The best high school basketball fans in Kansas have a chance tonight to live up to their reputation.
It will be terribly disappointing if the Roundhouse isn’t near capacity when McPherson High hosts Class 6A Derby for a pair of games that will rival any of those being played in March at Salina.
I know it’s a Tuesday night, but McPherson fans love their basketball. And they love it even more when they know their teams are going to be tested probably as much as they will be all season.
The girls’ game gained a little more prestige on Monday when it was revealed that Derby has vaulted to the top spot in the rankings of the state’s largest class.
The Panthers have yet to play a game this season, but their lineup that takes to the floor tonight is virtually the same that left the court last March when they lost in the 6A state finals to Manhattan.
McPherson fans will have a chance to see three probable Division I players in action. MHS’ Taylor Robertson already has signed with Oklahoma, while Derby juniors Kennedy Brown and Tore’E Alford will be at D-I when their careers are over. Brown, who is 6-6, is being recruited from schools all over the country as one service has her rated as the No. 2 center prospect in the nation for the Class of 2019 and that same service has her ranked as the No. 15 player overall. She averaged 16 points and 13 rebounds as a sophomore and last year displayed a tremendous skillset.
Alford has made a verbal commitment to Missouri State, formerly Southwest Missouri State that was put on the national map when Jackie Stiles was regularly putting up 30 points a game before heading to the WNBA.
The only downer of this game is that McPherson’s Mandi Cooks (who has signed with University of Texas-San Antonio), will be having to watch from the sideline as she’s out and could miss the entire season, depending on her rehab from a torn Achilles. The Bullpups certainly could use Cooks’ inside presence, as there’s a lot of pressure on some of younger post players to grow up in a hurry. MHS coach Chris Strathman is auditioning four players for Cooks’ spot and they’ll definitely have a litmus test tonight.
In the boys game, Derby is an intriguing story. Even though it returns only one starter from a team that was 17-5, there are wild expectations for the Panthers because of the influx of four transfers, two of them already having committed to college programs next year.
The matchup to watch is McPherson’s Mason Alexander trying to slow down Panther newcomer Tyler Brown, who averaged 30 points a game last year at Valley Center, including a 50-point game against Newton. This is an acid test for Alexander, whose game has improved immensely if his performance against El Dorado is an indication.
Also for Derby, Bryant Macoby has moved in from Goddard, where he averaged 17 points a game as a junior and he’s already committed to play at the D-I level, just like McPherson’s Ben Pyle.
I think McPherson’s boys have the advantage going into tonight, having played a game last Friday while this is the opener for Derby. I’m not sure all the newcomers have had time to blend in and the Bullpups also will have a rousing crowd at their back. It’s never easy for a team to start a season at the famed Roundhouse, where the Bullpups have one of the best home records of any high school team in Kansas history.
So McPherson fans, don’t hang back tonight. This is state championship basketball in December. Those who miss tonight will be missing something special.