Varsity Kansas

2014-15 basketball preview: Maize

Ky-Sean Johnson, Maize basketball
Ky-Sean Johnson, Maize basketball The Wichita Eagle

Schedule

December — 5, Valley Center; 9, at Arkansas City; 12, at Hutchinson; 16, Derby; 19, at Campus.

January — 8, at Salina South; 9 or 10 TBA at Koch Arena; 13, Salina Central; 20, at Eisenhower (G); 23, at Andover Central (G); 22-24, McPherson tournament (B); 27, at Eisenhower (B); 30, at Andover Central (B); 29-31, Emporia tournament (G).

February — 3, at Newton; 6, Hutchinson; 10, at Derby; 13, Campus; 20, Salina South; 24, at Salina Central; 27, Newton.

Boys

Coach: Chris Grill, sixth season, 69-41

Last season: 20-5, fourth in 6A

Top players

Ky-Sean Johnson, 5-10, sr., G

Matthew LeBegue, 6-6, sr., F

Cortlin Standifer, 5-8, sr., G

While Maize’s fourth-place finish in 6A in March was the program’s best, this team has a much different look.

Gone is coach Chris Davis, who has moved on to Campus. No starters return, and senior forward Connor Lungwitz (7.9 points, 4.5 rebounds), who recently signed to play baseball at Wichita State, did not go out for basketball.

There are some bright points. Johnson, a key from a season ago, returns. And Grill knows Maize well, for while he coached at Garden Plain for the past four seasons, he taught at Maize and was the Eagles’ coach from 2005-10.

“I think we have good talent,” Grill said. “I think we have a good mix of seniors, juniors and even some sophomores that have an opportunity to play some. We have a lot of depth. It’s just going to be a matter of getting the right group of guys together, play together and understand each other and me.”

Maize has height inside, quickness on the perimeter and players who can score.

But Grill’s focus is chemistry. Rightfully so.

LeBegue has played homeschool basketball but will be playing his first year in high school.

Standifer and Logan Miller transferred from Northwest midway through their junior year.

“That will be the challenge for us, especially early on,” he said. “… We have two guys — of the seven or eight or nine that you’ll probably play — who played varsity basketball last year. That will be a challenge in itself. Last year’s team figured out how to win over the course of two, three years. This year they’ll figure it out faster.”

Girls

Coach: Jerrod Handy, sixth season, 96-25

Last season: 20-5, second in Class 6A

Top players

Keiryn Swenson, 6-2, sr., F

Daley Handy, 6-0, sr., G

Saige Baalman, 5-11, sr., F

Brianna Johnson, 5-6, so., G

During Handy’s first five seasons, Maize qualified for the Class 6A tournament each time and finished third, fourth and second in the past three seasons. The improvement and consistency has been impressive, but Maize wants that 6A title.

“Of course that is the goal,” Jerrod Handy said. “I think we’ve got our seniors that are champing at the bit. They’re real excited about the season. They’ve been there, done that and they’re ready to get it accomplished.”

Maize has a core of four players who can put the Eagles in contention for the title again.

Swenson (14.4 points, 7 rebounds) has signed to play at Arkansas, while Daley Handy (10 points. 5.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists) has signed with Wyoming. Back also are Baalman and Johnson, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the 6A semis and should return after the winter break.

Jerrod Handy intends to fully use the versatility of Swenson and Daley Handy.

“Depending on who we’re playing, the matchups we have, we can exploit them,” Jerrod Handy said. “(Swenson has) got great hands, can catch the ball anywhere and she has a great touch, a great outside shot.

“Daley is kind of the same way. We can take her outside and inside, although she’s predominantly outside. She’s strong, versatile, especially on defense.… She can play all positions on defense.”

Baalman (6 points, 4 rebounds) can play any position, as well, but she’s a tough, strong player inside and rebounds well.

“I often tell her she needed to play football because she’s so physical,” Jerrod Handy said.

When Johnson (9 points, 38 percent 3FG) returns, she is an outside threat that Maize has lacked at times. She’s an outstanding ballhandler and is quick to get to the basket.

Maize also has some depth in Halee Roland, Taylor Holmes and Jacey Handy.

Joanna Chadwick

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