Lawrence High’s boys basketball players and coaches knew the next three days wouldn’t be easy.
In his four previous trips to the Blue Valley Shootout, Lions coach Mike Lewis has seen some talented fields, but this year figures to be the deepest in his five-year tenure. What’s more, Lawrence drew one of the most challenging first-round opponent possible: Grandview, Mo., voted Class 4’s No. 4 team in the MBCA/MOsports.com preseason poll.
“They’re good. There’s no getting around it,” Lewis said of the Bulldogs (2-0), who will face LHS (1-0) at 8:30 tonight at Blue Valley High, in Stillwell. “They’ve got really quick, long, athletic guards and then they’ve got three or four forward, post-type players who are 6-(foot)-6, 6-8.”
Ranked No. 6 in Class 6A in the KBCA rankings (behind No. 5 Free State), the Lions played some summer games against Grandview. When LHS gathered to watch video and examine their opponent’s roster, junior guard Anthony Bonner and sophomore point guard Justin Roberts told Lewis they knew “the majority” of Grandview’s players through the AAU circuit and offseason basketball.
“That does help to have some guidance from our own players, in terms of who some of these guys are,” Lewis said.
Of course, most who keep up with high school basketball in the greater Kansas City area know of Bulldogs senior guard Tyrone Taylor. According to rivals.com, the 6-foot-3 senior has received scholarship offers to a number of NCAA Division I programs, including Creighton, Indiana State, Missouri State and Wichita State.
Add to that threat a pair of strong, 6-foot-8 post players, Grandview seniors Wesley Nosakhare and Nelson Nweke, and one might assume the Lions — with 6-4 sophomores Price Morgan and Fred Brou leading them in the size department — could be in real trouble.
Lewis doesn’t think so.
“That would be a matchup problem for us if we had to go out and play one-on-one or two-on-two against them,” the coach said, “but I think our seven or eight versus their team, I like our team, just because we’ll scrap and battle with anybody. We won’t let their size and strength dictate where the game goes. We’ll be the aggressor and see where they go with that.”
There might be too many quality teams at the tournament — Kansas City, Kan., Sumner Academy (No. 2, 4A, Div. I); Topeka Highland Park (No. 1, 5A); Grandview and Lawrence — to pick out a favorite, but the Lions, who went 2-1 and finished fifth last year, enter with a goal of winning the championship this time around.
“We feel good about our team and our first-round game, and the other two teams (on the LHS side of the eight-team bracket, Olathe North and Blue Valley),” Lewis said. “We feel like we can play with them. It’ll just come down to what it will most nights for us: take care of business at both ends of the court, see how our shooting percentage is, and really buckle in on defense.”