MHS boys conjure up memories of 1994

By Steve Sell
January 15, 2013

There’s no such thing as a perfect game in basketball.

But McPherson High’s boys tried their best here Tuesday night.

In turning Rose Hill into road kill, the Bullpups did not commit a turnover until the final seconds of the third quarter. They finished with just five for the game, as MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon played his bench the entire fourth quarter of a 77-26 rout.

The Bullpups are now 7-0 and not even Kinnamon could have forecasted how well this team has come together. It shoots 51 percent from the floor, just under 75 percent from the foul line and commits less than 10 turnovers a game.

This is a team without any size or bulk, but counts on length and the basic fundamentals to be successful. In my 35 years of covering Bullpup basketball, I’ve seen very few teams that make the extra pass as well as this team does.

If I had to compare this team to those of the past that I’ve seen (I did not see the 1974 team that so many have told me about), I would say it reminds me of the 1994 team. All the Bullpups did that year was fly under the radar early in the season before finishing with a perfect 25-0 record. 

Like this year’s team, the Bullpups of '94 featured as cerebral a starting five as any that has ever taken the court as its basketball IQ was off the charts. Guards Eric Schultz and Erik Vogel very seldom turned the ball over and couldn’t be pressed. Brian Grant and Tim Herrs were inside presences who played with great leverage, while the Josh Alexander era was just getting off the ground as he was a sophomore who tried to not step on the seniors’ toes, but was accepted by his elders because of his exceptional talent. 

Schultz led the team with a 15.6 average, while Grant (12.8), Herrs (11.3) and Alexander (11.0) also averaged in double figures. Vogel averaged less than two shots a game and scored 4.2 points, but was a dynamite floor leader with nearly five assists a game. First off the bench was Shawn Peters, while Kelly Hoover, Chris Johnson, Bryan Moffitt and Brian Pyle earned some clock.

There are still some who argue the 1994 team is the best of all time at MHS, considering how well it played together. It wasn’t the most talented — the 1991 team is still the leader in my book — but it played beautiful basketball. That team won its three 5A state tournament games by 17, 28 and 14 points, with the championship game against Kansas City Schlagle, a team outrageously athletic but fell far short in execution.

What separates this current team from past great Bullpup teams is its youth. MHS basically plays only two seniors and two juniors in the meaningful minutes.

Twins Peter and Ryan Horton are the X-factors. Their length and versatility allow them to play anywhere on the court. They handle and shoot the ball like guards, yet rebound and defend like inside players.

Point guard Kyler Kinnamon may be the state's best junior, even though Clint Kinnamon at St. John might argue for his 6-8 big man Dean Wade. However, they are two completely different types of players and have different impacts on their teams.

Kurt Kinnamon has given him the keys to the car and he averages almost 20 points a game, handles the ball expertly and is a nightmarish defender for opponents with his blurrish hands. If he were 6-2, D-I college recruiters would be camping out at his door step. He's started to actively look at the 3-pointer, as he's capable of consistently knocking down from four to six a game.

That triumvirate hasn't disappointed, but a big key to the success has been the rapid improvement of Nathan Nutter and Drew Pyle. Nutter, who is very strong, gets a lot done inside for his 6-1 height and you can see his confidence growing. Pyle is a deadeye shooter who also has upped his confidence level with some big games from 3-point while increasing his contributions on the defensive end.

With the loss of Keshawn Sewell to a broken leg over Christmas, Spenser Wine and Avery Gabel have stepped up to give the Bullpups a nice seven-man rotation. Physical point guard Marcus McDaniel might see his minutes go up now as he plays with a fearless attitude, including a play Tuesday where he took apart the scorer's table while going after a loose ball.

That's also what I like so much about this team. There's never a lack of effort and the chemistry is an ACT-like 36. Kurt Kinnamon says he can't ever remember coaching a team that enjoys being around each other as much as this one. There are no egos, no pouters. They have come together for a common cause.

I have no idea where this season will end, but I promise you this — when you come watch the Bullpups play, you know you're going to see 100 percent team basketball. You can bet as the late Jay Frazier looks down watching his favorite team play, he has to be smiling. He set the benchmark for all other coaches to follow, first with Mike Henson and now Kinnamon. I urge everyone to jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride.