• NO CUPCAKES HERE — McPherson High basketball coaches Kurt Kinnamon and Chris Strathman are in agreement that their teams will only get better by playing better teams.
The Bullpup teams, which open the season on Friday hosting El Dorado, could be tackling the most ambitious schedule in the school’s storied history.
MHS is locked into 10 games each year — home-and-home with the five AVCTL Division III schools. There is a change for basketball in D-III this year as Circle replaces Rose Hill, which will be an upgrade because both Thunderbird teams are expected to be competitive.
The holdovers are El Dorado, Winfield, Buhler and Augusta.
The Bullpups will get a heavy dose of top non-league challengers, starting on Dec. 6 when they play at Derby. The Panther boys have one of the state’s top players in Nyjee Wright and the Derby girls feature a pair of All-State possibilities in super center 6-5 Kennedy Brown and Tor’E Alford, who coach Jodi Karsak says “is a point guard who comes around once every 20 years.”
Also that week, MHS has the much ballyhooed games with Miege in what could be the most anticipated non-league home games in decades. Miege is the defending Class 4A Division I champion for both boys and girls. The Stag boys have the talent to be ranked nationally, even without Bol Bol, who transferred to a big-time program in California. The Miege girls suffered heavy graduation losses, but always reload with a bevy of newcomers.
MHS then hosts Abilene on Dec. 13 and has another non-league date on Dec. 20 at Andover.
Later on, other non-league games are against Andale (always good for both boys and girls), Newton (especially good on the girls’ side), Great Bend (its boys defeated McPherson this summer) and of course the three-game midseason tournaments, which feature a host of 6A and 5A powers.
• NICE NUMBERS FOR LOECKER — McPherson High grad Katelyn Loecker is off to a nice start for the undefeated 6-0 Oklahoma State Cowgirls.
Loecker has started all six games, averaging 28.7 minutes. She's averaging 7.5 points and 4.0 rebounds, while shooting 57 percent from the field and 73 percent from the line. She's also third on the team in assists with 3.2 a game.
The Cowgirls have one of the premier players in the Big 12 in Kaylee Jensen, who's averaging a double-double at 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds.
OSU has some time off as its next game is Dec. 3 at home against Georgia.
• KINNAMON GETTING IT DONE — Kyler Kinnamon has helped Fort Hays State to a 4-2 start.
The former Bullpup has started all six games and averages 21 minutes a game as he's had a couple where he's been hampered by foul trouble. He's averaging 5.3 points and a team-leading 3 assists, while shooting 14 of 18 from the foul line.
MHS grad Payton Stephens has played in four games for the Tigers. He averages 3.5 points and 2 rebounds a contest.
• COACHING UPDATE — Oklahoma State's men's basketball team is off to a 5-1 start under McPherson High grad Brad Underwood.
The Cowboys opened a lot of eyes while in Hawaii, taking third place in the tourney they competed in, which included victories over high-level programs UConn and Georgetown, schools that have won national championships in the past. The loss came to Roy Williams' North Carolina Tar Heels.
At Arkansas Tech, former Bullpup star Chad Kline was guided the Wonder Boys to a 3-0 start.
Meanwhile in Texas, at the University of Texas-San Antonio, Steve Henson's team is off to a 2-4 beginning, but has won two of its last three. The Roadrunners played close games in losses to Fresno State (which plays KU tonight) and Oregon State.