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Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2005

Need for speed in style

Lions, Firebirds won’t waste time

December 1, 2005

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Walk by a local park, and the kids gathered on the basketball court aren't practicing defensive sets, a stall offense or the proper way to set a back pick.

They're too busy shooting the ball.

Funny thing is, it will be much the same atmosphere in local gymnasiums this winter for the four city high school boys basketball programs. Forget walking the ball up the court, making a pre-

determined number of passes before taking a shot, and working the clock.

In Lawrence, run 'n' gun is the order of the day.

"Really push the ball up the floor, defend all over the floor and get quick shots," said Lawrence High coach Chris Davis, offering up a philosophy that will hardly be the Lions' own in 2005-06. "I think it's a style the kids like to play, and it gives you the ability to use more kids."

It also paves the way to success. Last season, both LHS and Free State rode their quick-trigger mentalities all the way to the Class 6A state tournament.

Free State High's Scott Heitshusen hopes to lead his squad to success in this upcoming season.

Free State High's Scott Heitshusen hopes to lead his squad to success in this upcoming season.

Whether either one returns will depend on the ability to cope with opposite environments this winter.

For LHS, stability and familiarity reign supreme. The players know exactly what to expect from Davis, and several of them played prominent roles for the Lions last season.

Point guard Kristian Pope, a 5-foot-7 blur with the ball, is one of three returning starters, joined by fellow senior guard Tyler Knight and junior swingman Chance Riley.

That foundation is a cause for great expectations on the south side of town this winter.

"We have a nice talent base that returns," Davis said. "I think the nut for us to crack is to bring in the rest of the group and see how many kids can contribute.

"I think the big key is how many of the new guys step up and make my decision easy about how many guys are going to play. I hope my cupboard's full."

At least Davis has some pieces of fine china to work with. Across town, it's a bit of a different story for new Free State coach Chuck Law.

The Firebirds lost the overwhelming majority of their scoring, rebounding and any other statistic worth measuring with the graduation of last year's entire starting five. They also lost longtime coach Jack Schreiner earlier this year after he resigned.

Lawrence High's Kristian Pope hopes to lead his squads to success in this upcoming season.

Lawrence High's Kristian Pope hopes to lead his squads to success in this upcoming season.

However, that potentially damaging combination hasn't dampened the spirit of the program.

"The kids have really responded favorably to what we've tried to implement and what we've tried to put in," said Law, elevated to head coach after spending the last six seasons as Schreiner's assistant. "I couldn't be happier considering everything we've dealt with the last month."

Like arguably every other coach getting ready to tip off a new season, Law will count on his senior class to set the tone. However, Free State's trio of guards Scott Heitshusen and Nick Ayre and forward David Green isn't long on crunch-time experience. The backcourt saw playing time off the bench last winter, while Green spent most of his junior campaign on the junior varsity.

Still, Law likes the pieces he has to work with - including 6-5 junior Christian Ballard in the low post - and hopes, despite the coaching change, familiarity with the Free State system will ultimately reap benefits.

Seabury Academy senior Grayson Dillon will be counted on for big production for the Seahawks this season.

Seabury Academy senior Grayson Dillon will be counted on for big production for the Seahawks this season.

"You're going to see a very similar style of play. We're still going to try to push the ball. We're going to be a predominantly man-to-man team. We're going to guard hard," Law said.

"We really feel this team is going to get better as the year goes along. We're looking big picture. We really feel this basketball team is going to be competitive."

Of course, the big boys in the 6A ranks aren't all Lawrence has to offer. Both of the city's small private schools, Seabury Academy and Veritas Christian, also will be looking to make their marks in the hoops fast lane.

Seahawks coach Marcus Heckman finally has the experienced-laden team he's been longing for during his nine years at the helm, thanks to a roster featuring five seniors and seven juniors.

"I'm real excited that the kids are enthusiastic about playing ... and that we will be able to compete at the varsity level with a varsity-aged team," Heckman said.


Veritas Christian senior Mark Randtke has led the Eagles in scoring and rebounding each of the last two seasons.

Veritas Christian senior Mark Randtke has led the Eagles in scoring and rebounding each of the last two seasons.

Leading the way is the inside-outside duo of senior guard Adam Davis and senior forward Grayson Dillon, who will be counted on the help the Seahawks adopt a new identity this winter.

"We've kind of kept things in the past scaled back to fit our personnel," Heckman said. "Now that we have a more mature team, it's definitely opened up the prospect for us to push the ball and add a little defensive pressure."

That ability to shift gears also will come into play at Veritas. While coach Doug Bennett has a luxury of a stable of quick guards who like to push the ball, he also has a nifty weapon in the half-court game in 6-5 senior Mark Randtke, the Eagles' leading scorer and rebounder each of the last two seasons.

"Hopefully he can step it up even more and the guys around him can really contribute and make for a solid team," Bennett said.

"We lost two seniors, and I think we've got some guys who can step up and fill in for them. We've got some pretty high expectations for this season."

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