• PECK REACHES MILESTONE — For more than 25 years, one of the major keys to the amazing success of McPherson High School boys basketball has been the contributions of unsung assistant coach Gordon Peck.
First serving under Mike Henson and now Kurt Kinnamon, Peck has quietly carved out an unbelievable basketball coaching resume at MHS.
On Tuesday, the Bullpup junior varsity won for the 400th time under Peck’s guidance. Remember, the junior varsity doesn’t play as complete of schedule as the varsity.
Peck’s loyalty to the program is unquestioned. Not only does he coach the JV, but he helps Kinnamon in preparation for the varsity games and often offers suggestions during the game such as perhaps changing defenses or trying different combinations.
Peck also has served two stints as MHS baseball coach and was one of the driving forces to get the school to offer the sport. He was the Bullpups’ original coach and later came back for a second stint.
Peck has had the opportunity to coach several All-State players in both sports and I’m sure many of them would credit him for his calm demeanor and patient style.
When his time comes, Peck certainly will have to be considered for the MHS Wall of Fame for all he has contributed to McPherson athletics.
• UNDERWOOD’S TEAM NOW 9-2 — Brad Underwood has the Stephen F. Austin University men’s basketball team on a roll.
The Lumberjacks are now 9-2 on the season after an 87-53 victory over North Texas State, on the road no less.
Underwood, a 1982 McPherson High graduate who was mentored by the late Jay Frazier, is in his first year as head coach after spending last season as the top assistant at South Carolina under coach Frank Martin. Before that, of course, he was Martin’s right-hand man at Kansas State, where Underwood played his final two years for coach Jack Hartman.
Underwood was thought to be a logical candidate to replace Martin at Kansas State, but the school opted for Bruce Weber, who wound up coaching Martin’s and Underwood’s players to a share of the Big 12 title last season, though it appears this year the Wildcats aren’t nearly as strong.
Underwood already has attracted a strong recruiting class for next year. Last month he signed five players during the early period, three of them junior college players and the others coming from the high school ranks.
Ty Charles, a 6-5 guard, is considered the 33rd-best player in Texas, according to rivals.com. He cited Underwood as one of the main reasons he chose the Lumberjacks.
Demetrious Floyd is a 5-11 point guard from tradition-rich Chipola Junior College in Florida, which is down by Underwood’s old stomping grounds of Daytona Beach, for which he used to coach. He is rated the 41st-ranked juco player in the country.
Another juco signee is 6-5 forward Clide Geffard of Northwest State Florida, who actually began his career at Samford University.
The final JC player is 6-0 guard Jared Johnson of Hill College, which recently played Hutchinson Community College down to the wire before losing in the final seconds.
The other high school player is 6-1 guard Jaxon Holden of Flower Mound, Texas. He has been a strong player on the AAU circuit.
It appears Underwood has everything in place to continue the excellence and having known him for 35 years, I wish him only the best.
• BANNER YEAR FOR KCAC STARS — I’ve been covering the KCAC for 35 years and never can I remember a season that has featured so many wondrous talents.
I got the chance Saturday to see Friends’ Joe Mitchell in action. While he scored 29 points, he probably could have scored 40 had he turned it loose. He was 12 of 16 from the field and showed an uncanny ability to snake through a defense for easy shots. He has an NCAA Division I body for a guard and it’s easy to see why he starred at Hutchinson Community College. He also was at Ohio University and Wichita State University for short stints.
Mitchell is leading the NAIA in scoring at 30.4 points a game.
Then there’s Grant Greenberg at Saint Mary. He signed with Missouri Western out of high school, but redshirted last year. For whatever reason, he decided to leave the program and return to his hometown of Leavenworth and the Spires are glad he did. He is second in the country in scoring at 28.7 and is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen in the KCAC since I’ve been around. He’s an uncanny free throw shooter as in just 12 games he has shot 157 free throws and made 143 for 91 percent.
Bethany's super-smooth Idris Ibn Idris was the KCAC Player of the Week last week with a pair of 30-plus games and has booted his average to 26.3, which is No. 5 nationally. Idris once was at Cal Riverside and played for former Kansas State coach Jim Wooldridge. It’s amazing he has scored as much as he has since Swede coach Clair Oleen has assembled arguably the best collection of talent he’s ever had at Lindsborg. Kirby Hawkins, who doesn’t even start for the Swedes, comes off the bench and averages just under 22 points.
McPherson College coach Tim Swartzendruber said his theory for the scoring explosion is the new rules in college basketball that are designed to help the offense. Players are getting to the foul line far more than they did in the past and given more creative freedom. For example, looking at the before-mentioned KCAC stars, Mitchell averages 7.0 free throws made a game, Greenburg 11 and Idris nearly 8. Those are easy points since all three shoot a tremendously high percentage.