Since the game is basketball, there are always four other North players on the court with Conner Frankamp.
Sometimes there’s that guy, No. 20 I think it is. And there’s the big guy who looks like a football player. And the guy with the goggles and the guard who looks like he’s 11, not a high school sophomore.
But Frankamp is the elephant in any room. So overwhelming is his talent that it’s easy to look past his teammates, to discount them as nothing more than tiny ornaments on an enormous Christmas tree.
Frankamp, a 6-foot-1 junior, averages 35.3 points per game. He has scored 706 points in North’s 20 games; the rest of the Redskins have scored 470. Frankamp practically lives with a basketball in his hands during North games. Without Frankamp, North isn’t 13-7, coming off a victory over three-time defending Class 6A champion Heights and sitting with its best chance to make a state tournament during the Frankamp-era.
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Frankamp points out, however, that he would not be having the season he’s having without his teammates, overshadowed as they are.
“It’s uncomfortable for me to get all the notoriety,’’ he said. “I don’t like hearing that this is a one-man team. It’s a team game, for sure, and I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without them.’’
So who are they exactly? Who are these other players who have accepted their supporting roles and the heavy lifting required to keep Frankamp fresh for all those points that need to be scored?
There are a couple of seniors, Jordan Kinder and Torrance Henderson. Kinder actually has the distinction of being North’s second-leading scorer among those who have played regularly 4.1 points per game, although sophomore Zach Beard did average 6.9 points before being injured early in the season.
There is sophomore forward Beau Shockley, who hasn’t found his confidence as a scorer but relishes rebounding and defending.
There’s the muscular and tough Sean Bernard, who calls himself North’s enforcer, then goes out and enforces.
And there are young guards Tristyn Villa and Tarius Williams, who recognize the most important thing they can do is to get the ball to Frankamp. Villa, though, did make two game-winning free throws against East this month, momentarily moving Frankamp’s name off the marquee.
“We have to be there when he needs us,’’ said Villa, sounding like a medieval servant. “The rest of us don’t get talked about much, but it doesn’t bother us as much as people think. As long as we’re winning, we’re happy.’’
It’s not like Frankamp ignores his teammates. With opposing defenses designed to address him, he looks to get them involved as much as he can.
But let’s face it: There’s only one Frankamp. He’s the one who has orally committed to play basketball at Kansas. He’s the one who is averaging nearly four points more per game than any City Leaguer has ever averaged. He’s the Redskins’ money player.
“It can get a little frustrating sometimes when he doesn’t pass the ball,’’ Kinder said. “But he’s usually the one keeping us in the game.’’
Bernard, a sophomore, said he’s never been much of a scorer, anyway, so having Frankamp around to take care of that has been no problem for him.
“I’m a defensive player and kind of an enforcer for us on the court,’’ Bernard said. “I just enjoy playing and winning.’’
Still, there’s nothing more fun in basketball than shooting and scoring. Every player wants to make the big shot. Nobody goes out for basketball so that can strictly defend.
According to North’s statistics, though, Frankamp has taken just under 50 percent of the shots. When the Redskins have to score, there is no doubt who is taking the shot.
“It can be tough at times getting kids to understand their roles,’’ said North coach Gary Squires, who can attest that coaching a superstar isn’t all fun. “I’m sure if I was a high-school kid, I’d like to score a little bit, too. But these guys are handling it really well. The main thing they have to know is that they’ll stay on the floor if they do their jobs.’’
Those jobs are defending and rebounding. If there are offensive scraps, they are the first to be fed.
“Our time will come,’’ Williams said. “But it’s great having a KU player on our team. It’s an experience to tell your kids about when you get older.’’
North meets Campus on Thursday night in a Class 6A sub-state game at North. The winner plays against either Hutchinson or Maize on Saturday night in Hutch.
“Our goal,’’ Squires said, “was to finish third in the City League and to get to the state tournament.’’
One has been accomplished, another awaits. The Redskins are excited.
Sure, this is a team that rides Frankamp hard. He’s doing things few players can do. He’s a once-in-a-generation kind of talent.
North has some other capable players, though. Like Frankamp says, it’s a team game.