Monday night’s McPherson High-Hesston boys basketball game in the finals of the McPherson College Summer League was just a snapshot look into the 2015-16 season.
But it also spoke volumes what the Bullpups could be all about.
Nearly all of the expected key players for MHS this upcoming season took part, the exception being last year’s sixth man Avery Gabel, who had work obligations. The Bullpups’ expected depth was thinned by an earlier announcement that Mason Alexander is transferring to play at Sunrise Christian Academy for his sophomore season after seeing spot duty as a freshman.
The Bullpups lose three seniors off their 25-0 Class 4A Division I state championship team, but what seniors they are — Kyler Kinnamon, Nathan Nutter and Payton Stephens.
Kinnamon, a two-time All-State All-Class first-team selection, has been the team’s pinwheel since his freshman year. After playing as much as the starters as a freshman, coach Kurt Kinnamon entrusted the ball in Kyler’s hands for the final three years, which resulted in a 57-4 record.
Nutter did all the little things that went unnoticed by everybody but the Bullpup faithful, who came to appreciate his hustle and toughness. And I have to believe MHS would have had a hard time repeating as state champion if not for the arrival of Stephens, who provided the low-post presence that obviously was lacking Monday night.
It was strange to watch the Bullpups’ offense without Kinnamon on the floor. Marcus McDaniel and Kolby Reed ran some point, though the offense started with expected All-Stater Drew Pyle, who accounted for 23 of MHS’ 44 points against Hesston.
Next year’s Bullpup team is going to be slight as it mostly includes finesse players and little with bulk. The five on the floor to start Monday included Drew Pyle, Spenser Wine, Ben Pyle, Jacob Loecker and McDaniel. Wine and Drew Pyle are returning starters, while Loecker, McDaniel and Ben Pyle were key reserves during the 25-0 season.
Kurt Kinnamon had a second five of Reed, Jacob Lackey, Kyle Smith, Brock Malm and Clayton Gerbrandt. Lackey had nine points off the bench Monday and showed a good stroke.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and when Kinnamon calls his first practice in November. There are some sophomores-to-be moving up who are certainly going to challenge for a varsity roster spot. They ran roughshod over their competition last season, most of the games decided by halftime.
Monday’s game and the summer tournaments certainly have given Kinnamon a start for what will be a new era at MHS. He certainly realizes the Bullpups are going to have to find different ways to score this year. More and more they’re going to have to rely on execution and making the extra pass, which has become “the Bullpup way.”
My guess is the Bullpups will, like always, be just fine. Class 4A Division I won’t be quite as strong as 2014-15, but teams like Miege, Hayden and Basehor-Linwood will still be plenty good despite some graduation hits. Miege, of course, could be adding some transfers as its roster often is fluid because it gets players from all over.