Several years ago, Tom Pyle III was talking about his basketball playing family that has spanned more than 50 years at McPherson High.
“Wait until Ben gets older,” he said emphatically of a precocious grade-schooler who seemingly was practicing non-stop. “He’s going to be the best of us all, no question about it.”
He could very well be right.
Ben Pyle, his nephew, is now a senior and his basketball talents on Friday earned him an NCAA Division I letter of intent with Western Illinois.
Pyle, a 6-8 swingman with a guard-like skillset, made it official when he penned his signature before family and friends in a ceremony in the MHS Theatre.
"It feels good, it takes off a lot of pressure," Pyle said as he picked the Leathernecks over Abilene Christian, Washburn and Northwest Missouri State. "It felt really good being up there. The coaching staff is really nice and I connected with a lot of the players."
Pyle was the AVCTL MVP last year and made second-team All-State All-Class. If he has the year that's expected, he should be a Top 5 selection, which is an automatic berth on the MHS Wall of Fame.
He averaged 22.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocked shots per game as a junior. What makes him so unique is that’s he’s a difficult matchup for defenses because of his ability to put the ball on the floor and go up over defenders to shoot the 3-pointer. He also has a myriad of moves around the basket with a variety of finger rolls and can shoot with either hand effectively.
He shot 49 percent from the field last year, 35 percent from 3-point and 70 percent at the line. As good as he's been, he says there's still room for improvement in all areas.
"I need to develop myself more physically," Pyle said. "I feel like I've gotten a bit stronger."
The last Bullpup to play at Western Illinois was former All-Stater Matt Robins, who had nice four-year career as a Leatherneck. Another McPherson tie to the school is that former Bullpup Brad Underwood, now the head coach at Illinois, was an assistant there for 11 years.
"He (Robins) just welcomed me to the family and told me how great a place it is," Pyle said. "It's a new challenge with new experiences. Kind of move away and grow myself."
The Bullpups have been second in the state the last two years, losing both times to Miege. Prior to that, MHS won the state title when he was a freshman when the Bullpups were undefeated.
"Win a state championship, obviously," Pyle said of his goal for the season. "We want to play for the state championship again."
"It has been a goal of Ben's to play at the Division I level for a quite a while and it is great to see him reach that goal," MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon said. "With everyone returning this year there will be high expectations for the team. I would expect by the end of the year Ben will be the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in MHS history. I think his best basketball is still ahead of him as he gets into a college weight room and training table. Obviously, he has one title and two second-place finishes. There would be no better way to end a career than with another state championship."
Pyle is the second MHS player who has signed a Division I letter this week as Taylor Robertson sealed her deal with the University of Oklahoma on Wednesday. On Monday, Bullpup Mandi Cooks with sign with University of Texas-San Antonio.
Here are Pyle's honors heading into his senior season:
• AVCTL DIII — first team 2016, first team 2017, MVP 2017.
• McPherson Invitational - All Tournament team - 2016, All Tournament team 2017, MVP 2017.
• WIBW 4A-1 All Tournament team - 2016 and 2017.
• KBCA - 2nd team 4A-1 - 2016, 1st team 4A-1 2017.
• Sports in Kansas All Class Top 10 - 2017, All Class 4A Top 10- 2017, First Team 4A-1 2017, Junior of the Year 2017, First Team 4A-1 2016.
Topeka Capital-Journal - First team 4A-1 2017, All Class All State 2nd team 2017, 3rd team 4A-1 2016.
• Wichita Eagle - First team 4A-1 2017, All Class All State 2nd team 2017, HM 4A-1 2016.
• Hutch News All Area Player of the Year - 2017, First team 2017, First team 2016.
• USA Today All Kansas Boys 2nd team 2017.