Emporia John Schneider will be in an unusual situation tonight. Lawrence High's 6-foot-7 senior center will be looking up.
When the Lions meet top-seeded Manhattan High in the first round of the Class 6A state basketball tournament tonight, Schneider will be facing the Indians' Jackie Carmichael, a 6-foot-9 McDonald's All-American nominee.
"We haven't faced anybody my height or taller," Schneider said. "It's just going to be a great challenge for us. He's a pretty physical guy, so we need to stop him."
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at White Auditorium.
Carmichael averages about 18 points and 10 rebounds a game for the top-seeded Indians (20-2). He also has blocked 81 shots. Against Washburn Rural in the sub-state final, Carmichael almost single-handedly brought the Indians back from a fourth-quarter deficit, scoring 10 of his game-high 18 points.
Of course, Lions coach Chris Davis has made limiting the Manhattan standout's touches a point of emphasis.
"Carmichael is one of the best post men in the state, no question," Davis said. "They list him at 6-9, and he's every bit of that. Very aggressive. He gets the ball, and he just turns to the basket to score. He doesn't care who's there, he'll run him over."
But Carmichael can't do it all, and the Indians also boast point guard Sam Kenney, who averaged 15.5 points in the two sub-state games.
The Manhattan duo is comparable to Lawrence's top two scorers - Schneider and point guard Dorian Green.
"Their point guard is just a star," Davis said. "He's the closest thing to Dorian I've seen all year long. There are an awful lot of similarities there."
So the key will be to try to force the other three Manhattan players on the floor to take the shots. In theory, anyway.
"The problem is, if we over-commit too much to either of those guys," Davis said, "they've got some other guys that can get it done, so we have to be smart."
Although Manhattan is the No. 1 seed, and the 11-11 Lions are the eighth seed, comparative scores seem to belie that gap.
The Indians, for example, clipped Washburn Rural by six points to reach the state tourney, but Lawrence downed the Junior Blues by five in the opening game of the season - before the Lions even had their full complement of players.
And both teams share four-point victories over Free State High.
Those scores won't matter tonight, of course. What will matter, according to Davis, is how his players respond on the big stage and how they deal with the most intimidating presence they will see all season.
"We have to rebound and not let (Carmichael) get to the basket," Davis said. "If we can do that, then I think we give ourselves a chance. As an eight seed, the biggest thing you can do is give yourself a chance."