A look at Dwayne Paul’s early impressions on the Free State boys basketball program

photo by: TopSports.news

Newly-hired Free State head boys basketball coach Dwayne Paul speaks with the Hayden boys' team during a 2022-23 regular season game.

When Free State went looking for its new head basketball coach this spring, the administration was quick to land on Hayden Catholic’s Dwayne Paul.

Rising up the high school ladder, Paul brought with him an attitude that the Firebirds seem to love.

“I think kids in today’s society can spot ‘fake’ really well,” Paul said. “I told them that when I decided to come over to the high school level, my whole objective was to get to (Class 6A).”

Paul officially signed with the school district in early May, taking over a post briefly maintained by former KU point guard and consensus All-American Sherron Collins during a one-year stint (11-10, 5-3 Sunflower League) at Free State.

Shortly after Paul’s first day, the former Murray State hooper held a sit-down with returning players and their families.

Returning junior guard Korbin Dowdell said the visit was motivating.

“When he came in, he watched one of our last games (a 65-42 loss at Junction City) and said he wants to come in and change what Free State basketball was from a year ago,” Dowdell said.

Paul called on a local name, Anthony Bonner, to become his associate head coach and aid the coaching transition this spring. Bonner, a Lawrence High alumnus (2015) and former Colorado State shooting guard, spent the previous season assisting now-resigned Mike Lewis at LHS.

Paul recalled recruiting Bonner while briefly serving as an assistant coach at Emporia State.

“I wanted someone that kind of understood the significance and understood the expectations that we have for ourselves,” Paul said. “I think he’s excited to be here. He knows a lot of the kids in the area and he’s an up-and-coming guy.”

Assistant Preston Brethour will follow Paul over to Free State from Hayden and assistant Jamar Reese will retain his role from Collins’ staff.

The summer schedule has been strung out, with July slated as mostly a rest period for the team.

Earlier in June, Paul organized a team camp for returning players and sent the group to the KU team camp hosted by Bill Self.

Dowdell said Paul’s philosophy allows the current roster to open up and explore the game worry-free this offseason.

“Once we get our defensive principles in place and really scout teams, we’ll be ready,” Dowdell said. “A lot of teams we played already had their inbounds ready and stuff like that. (Paul) wants us to play free and not have that many plays and see what players can do in the summer.”


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