Varsity Basketball

Meet the best players in Wichita on the Eagle’s 2019 All-Metro boys basketball team

From Left: Ty Berry, Newton; Jackie Johnson, Southeast; Caleb Grill, Maize; Xavier Bell, Andover Central. Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro team.
From Left: Ty Berry, Newton; Jackie Johnson, Southeast; Caleb Grill, Maize; Xavier Bell, Andover Central. Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro team. The Wichita Eagle

Presenting The Wichita Eagle and Varsity Kansas 2018-19 All-Metro high school boys basketball team, featuring the top five players from across the area.

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Xavier Bell. Andover Central. Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro team. Travis Heying The Wichita Eagle

On a team with three 1,000-point scorers, Xavier Bell jumps to the forefront.

With an excellent first step toward the basket, finishing around the rim and a perimeter game, Bell took his game from good to great in 2019. In doing so, he helped Andover Central to its first boys basketball state championship in school history.

Bell, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, worked alongside seniors Braden Belt and Easton Leedom, two of the best pure scorers in the Wichita area who were also heavily considered for the Eagle’s All-Metro team. Together, the trio gave even Kansas’ best teams fits.

In the state semifinal against then-undefeated Maize, they combined for 67 points and a 74-66 win. A day later, they went for 55 in a 58-47 title win over Basehor-Linwood.

Bell has already started to receive Division I looks, and after helping his school to history and becoming Central’s first All-Metro selection, he is bound to get more.

“It’s still unreal,” he said. “I think about it at times like, ‘Wow, we really did that.’ It was a good time sharing that moment with that group of guys. Irreplaceable.”

Andover Central High School boys basketball's Xavier Bell

Accolades

  • 22-3 record
  • Class 5A champion
  • AVCTL II champion
  • Wichita Eagle top 5
  • Wichita Eagle Class 5A first team
  • AVCTL II first team
  • 20 points per game
  • 6.7 rebounds per game
  • Three-time sub-state champion

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Ty Berry. Newton. Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro team. Travis Heying The Wichita Eagle

He continues to make history in a historic place.

Berry, a 6-3 junior guard, helped lead Newton to its first winning season since 2009 this year, pushing McPherson to overtime in the first round of the Class 5A sub-state tournament. Berry scored 28 in a loss.

Newton is tied with the second most state championships in Kansas boys basketball history with 13. But since the Eagle’s All-Metro team was introduced in 2005, no Railer had been named to it before Berry. Now he makes his second appearance with another season to come.

Berry was outstanding again in 2019, averaging 24.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists under first-year Andy Preston, who returned to Newton for his second stint this year.

Newton finished 11-10 while playing in AVCTL I, one of the toughest leagues in Kansas in 2019. Berry said he will miss the laughs this year’s group shared but is ready for more.

“It’s exciting, but at the same time, I think we definitely could have done better,” he said. “It’s good for our school, and the guys I had around me were a great group. It was just a fun season all around.”

Newton High School boys basketball's Ty Berry

Accolades

  • 11-10 record
  • First winning season in a decade
  • Wichita Eagle top 10
  • Wichita Eagle Class 5A first team
  • AVCTL I first team
  • 24.3 points per game
  • 7.3 rebounds per game
  • 5.2 assists per game
  • Two-time All-Metro selection
  • Division I offers

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Caleb Grill. Maize. Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro team. Travis Heying The Wichita Eagle

Kansas high school basketball is losing one of its greats.

Grill, a 6-4 senior, wasn’t the flashiest player to roll through the Sunflower State. The occasional dunk to send the fans to their feet always brought the energy, but as one coach said, Grill will be remembered for how he respected the game.

Grill and the Eagles had the best year in Maize history, going 24-1 with their only loss coming in the state semifinals to eventual champion Andover Central. They won AVCTL I, arguably the strongest league in the state. Grill was named the league’s MVP for the second straight year.

The South Dakota State-bound senior made his teammates better. Although he had the ability to take over a game, he could also feed his teammates like Brandle Easter Jr. or Devon Koehn to let them carry the offense.

Grill’s career didn’t end how he wanted it, but he said he is ready for his next chapter.

