While attending a Math contest in Hays recently, McPherson High senior Kyler Kinnamon took a break in the competition to slip over to watch Fort Hays State basketball practice.
Kinnamon already was leaning toward joining the Tigers next year, but after watching coach Mark Johnson put his team through the paces, his decision had been made.
The Bullpups’ first-team All-State All-Class point guard made it official on Friday when he signed an NCAA Division II letter of intent.
Kinnamon said he was relieved to make the decision prior to the start of the regular season as he can now concentrate on leading the Bullpups’ attempt at a Class 4A Division I state championship repeat.
“It’s going to make this basketball season a lot more enjoyable,” said Kinnamon, coming off a sensational junior year in which he averaged 16 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals a game. “I know where I’m going and I won’t have that constant pressure on me. I can just go out and play.”
“It’s something he has worked hard to achieve,” said his father and head coach Kurt Kinnamon. “I’m glad to see him be able to mark off one of the goals off of his list.”
He agreed that signing early should make the Bullpups a better team.
“I think it’s huge,” he said. “I think he felt like it was a weight off his shoulders and he can just concentrate on playing and wasn’t having to wait on anybody or trying to impress anybody and could just be himself. When your distributor has a clear head, I think that helps.”
Fort Hays State is much like McPherson High in that it has a storied tradition. The Tigers play in Gross Memorial Coliseum, which is a basketball legend much like the McPherson Roundhouse.
Kinnamon liked the way Johnson conducted his practice.
“I loved the way their coach coached them up,” Kinnamon said. “Their facilities are really nice and they have a really good program. I like what they’re doing for the future. It’s just very exciting and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
“We are very excited to have Kyler sign with our program," Johnson said in a press release. "He is a tough and intelligent player that has a great feel for the game, while also excelling in the classroom. Just like our other three early signees, Kyler comes from a family of high character and all four of these student-athletes will represent our program well both on and off the floor."
The Tigers are off to a 1-2 start. They play in the always-strong MIAA, which includes teams such as Washburn, Pittsburg State and Emporia State. They were 13-6 in conference play a year ago, 22-8 overall.
“It’s a Division I atmosphere at a Division II college,” Kinnamon said.
The Tigers have one of the better point guards in the country in junior Craig Nicholson. Kinnamon said the Fort Hays coaches are hoping he can back Nicholson next year, then put the ball in his hands as sophomore.
Among the other signees for the Tigers in this early session is Hays High senior Brady Werth, who Kinnamon played with this summer on an AAU team that traveled to venues such as Dallas, St. Louis and Las Vegas.
“That definitely helps out being able to know a few people there,” Kinnamon said. “I talked to him about it and he’s excited, too.”
Trey O’Neil of Scott City and Aaron Nicholson of Derby round out the early signees for the Tigers.
Kinnamon was the Bullpups’ sixth man as a freshman before taking over the starting point guard duties as a sophomore. He has been a two-time All-State selection and will go down as perhaps the most decorated Bullpup athlete in school history. He had a big hand in three straight Bullpup football playoff appearances and is the school’s single-season rushing leader, and far and away the career total offense leader.
Among his honors:
• Basketball •
• KBCA 1st Team 4A — sophomore and junior
• First-team All-State All-Class — junior
• AVCTL MVP — sophomore and junior
• Single-season assists — ranks first and second in single-season in school history
• Career assists — 2nd
• Single-season steals — his single-season highs rank 2nd, 4th and 7th all-time
• Career Steals — 1st
• 3-point field goals made in career — 7th
• 3-point field goals made in a single season — 8th
• Total career points — 844
• Football •
• Honorable mention All-State 4A — junior
• 1st team AVCTL QB — junior
• Prep to Prep Junior of the Year
• 7,519 career total yards— 1st
• Career passing yards, 4,354 — 2nd
• Career rushing yards, 3,165 — 2nd
• Career total TDs, 45 — 1st
• Career rushing TDs, 42 — Tie 1st
• Single-season scoring, 154 points — 1st
• Single-season rushing yards, 1,662 — 1st
• Single-Season TDs, 25 — 1st
• Played more plays than any player in MHS history