High School Sports

2009-10 high school basketball: Looking past Perry

The City League, Kansas' top boys basketball league, is suddenly rife with young talent. That talent spans the freshman, sophomore and junior classes.

Any conversation on youth starts Heights sophomore Perry Ellis, a 6-foot-8 All-State selection who led the Falcons to the Class 6A title as a freshman.

He brings enough attention to the league by himself, with one magazine even predicting he will be the No 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

But there's plenty more promise of star power.

"We knew a year ago that the City (League) was on the verge of turning the corner again with some talented young kids busting on the scene," East coach Ron Allen said. "I just think it's going to make for a fine basketball league again, with packed houses and big games and all that excitement."

It's not that the City League has lacked quality players. Since 2003, the league has turned out such talent as Southeast's Jordan Cyphers , Joe Mitchell and Dupree Lucas.

But now the league appears to have star power that's evenly distributed.

"I think it's a great thing for the league from the standpoint that fans have an opportunity to follow these young men for a while," Northwest coach Chris Collins said. "Last year there were some seniors, like Dorrian Roberts (Heights) and Joe Mitchell, but now the spotlight is on this group. Which it should be."

The battles inside should be interesting. Ellis was dominant last season, averaging a double-double as teams struggled to stop him.

Southeast sophomore Gavin Thurman (6-6), who played sparingly as a freshman, will be a primary focus for the Buffaloes in the lane. He and Ellis battled in middle-school games. Thurman and sophomore Kevin Gunter (6-5) should make a tough tandem inside.

While sophomore Nathan Jackson (6-5) is one of East's tallest players, he's a versatile athlete on the perimeter, as well. Northwest sophomore Spencer Gales is another factor inside. He started as a freshman. Teammate June Johnson is a versatile sophomore.

The perimeter is just as stacked with talent. East junior Ja'ln Williams and Heights junior Evan Wessel return as starters, while junior Dreamius Smith and sophomore Terrance Moore played critical minutes in Heights' title game in March.

North freshman Conner Frankamp could be one of the most exciting guards as a freshman. East sophomore Jalen Love, who played after the semester break as a freshman, is widely considered to be a Division I-caliber player. Not only does he handle the ball well, but he's a good shooter.

Northwest sophomore Craig Nicholson has a sweet shot from the perimeter and could be one of the league's best three-point shooters. He'll have competition for that title from Kapaun Mount Carmel's Trayte Boswell, a sophomore, and Michael Martin, a sophomore who can drive the lane.

The potential for these players and the league is high. But with so much youth, inconsistency likely will be an issue.

"It make take a couple years for you as a coach and a school to reap the benefits of playing young players," Pearson said. "When you're going with young guys, you're probably not going to get there as quick as you'd like."

Of course, Heights won the Class 6A title with Ellis as a freshman and Smith and Wessel as sophomores.

And most of these players saw plenty of minutes last season, and that should help.

But it would be premature to put this group of players among the best groups in the league's history. Time — through college and professional careers — helps determine that.

"It's a possibility, just in how they develop every year, but they have to get better and better," Southeast coach Carl Taylor said. "How many will make it? Well, some will fall by the wayside."

But while this group is creating its own legacy, it will be fun to watch.