Thanks to a strong class of seniors slated to graduate in the spring of 2006 and some very talented youngsters, the state of KC hoops has never been better.
For those inclined to follow the local action, the following is a look at the teams and players to keep an eye on this winter and beyond. For the purposes of this preview, schools and players within an hour or so of Kansas City will be considered.
EBOSS’ PRESEASON 2005-06 ALL METRO TEAMS
Choosing an All-Metro team is never easy, and that held true again this year. Despite a strong senior class that could eventually produce 12-15 division one players, space had to be made for five underclassmen (four juniors and one sophomore) among the three pre-season teams.
*Travis Releford, 6-4 So. WG, Kansas City (MO) Central- See below.
Casey Crawford, 6-8 ½ Sr. BF, Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley North- Skilled big man with range to 22 feet. Crawford has the ability to be a dominant scorer when he attacks the basket first and then steps out for open jumpers.
Isacc Miles, 6-2 Sr. PG/WG, Mission (KS) Bishop Miege- One of the premier guards in the metro for four years now, he’s a tough defender and explosive scorer. Can play either guard position and has a college ready frame.
George Goode, 6-7 ½ Jr. BF/WF, Raytown (MO) South- Had his national coming out party thanks to a strong showing at Nike Camp. Long, blocks shots, dunks in traffic and transition and has one of the sweetest strokes in the city.
Jarryd Cole, 6-7 Jr. BF/C, Kansas City (MO) Winnetonka- Absolute beast on the glass with a motor that never, ever stops. Loves to play physical and has an expanding offensive skill set within 12 feet of the hoop. He’s the kind of kid who tests his opponent’s manhood each time he takes the court.
J.D. Christie, 6-5 ½ Sr. BF/WF, Overland Park (KS) Shawnee Mission East- Narrowly missed the first team, and will put up huge numbers. He’s an explosive leaper who makes jumpers and plays much bigger than his size around the hoop. Christie could lead the city in scoring.
Conner Teahan, Jr. 6-5 WG, Kansas City (MO) Rockhurst- Pre-season pick as the player who will experience the biggest breakout season. A long and athletic shooter who can create his own shot off of the dribble, Teahan is capable of dropping 30 on anybody.
Rahmon Fletcher, Jr. 5-9 PG, Kansas City (MO) Paseo- A jet quick lefty who can and has gone off for 40 and even 50 points in the past. A bouncy finisher around the basket , Fletcher is also one of the top thiefs in the city on the defensive end.
Dominique Johnson, 5-9 Sr. PG, Kansas City (MO) Lincoln Prep- Johnson is a heady floor general who runs the show and makes his teammates better. He’s a capable shooter from 15-20 feet and should play his way into a division one scholarship this winter.
Roderick Pearson, 6-2 Sr. PG/WG, Raytown (MO) South- SE MISSOURI ST- Pearson is one of the most intense competitors in the city and uses his size and strength to his advantage. Natural lefty can shoot with either hand, but is most dangerous attacking the basket and finding teammates in transition.
Edriss Floyd, 6-2 Sr. PG, Independence (MO) Truman- One of the most combustible personalities in the metro, Floyd goes from all smiles to business in a blink. Creative scorer who puts up points in bunches and is a dangerous defender.
Jujuan Maxwell, 6-6 Sr. BF, Raytown (MO) High- SE MISSOURI ST- A long and slender forward who plays much bigger than his size, Maxwell is one of the most relentless players in the city. He’s capable of hitting 15 foot jumpers and should get an opportunity to operate on the wing for stretches this winter.
Adam Leonard, 5-10 Sr. PG, Lees Summit (MO) North- EASTERN KENTUCKY- One of the most confident players in the city, he doesn’t back down from a challenge. His knack for hitting big shots and making plays could carry LS North a long way.
Mark Smith, 6-7 Sr. BF/C, Kansas City (MO) Hickman Mills- Smith may be the least vocal player in the city, but he always puts up numbers. The premier shot blocker in the city, Smith is capable of triple double of points, rebounds and blocks on any night and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him thrive under a new coaching staff.
Dominique Thuston, Sr. 6-5 WF/WG, St. Joseph (MO) Lafayette- Because he isn’t in Kansas City and Lafayette struggled last year, much of Thuston’s work has gone unnoticed. He’s fast from end to end, jumps very well and wields an accurate mid-range jumper.
*Denotes pre-season player of the year.