“The most exciting thing is that you’re going to be playing against the top teams in the country,” he said. “That will be such a good experience. Then playing in your conference tournament and having a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, that will be a really cool achievement if we’re able to get there.”

Maize High School boys basketball's Caleb Grill

Accolades

  • 24-1 record
  • 3rd in Class 5A
  • Colby Tournament MVP
  • Two-time AVCTL I MVP
  • Two-time Wichita Eagle All-Metro selection
  • Two-Time Wichita Eagle All-State top five selection
  • 18.4 points per game
  • 4.6 rebounds per game
  • South Dakota State commit

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Jackie Johnson. Southeast. Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro team. Travis Heying The Wichita Eagle

Johnson helped put Southeast basketball back where it belongs in 2019.

Becoming Southeast’s record 10th All-Metro selection, three more than any other school in the Wichita area, Johnson, a 5-10 sophomore, led the Golden Buffaloes to their first outright City League title in a decade and a third-place finish in Class 6A.

There were questions about how Johnson would mesh in the Southeast system after transferring from North, but working alongside senior Johnny Murdock and junior Micah Jacques never looked like a challenge for the sophomore.

Southeast’s long City League loss came early in the season at Heights. The Golden Buffaloes lost to 6A state qualifier Lawrence at their midseason tournament and finished the season with an almost-meaningless loss to South.

In the first round of state, Johnson scored 32 to get revenge over Lawrence and advance to the semifinals. Johnson, the youngest member of the All-Metro team, said it feels good to know his hard work has started to pay off.

“This year was definitely fun,” he said. “We’re definitely going to miss the seniors. We wanted to win state obviously, but we came up short. But we’ll be back next year.”

Wichita Southeast High School boys basketball's Jackie Johnson

Accolades

  • 21-4 record
  • 3rd in Class 6A
  • City League champion
  • Wichita Eagle top 10
  • Wichita Eagle Class 6A first team
  • City League first team
  • 28 points per game
  • 4 assists per game
  • 3 rebounds per game

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Kordonowy was the most game-changing big man in the Wichita area this year.

Altering almost every shot in the paint, Kordonowy’s length at 6-foot-6 made him an outstanding threat on the offensive end but an even bigger defensive asset.

Kordonowy helped Maize South back to one of its best seasons in recent years, eventually losing to Class 5A champion Andover Central in the sub-state championship game.

Kordonowy was Maize South’s go-to guy. He stopped the opponents’ offense in its tracks and ignited the Mavs on the other end with long outlet passes that made them one of the best teams in transition in the area.

The senior was outstanding on the boards, averaging a double-double. He was always a candidate for a high-flying dunk or alley-oop, but most important, Kordonowy became a leader on a team that desperately needed one.

Accolades

  • 15-6 record
  • Class 5A sub-state finalist
  • Wichita Eagle Class 5A second team
  • AVCTL II first team
  • 18.6 points per game
  • 13.8 rebounds per game
  • 4 blocker per game
  • 21 double-doubles
  • MIT commit

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Andover Central’s Jesse Herrmann Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Herrmann arrived at Andover Central when the school opened in 2001 and has been building toward a state championship since.

Although the Jaguars have been close with 2019 marking their fourth straight trip to the state semifinals, before this season, they hadn’t captured a championship.

The chase ended in Emporia’s White Auditorium with a 58-47 win over Basehor-Linwood in the Class 5A title game.

Andover Central beat the odds in 2019, jumping from 4A-Division I to 5A. In their first year in a new class, the Jags won AVCTL II, had three players eclipse 1,000 career points and proved better than the rest.

The Jaguars’ road to a state title was rough. They had to beat one of the best teams in the Wichita area, Maize South, in their sub-state title game. When they got to state, they faced one of the most gifted teams in Kansas, Pittsburg. A day later, they faced the only undefeated team in the state’s top three classifications, Maize.

And a day after that, they played arguably the hottest team in Kansas to win a title. After the win, Herrmann said as cliche as it sounds, it was a complete team effort.

“This team had such good chemistry from the bench players to the role players to the three guys that scored most of our points,” he said. “Basketball is such a chemistry-driven sport, and that’s one of the reasons we’re standing here today.”

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