The first week of practice revealed a couple of welcomed positives for McPherson High boys basketball coach Kurt Kinnamon.
“I’m impressed with how much more athletic we are than we were with the same guys last year,” said Kinnamon, whose team is coming off a 23-2 season and second-place state finish to Bishop Miege. “I’m impressed the amount of athleticism they have gained.”
Also, look for this to be an attacking Bullpup team.
“This may be as good of a driving team going to the basket as we’ve had in a while,” Kinnamon said.
It’s a somewhat odd dynamic for Kinnamon, who very rarely has a team with so few of seniors. In fact, he has only one and that’s Clayton Gerbrandt, who will come off the bench with instant energy.
So get used to this Bullpup team. It’s going to look very similar next year.
Despite the loss of four senior starters, Kinnamon will be surprised if there’s much dropoff. Of course the early season hopefully will reveal the players who will most step up to augment the lone returning starter, 6-7 junior Ben Pyle, who is expected to put up outrageous numbers. His brother, Drew, averaged 22.3 points last year in being named Mr. Basketball for the state of Kansas and Kinnamon will hardly be surprised if younger brother doesn’t come close or even exceeds those numbers.
There’s probably five players at this point in the mix for the other four starting spots. Junior Drew Labertew and sophomore Jake Alexander appear to be locks, while juniors Mason Alexander, Thomas Diggs and Wyatt Seidl will certainly be candidates. Mason Alexander has transferred back to McPherson after a one-year stint at Sunrise Christian Academy.
However, starting in Kinnamon’s system really doesn’t matter. There’s been games where he’s gone to the bench before a minute has passed by.
Junior Jayse Alexander, and sophomores Gabe Hoover, Kyler Hoppes and Jace Kinnamon certainly will be valuable contributors, players who could probably start for a lot of teams.
The Bullpups know they have to reload in a hurry. While El Dorado probably won’t provide the strongest of challenges in the season opener Dec. 2, the rest of the month is fraught with land mines. There’s a road game at Class 6A power Derby, then home games against Miege and Abilene, probably Top 5 teams in Class 4A Division II. The month ends with road games at Winfield and Andover, the latter certainly upset-worthy.
“Derby is going to have one of the quickest guards we’re going to see,” Kinnamon said. “Obviously Miege is going to be the consensus pick to win it this year with everybody back except for Bol Bol. Abilene is going to be good and the sleeper on our schedule, and people don’t think about it, is Great Bend (in February). They had great success in football, have a new coach and they beat us this summer. We know what they’re capable of. It will be good to be in close games, which I anticipate those being, some of those being on the road.”