Three city basketball players headed to prep schools for 2020-21 season
Bishop Seabury basketball standouts Zach Bloch and Juju Ramirez, along with Free State’s Miles Branch, are all headed to prep schools next season.
While their absence from the Lawrence hoops scene figures to change the outlook of both teams, their coaches said they were looking forward to continuing to follow their careers.
“I’m extremely happy for them and excited about the prospects of them playing at a higher level and challenging themselves to a higher degree,” Seabury coach Jonathan Raney said of Bloch and Ramirez. “I’ll never fault any kid for having a higher ambition. And I think that’s what you’re seeing here.”
Added Free State coach Sam Stroh of Branch: “Miles is a good kid and we wish him nothing but the best. This is a great opportunity for him. He’ll face good competition and get a chance to really work on his game in a great setting.”
Bloch and Branch both will play their senior seasons at Colorado Prep, where they will be reunited as teammates. The two previously played together as sophomores at Seabury.
“That’ll help both of them,” Raney said. “Going out there together and having that familiarity with each other should make it a lot of fun. I know they’re excited.”
Bloch led the Seahawks in scoring and averaged 17.7 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 steals per game last season.
Branch, who is the son of former KU forward Marvin Branch, worked his way into the Firebirds’ rotation during the second semester of the 2019-20 season and became a valuable part of Free State’s frontcourt.
Ramirez, who has two years of high school remaining and has emerged as one of the best high-major college prospects in Kansas, is headed to New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire. It’s the same school that former Firebirds Brady Morningstar and Evan Manning attended before coming back to Lawrence to play their college ball at KU.
All three players announced their decisions Wednesday on Twitter, and Raney believes all three have a lot to gain by making these moves.
“I hope these kids do great and I get to watch them play college ball on TV someday,” he said.
While the departure of a pair of potential preseason all-state picks dramatically changes the look of the 2020-21 Seabury basketball team, Raney said watching Bloch and Ramirez leave town was about more than that.
“It’s tough for Bishop Seabury because they’re both tremendous ambassadors of the school,” he said. “They really brought a lot to the school outside of just basketball. And they’re going to be missed tremendously by the faculty and the staff.”
Bloch and Ramirez helped Seabury set five school records last season — most wins (22), longest winning streak (15), points per game (71.3), total points (1,171) and average margin of victory (32).
While ending their Seabury careers with a pandemic-shortened season, two wins shy of a state title, was a far cry from what anyone associated with the program would have wanted as their final acts, Raney said both players made an impact that won’t soon be forgotten.
“The one thing I told them is that nobody can take away our great season and our school records and the banners that these kids were able to hang,” he said. “The journey this past year was so much fun for all of us and I don’t think of us as anything other than champions.”
Raney and Stroh both said they thought the cancellation of the summer AAU events played a role in all three players deciding to move on to face better competition and gain broader exposure. And Raney said the decisions did not catch him by surprise.
“The communication between the parents was awesome,” he said. “Everyone kept me up to date on what was going on and their thoughts and their different options. I was really appreciative of that. Trust me, there’s not many people out there who will be rooting harder for those guys than I will.”