Seabury Academy’s boys basketball team has already played five games, but Saturday might as well be the unofficial opener.
That’s because for the first time this season, a 6-foot-7 transfer by the name of Georgi Funtarov will be in uniform for the Seahawks.
A senior from Bulgaria, Funtarov first made a name for himself on the local basketball scene last season while playing at Free State High. But as an international transfer, federal regulations dictated that he could only attend a public school for one academic year. Dealt that hand, he traded in his Firebirds uniform for Seabury threads.
KSHSAA rules forced Funtarov to sit out the first semester, so when Seabury plays host to Saint James Academy tonight at 6, Funtarov will play his first high school basketball game since March 2011. Though he was able to practice, on game nights Funtarov was a bystander on the bench.
“It’s hard when you just watch your teammates play, and you know you can help them,” he said.
It should come as no surprise that the talented big man, who averaged 13.5 points and five rebounds for FSHS as a junior, long ago circled Saturday on his calendar. Every day, his teammates haven’t stopped hearing about how much he wanted to be on the court.
“From the beginning of practice to now, I’ve just been counting down the days,” Funtarov said.
So have the rest of the Seahawks. With Funtarov in the lineup, sophomore guard Khadre Lane thinks the floor should open up for other players, because the team’s newest big man can play inside or outside.
“It’s kind of like our secret weapon,” Lane said. “I’m really excited to use him. We’re ready to bring him out.”
Though Seahawks coach Ashley Battles described Funtarov as an “extremely skilled” post player, he said Seabury will use him as a small forward, because he is even more comfortable facing up or hanging out behind the three-point line.
“His offensive skill is off the charts. He can score from anywhere, from 24 feet in,” Battles said. “He’s a match-up nightmare for other teams.”
While Funtarov said transferring to another new school wasn’t easy, he thinks he is in a good spot now. Seabury, a Class 1A school, is significantly smaller than 6A Free State, but the native Bulgarian said he adjusted quickly and fit in with teammates Lane, Thomas Diaz, Garrett Gillett, Jesse May, Aaron Lock and others.
“It didn’t take me long to start feeling good here,” Funtarov said. “It feels like a family.”
Good feelings aside, Battles knows it will take the team some time to get used to having Funtarov on the floor. Both Lane and Diaz, a 6-5 senior forward, are established scoring threats for the Seahawks. They share Funtarov’s scoring mentality, Battles said, as does senior point guard Gillett.
“Now the trick is convincing everybody that once they pass the ball, they’ll see it again,” the coach said.
It is possible, Battles admitted, that the Seahawks might even struggle at first with the new lineup. But he doesn’t anticipate that lasting very long.
“In five games,” he said, “watch out.”
Funtarov won’t be the only Seahawk joining the team in January. Sophomore guard Marcus Allen, who missed the team’s first four games with an ankle injury, is back, too. Allen started for Seabury last season and, Battles said, defended the opponent’s best guard every game.
The coach expects Allen should fit in well: “He doesn’t need shots to be happy.”
For the record
Some changes in Seabury’s schedule, along with some forfeits, put the Seahawks’ current record at 2-3.
Battles said the team had to forfeit two wins because one of its players participated in games before having his physical from turned in. Therefore, Seabury’s victories over Olpe and Kansas City (Kan.) Ward were wiped out.
The Seahawks were originally scheduled to play junior varsity games against Kansas School for the Deaf and Hyman Brand, but Battles said those games were switched to become part of the varsity schedule — even though Seabury’s JV team played in those games.
Officially, Seabury has wins against Paola and Kansas School for the Deaf, and losses against Olpe, Ward and Hyman Brand.