Just how good is Leavenworth High?
Well, one Sunflower League boys basketball coach ranked Leavenworth in the first tier of the league race and put the other 10 teams in the second tier.
That same coach also listed Leavenworth's starting five and top two reserves as some of the best players in the Kansas City metro area.
That coach was not exaggerating. The Pioneers are that good. They're loaded, returning four starters from a 23-2 Class 6A state championship club. Leavenworth is the overwhelming favorite to win the Sunflower League, which has produced the 6A state champion four times in the past six seasons. Leavenworth should coast to the league title and challenge for another state title.
Here's a look at the league race, which starts today:
The Pioneers are athletic, talented and deep. Kansas University signee Wayne Simien and Furman signee Nicholas Sanders are one of the best scoring and rebounding tandems in the state. The Pioneers will play Dec. 7 in the big-time KMOX Shootout in St. Louis. Predicted record: 19-1.
Shawnee Mission East
Tied for fourth in the league last season, SM East has 6-foot-3 senior center Adam Jones back as a go-to guy. Jones, an all-league pick last season, averaged 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds as a junior. Predicted record: 15-5.
A .500 club last season, Olathe East returns three starters. Senior guard Tim Kaczmarczyk is a two-year letterman and poised to lead the Hawks. Predicted record: 14-6.
With four starters back, the Raiders should be one of the most improved teams in the league. SM South lost six games by six points or less while going 6-15 last season. David Glenn, a 6-5 forward, averaged 12.7 points last year and is one of the top players in the league. Predicted record: 13-7.
There's no where to go but up for the Lions, last in the league last season. Lawrence suffered three consecutive two-point losses at midseason a year ago and never recovered.
Junior guard Stephen Vinson, who had one of the most productive sophomore seasons in school history, is back for LHS. The Lions also had a steady junior varsity season last year under coach Chris Davis, now the head varsity coach. Predicted record: 12-8.
Junior Nathan Winslow, one of the top sophs in the league last season, is the Indians' top player.
He averaged 11.4 points per game last season. Predicted record: 11-9.
Free State finished strong last season, winning five in a row before falling to eventual champion Leavenworth in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament at Emporia. The loss of transfer Marcus Chrisman to Kansas City Schlagle will hurt the Firebirds down low. FSHS will depend on Pat Krivoshia, who averaged seven points a game and shot 50 percent from the field last season, for a bulk of its scoring. Predicted record: 9-11.
Normally a contender in the Sunflower League, Olathe South is reloading after graduating six players from a 15-6 squad that was stunned in the first round of its sub-state tournament. Predicted record: 8-12.
The Cougars are coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in school history. Northwest will try to control the tempo with its deliberate offense and stubborn defense. Predicted record: 8-12.
Like Olathe South, SM West is in reload mode. Guards Mike O'Dell and Andy Majors will have to come up big for the Vikings. Predicted record: 8-12.
A .500 team last season, the Eagles will be pressed to match that level of success this year. Predicted record: 6-14.