Bristan Kelley, 6-7 Sr. BF/C, Lees Summit (MO) North (No. Ill); Chris Allen, 6-1 Sr. WG, Raytown (MO) South; Terrance Hill, 6-4 Jr. WF, KC (MO) Hogan Prep; Rashaad Lucas, 6-1 Jr. PG/WG, Blue Springs (MO) South; Ryan Jehle, 6-5 Sr. WF/BF, Overland Park (KS) Shawnee Mission South (Mo. St); Demarco Cosby, 6-3 Sr. WG, KC (MO) Lincoln Prep; Greg Smith, 6-6 Sr. BF, KC (MO) Lincoln Prep, Cavel Witter, 5-9 Sr. PG, Grandview (MO) High; Dustin Andrews, 6-3 Sr. WF/WG, Lees Summit (MO) North; Mekan Moss, 6-4 Sr. WF, Topeka (KS) West, Kyle Weems, 6-6 Jr. BF/WF, Topeka (KS) Highland Park; LaMont Austin, 5-10 Jr. PG, Topeka (KS) Highland Park; Correy Fennix, 6-6 Sr. BF, No. KC (MO) High; Luke Engelken, 6-6 Jr. WF/WG, Faucett (MO) Mid Buchanan; Nate Daniels, 6-4 Jr. WF/WG, Kansas City (KS) Piper; Patrick James, 6-8 Sr. C, Kansas City (KS) Schlagle, DeJaun Slaughter, 6-5 Jr. WF/BF, Kansas City (KS) Sumner; Mark May, 6-4 ½ Sr. BF, Atchison (KS) High; Marquese Williams, 5-7 Jr. PG, Grandview (MO) High; Justin Hurtt, 6-4 Jr. WF, KC (MO) O’Hara; Chris Combs, 6-1 Jr. WG/PG, Mission (KS) Bishop Miege; Victor Ojele, 6-5 Jr. BF/WF, Ottawa (KS) High; Brian Nelson, 6-6 Jr. BF, Overland Park (KS) SM East; Reggie Chamberlain, 6-0 Jr. WG/PG, Raytown (MO) High; Blake Bales, 6-1 Jr. WG, Olathe (KS) East; Jordan Allison, 6-0 Jr. PG, Overland Park (KS) St. Thomas Aquinas; Denver Holmes, 6-2 Jr. WG, Olathe (KS) South.
PRE-SEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
It isn’t often that somebody as young as 15 year old Travis Releford heads into his sophomore campaign carrying the designation of pre-season player of the year. The fact of the matter is that the 6-4 WG from Kansas City (MO) Central, who is ranked as high as #2 nationally in the class of 2008, has earned this distinction. Were it not for the spectacular effort put together by Nebraska freshman guard Marcus Walker during his senior year at Kansas City (MO) O’Hara last season, an argument could have been made for Releford as player of year last winter.
Long and athletic with a complete offensive game, Releford’s résumé speaks for itself. He scored almost 25 a game during his first season while earning All-Metro honors and becoming the first freshman ever named as the Interscholastic League player of the year. Now that he’s got the national rankings and the local props, it’s time for the talented guard to try and bring Central hoops program back to it’s position as perhaps the elite program in the city. A lot to ask of a sophomore, absolutely, but if there is any player in the area capable of living up to the advance billing it is Mr. Releford.
It’s too early in the year for an actual poll, but these six teams could make legitimate claims as the top programs in the area heading into the 2005-06 season.
Kansas City (MO) Rockhurst- People seem to forget that Mark Nusbaum’s Hawklets made a run to the Missouri Class 5A Final Four last winter. Pretty much everybody is back from a balanced squad and the headliner figures to be 6-5 junior WG Conner Teahan. Teahan is probably most well known as a football prospect at this point, after putting up big numbers as the Rock’s quarterback this fall, but it says here he could be an even better hooper. He’ll get help from another football stud, 6-1 Senior PG Noah Strozier, who has D1 talent on the hardwood, and a deep and experienced group of role players.
Raytown (MO) South- Led by legendary coach Bud Lathrop, the Cardinals are absolutely loaded this winter. 6-7 ½ junior combo forward George Goode is just as comfortable leaping for alley oops as he is swishing home smooth three pointers and is a top 50 prospect nationally in the class of 2007. 6-2 senior point guard Roderick Pearson is a tough as nails and athletic lefty PG who pushes the tempo. Along with Goode, Pearson will count on ultra athletic 6-1 WG Chris Allen who was a first team all-stater as a junior. Be sure to keep an eye out for sophomore guards Dominique Newton and Mike Gholston as well.
Kansas City (MO) Lincoln Prep- Perhaps the most fundamentally sound floor general in Kansas City, 5-9 senior PG Dominique Johnson, retuns to lead a talented crew. 6-6 senior forwards Greg Smith and Brandon Coleman are both skilled big men who can shoot the ball and will provide muscle on the glass. Also looking to play a big role will be one of the most underappreciated guys in the city in senior utility man Demarco Cosby. 6-2 sophomore scorer Marcus Denmon is the best player in the city that you haven’t heard of yet.
