Seeing how the KC Jayhawks are coached by former Kansas Jayhawks Danny Manning and Sean Alvarado as well as Manning's former high school basketball coach Ted Juneau, it's no surprise they won 75 percent of their games this season.
What is surprising is how they've achieved their success. Manning, Alvarado and Juneau have mixed and matched seventh-graders from all over Kansas and put fundamentals and team-oriented basketball ahead of final scores and records.
"To be honest, I don't know that we were really concerned about how many games we won or lost," Juneau said. "We were just real interested in trying to teach basketball in a good, solid, fundamental way."
Although a Lawrence-based team, Juneau said the KC Jayhawks were also made up of players from Topeka, Emporia, Ottawa, Baldwin, Olathe, Independence and Sharon Springs. Chemistry was never a problem, though, and the Jayhawks finished the season with a 59-19 overall record and a 20-7 record this summer.
In addition to their impressive record, the Jayhawks earned top-three finishes in five of the six tournaments they played in this summer and two Mid-America Youth Basketball tournament championships, including the July 22 MAYB tournament in Wichita.
However, Juneau didn't measure his team's success by wins and losses. Instead, the coaches were more interested in teaching their players to play the game the right way and not worry about who plays more minutes or scores more points.
"If people saw us play, they would say a couple things about us," Juneau said. "They would say that we gave great effort. And that we played well as a team."
To get their players to understand the importance of teamwork, the coaches decided to put more emphasis on practices.
Once or twice a week, the Jayhawks would gather for practice at a Lawrence school gymnasium or even Allen Fieldhouse. For the Jayhawks games were merely supplemental.
When it came time for games, the coaches made their game plan clear to the team. Every five minutes, five new players would enter the game. There would be no favorites, and everyone would get the same playing time.
But that's not to say the Jayhawks didn't have stellar individual performances. Juneau said every game players would have good scoring, rebounding and. But the coaches didn't want statistics to get in the way of how they coached.
"It's hard to single one of them out or even two or three," Juneau said. "I don't know if I knew who our five best were. We just rotated kids in and asked them to play hard."
This year was Juneau's first with the team, and he said coaching this age group was refreshing.
"In a lot of ways, it's the purest form of coaching in that you have young kids who in some ways don't have a lot of bad habits," Juneau said.
Coaching the Jayhawks has also been exciting for Juneau because he now gets to coach alongside one of his former pupils, Danny Manning. Not surprisingly, Juneau has found Manning to have some of the same coaching philosophies he had when he coached Manning at Lawrence High.
And while this season has been a reunion of sorts for Juneau and Manning, it's been some of the players' first year around a Kansas basketball legend in Manning. However, Juneau said the players haven't let Manning's celebrity distract them from learning.
"I don't know that the kids are awestruck with the fact that Danny is their coach," Juneau said. "He demands some things, and they have to go to work."
Despite Manning's responsibilities with the University of Kansas, Juneau said Manning has never let them prevent him from fulfilling his duties with the KC Jayhawks.
Juneau said there were times Manning would get back to Lawrence from a road trip at 2 a.m., but he would still be at the gym at 8 a.m. for a game.
With a coaching staff so dedicated to its team and devoted to teaching the fundamentals of basketball, the success seems natural. Of course, the wins aren't what stand out most to the coaches.
"How hard they played and how to play as a team," Juneau said. "The kids learned that the most important thing they could do was be good teammates."