Every night is a game of recruiting roulette in a school of about 600.
Andover Central’s seniors Braden Belt and Easton Leedom and junior Xavier Bell never know which of them is going to get called aside after a game, but one of them always does.
Bell, Belt and Leedom all average at least 16.5 points a game for the Andover Central boys high school basketball team. They have helped the Jaguars to a 14-1 start and the No. 2 seed in a loaded Class 5A West. And together, they form maybe the most potent trio in Kansas.
“It’s all just a, ‘We, not me’ mentality,” Bell said. “Teams really don’t know how to stop us. You put a guy on me, and these two are wide open.”
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After Andover Central’s 76-64 home win over Eisenhower on Tuesday night, here is where the three stand on points a night:
- Xavier Bell - 20.3
- Braden Belt - 19.2
- Easton Leedom - 16.5
Tuesday, it was Belt. He finished with a game-high 24 points with 19 coming in the second half and 11 in the fourth quarter alone. When the Jags needed a bucket to pull away from one of the more higher-scoring teams in the Wichita area, Belt answered.
“It’s just practice and confidence,” he said.
Belt is a 6-foot spot-up shooter. He inspires the entire gym every time he pulls up from three, and more often than not, he connects.
Bell is a 6-3 slashing guard. His finishes around the rim have some Division I programs drooling, including the University of Denver, who he holds a scholarship offer from.
Leedom is a 6-3 “hybrid” of the two, Andover Central coach Jesse Herrmann said. He will hit the big shot or snag an offensive board and put it back.
Herrmann said with those three at the head of the snake, the 2019 Jaguars have a shot to be one of the best teams in school history.
“They just complement each other so well,” Herrmann said. “When we share the ball and play together, we put up quite a few points. Sometimes you can do things against two really good scorers. We have three.”
They entered the starting lineup in the 2016-17 season. Bell was only a freshman, tasked with bringing the ball up the court. None of the three had added enough weight to truly compete, and the chemistry hadn’t been forged.
They won six games.
“We were actually in quite a few games towards the end, and we struggled to close them out because our three guards were so inexperienced,” Herrmann said. “Just to see our maturity and how we can handle games, that’s one of the reasons we have such a good record. They’re so much better upstairs.”
Now Andover Central is perhaps the most experienced team in Kansas. The trio alone has 10 years of combined starting experience. Add in a strong junior class of Jerome Washington, Ty Herrmann, Kaden Wilson and Shomari Parnell, the Jags don’t panic in pressure situations anymore.
Tuesday night, Andover Central had a brutal second quarter by its standards, hitting five buckets and getting to the free throw line once. Eisenhower took a 31-28 lead into the locker room.
Within the first three minutes of the third quarter, Leedom hit four three-pointers and ballooned the lead to 10. That’s how quickly they can strike, Leedom said.
“I’d be just excited if (Belt) hit a big three as if I hit a big three,” he said. “If he’s doing good, it’s all the same. Even in AAU, I’ve never played on a team with the capabilities of these two. It’s insane.”
All three have plenty of confidence, Herrmann said, but they aren’t selfish. That’s what makes it work. Andover Central has the top scoring offense in the state at over 72 points a game — better than undefeated Maize and two-time defending 6A champion Blue Valley Northwest.
The Jags’ only loss this season came at home to Wichita Southeast, a team they won’t have to see again. They hold a three-game AVCTL II lead over Arkansas City, who they have beaten twice. And they have all but clinched a home sub-state tournament.
Andover Central hasn’t won a state championship since 2010 and is going for its third in school history.
“I’ve been playing with (Belt) since like first grade, and (Bell) came in freshman year,” Leedom said. “We just connect. It’s a good fit for all of us. We’ve been working so hard for that state championship. We’ve just got to go do it.”