December – 2, at Kapaun; 6, at Carroll; 9, at West; 13, at Northwest; 16, at North.
January – 3, South; 6, Southeast; 10, at East; 14, TBA at Koch Arena; 17, Kapaun (G); 19-21, at McPherson touranment (B); 24, Kapaun (B); 26-28, at Emporia tournament (G); 31, Carroll.
February – 3, West; 7, Northwest; 10, North; 17, South; 21, Southeast; 23, at East.
Coach: Joe Auer, 22nd season, 328-150
Last season: 19-3
Devin Davis, 6-1, jr., G
Tyrell Andrews, 6-0, sr., G
K’Vonte’ Baker, 5-10, so., G
Anthoney Collins, 6-1, sr., G
Outside of Davis, Andrews, and Baker, Heights will have essentially no other experience returning from last season’s 19-win team.
“You put a lot of faith in your program in a year like this,” Auer said. “You put a lot of faith in your non-varsity coaches. You hope your young guys are ready. This is what they’re trained to do: work hard, wait their turn, and then hopefully it’s their time to shine.”
While there is sure to be a few new surprises on this team, Heights wants to begin by leaning on its guard play. Davis is a heady point guard, while Andrews can score in bunches and can shoulder much of the scoring load.
Baker is a defensive menace and Auer is still toying with the most effective way to deploy his supreme quickness on defense, while Collins is expected to be a reliable presence as a senior.
As for the posts, Auer doesn’t even want to speculate. Heights has some athletic and long big men, but they are all unproven.
“Really, it’s kind of more fun having a young and inexperienced group,” Auer said. “We have no expectations because we have no idea how good we are going to be or what the final result will be, but we’re having fun with it every day and learning things every day. These kids are all aware of our history.”
Heights has averaged 20 wins for the past nine years, a trend that is likely only going to continue if the Falcons find some consistency with their forwards.
“The paint in City League games is one of the toughest places in Wichita,” Auer said. “It’s no place for the timid or meek at heart. I’m excited to see these guys. They all have their moments, but they’re completely unproven and they’re just starving for some court time to prove themselves.”
Coach: Ken Palmer, first season
Last season: 15-7
Tania Lowe, 5-4, sr., G
Trinity Conley, 5-8, jr., F
Imari Grayson, 5-5, jr., G
Whitlee Teague, 5-4, jr., G
Taylor Jamison, 5-4, fr., G
No post, no problem.
Lacking a true post presence, Heights is likely going to use five-guard lineups this season and gamble that its quickness and defensive intensity will be able to make up for its shortcomings in height.
“We’re going to be small, but we play big,” Palmer said. “We’re going to have to get up and down the floor, so they don’t have time to pick us apart. It’s going to be a lot of transition basketball, up and down, up and down.”
Lowe, the team captain, is the veteran of the group, a four-year varsity player who will leaned on heavily early on to help transition many of these girls to the varsity level.
“Tania is my general right now, she’s running the show for me,” Palmer said. “She does such a great job of making things really smooth for me and she’s going to help those girls because of just how smooth she is out there.”
The transition to Palmer is also a smooth one for the team. He has been an assistant coach in the program for the last seven years under Kip Pulliam, who resigned after last season.
Palmer and Pulliam worked closely together and Palmer doesn’t suspect a lot will change. There will be new wrinkles here and there, but the intensity the Falcons were known for under Pulliam will remain.
“Kip and I have similar coaching styles and that’s just the way I like to coach,” Palmer said. “And we have the kids to run that style. It’s just a good fit.”
Conley is a returning starter, while Teague, Grayson, Zion Dewerff, and Daliyah Watson all have experience from last season. Jamison is a top prospect from around the area and Palmer thinks she will make an immediate impact as a freshman.