McPherson High boys basketball coach Kurt Kinnamon is approaching Friday night’s must-see game with Bishop Miege the same way even had his team won on Tuesday.
Some of the glitter surrounding the rematch of last year’s Class 4A Division I state championship game was dulled when the Bullpups were defeated convincingly by Derby, 63-46.
But that doesn’t change the task at hand.
“No different thoughts on Miege,” said Kinnamon, whose 1-1 team has not started 1-2 since the 1996-97 season. “It will be a totally different style of basketball game than Derby. They will focus more on getting the ball inside and running their halfcourt offense. They will not have the quickness of Derby overall, but Semaj Ray is a similar type player to Nyjee (Derby’s star guard Wright).”
Miege will be playing its first game of the year, which means it hasn’t been on the court since defeating the Bullpups 69-59 in last year’s state title game. About the only missing piece for Miege is 6-11 Bol Bol, who reportedly took his talents to Cali as he transferred to nationally known power Mater Dei in Santa Ana, Calif.
But the Stags are still ominous and imposing. Their pinwheel this year is 6-8 sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, whose father played at LSU and ended his career at KU. According to Kinnamon, he is ranked among the Top 5 sophomores in the country and can punch his ticket to any of the top NCAA Division I programs. Kinnamon even believes there will come a day when he’s pounding the NBA hardwood.
The before-mentioned Ray makes it go at the point, but the Stags also return 6-7 Josh Early (who reportedly is on Kansas State’s radar as a sophomore), 6-6 Francesco Badocchi (who didn’t play against MHS last year because of an injury suffered in the state semifinals) and 6-5 Joseph Gleason, who came off the bench last year to score 14 points against MHS in Badocchi’s place. On the perimeter, Landry Weber — son of former Kansas State football star Stan Weber – is a steady presence.
“We will be concentrating on rebounding and not turning the ball over,” Kinnamon said. “We just want to see improvement in the areas that we struggled with against Derby. Our kids are really excited to play in the anticipated atmosphere. I doubt that there will ever be a team that comes to the Roundhouse with four legitimate mid- to high-major Division I prospects again.”
Kinnamon said the Bullpups also have to prepare for a possible junk defense on Ben Pyle, who is averaging 26 points through two games. The Stags did throw junk at MHS last year at Pyle and his brother Drew, the reigning Mr. Basketball in Kansas.
The Bullpups will be aided Friday by the return of Mason Alexander, who was a key cog for the Bullpups’ state championship team two years ago as a freshman, but spent last year at Sunrise Christian Academy before returning to MHS. He had to sit out the first two games.