coach who turned around a bad program orchestrates it. Plus, McBride has over 200 wins as a varsity head coach, along with a state title.
By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com