Lees Summit (MO) North- Last winter, LS North knocked off Raytown South to win a district championship before falling to Rockhurst in the state quarterfinals. The Broncos return a solid group of seniors that is headlined by two division one signees, Adam Leonard and Bristan Kelley, and a third, Dustin Andrews, who may end up playing on that level as well. Leonard, a scrappy 5-10 PG ticketed for Eastern Kentucky, is the heart and soul of the team while the 6-7 Kelley, headed to Northern Illinois, provides the inside beef. Andrews is a 6-3 utility guy capable of defending three positions and scoring off of athletic drives.
Overland Park (KS) St. Thomas Aquinas- Quite frankly, things are a little bit lean in Johnson County but the Saints look to have the talent assembled to take on the city’s best. Junior point guard Jordan Allison is very underrated and handles his team with confidence and even a little swagger. As good as the 6-0 floor general is, a large part of the Saints success is going to rely on how far talented sophomores Clinton Mann, a skilled 6-6 combo forward, and sweet shooting 6-7 BF Keith McCullough have come along.
Topeka (KS) Highland Park- Probably the premier program in the state of Kansas, Highland Park is a contender for the Kansas 5A state championship every year and they enter the 2005-06 season as the prohibitive favorites to defend the title they won in 2005. The scary thing is that the bulk of their contributors will be back next year. Look for junior combo forward Kyle Weems to come into his own this season. The 6-6 Weems has shed some baby fat and developed into a good athlete who can post up and score. Junior guards Donte Redmond and Lamont Austin aren’t the biggest guys around, but they are jet quick and capable of harassing opposing guards and creating easy hoops in transition. 6-6 ½ sophomore Tywaune Modupe is a multi-skilled forward who is similar in playing style and ability to current Mizzou freshman Leo Lyons at the same stage.
Honoroable Mention- Raytown (MO) High, Grandview (MO) High, Blue Springs (MO) South, KC (MO) Central, Overland Park (KS) SM East, Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley North, KC (MO) Hickman Mills, KC (MO) Ruskin, KC (MO) O’Hara, Olathe (KS) East, Independence (MO) Truman.
UNDERCLASSMEN TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Considering that most sophomores and freshman have little to no experience on the varsity level, it isn’t always easy to pick which guys will bust out. However, here are five kids who figure to make some headlines at an early age.
Marcus Denmon, 6-2 So. WG/PG, KC (MO) Lincoln Prep- If his performance during the summer and fall of 2005 is an indicator of things to come, Denmon is poised for a big year. He creates space for his shot off the dribble, is a long and athletic finisher around the cup and has quick hands defensively.
Steve Moore, 6-8 So. BF/C, Independence (MO) Truman- A long lefty with good size, Moore can shoot out to 15 feet. He already has a baby hook and pretty good footwork but must become much more aggressive on the offensive and defensive glass.
Tywaune Modupe, 6-6 ½ So. BF/WF, Topeka (KS) Highland Park- A multi skilled big man who can put the ball on the floor and make plays for teammates. Modupe runs the floor well, spins off defenders for dunks and makes short jumpers. He’s got to get stronger and learn to play hard consistently.
Alex English, 6-5 Fr. WF, Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley Northwest- Easily the most heralded freshman in the city, English is the best of a nice freshman trio (PG Aaron Washington and BF Barron Hull have bright futures as well) that Ed Fritz will enjoy for the next few years. He’s already proven in the summer that he can play with and more than hold his own against much older players.
Clinton Mann, 6-6 So. BF/WF, Overland Park (KS) St. Thomas Aquinas- Mann is a very skilled and versatile player who had a productive year as a freshman. Hits face up jumpers and drives by other big men. Is also an excellent passer with good genetics as brother Nathan is a starter as a sophomore at William & Mary.
OTHER YOUNG GUYS TO WATCH- Raphael Brown, 5-11 So. PG, KC (MO) Hickman Mills; Dominique Lane, 6-4 So. WF, KC (MO) Northeast; Keith McCullough, 6-7 So. BF, Overland Park (KS) St. Thomas Aquinas; Earnest Jones, 5-11 So. PG, Kansas City (MO) Central; Michael Dixon, 5-10 Fr. PG, Lees Summit (MO) North; Shawn Adams, 6-5 Fr. BF/WF, Liberty (MO) High; Dominique Newton, 5-11 So. PG, Raytown (MO) South; Mike Gholston, 5-11 So. PG, Raytown (MO) South; Willie Reed, 6-7 ½ So. BF, KC (MO) Ruskin; Andrew Jones, 6-4 So. BF, Smithville (MO) High; Dominique Morrison, 6-4 So. WF, Raytown (MO) High; Marlon Parris, 6-2 So. WG, KC (MO) Center.