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25 Boys Players to Watch at the 2018 State Tournament

Parker Braun of Blue Valley Northwest is a force at 6-foot-9. (photo: Mahmood Khatib)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Mar 7, 2018

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We take a look at some of the players we think are worth watching at this week/weekend's state tournamnet across every class in Kansas. While this isn't certainly a list of players ranked it goes across every classification to give you an inside look at some exciting players to look at over the 2018 state tournament. All of our state tournament coverage this week is powered by Nex-Tech Wirless

25 Boys Players to Watch at the 2018 State Tournament

Mason Alexander, McPherson (4A-I) & Jake Alexander, McPherson (4A-I)

McPherson gets a combo pick here and also has a spot for another player below (Ben Pyle), but that’s because the Bullpups are loaded. Alexander is a very common name among McPherson basketball over the years. There are four Alexander’s on this years team and all of them are related and the sons of all-state players, Todd, Chad and Josh. Mason is a senior point guard averaging around 13 points and is one of the best in Kansas. His younger cousin,Jake, is a junior 6-foot-4 guard averaging nearly 14 points per game. Jayse Alexander is also on this years team and was an all-state linebacker and freshman Jax Alexander is the only ninth grader on the varsity roster. Round it out with Ben Pyle, who we will talk about below and we think McPherson is well on its way to meeting up with Miege in another rematch.

Xavier Bell, Andover Central (4A-I)

Bell is having a breakout sophomore campaign averaging around 16 points per game, four rebounds, two steals and two assists per contest in leading the Jaguars to a 17-4 mark. Bell, who stands 6-foot-4, was also big last year as a freshman averaging over 10 points per contest. He’s one of the top young players in the state.

Parker Braun, BV Northwest (6A) & Christian Braun, BV Northwest (6A)

The Braun brothers will look to get Blue Valley Northwest to another state title and so far they have dominated against all Kansas competition. Their only losses have came to teams from Missouri this season and they have perhaps played the top schedule in the state. Christian is a 6-foot-5 junior while Parker is a 6-foot-9 senior, both long and freakishly athletic. Both also matchup nightmares. We aren't done at BV Northwest either, they are loaded and will show you why a little bit later on down with more picks on this list. There's a reason Ed Fritz has 600+ wins.

Tyler Brown, Derby (6A) & Bryant Mocaby, Derby (6A)

These two make it as a combo pick and are first year players for the Panthers after transferring from Valley Center and Goddard. Derby is the four seed at 15-6 and will take on Olathe North in round one. Derby will need a big night from the two who each average 18 points per game for the Panthers.

Cevin Clark, Ark City (4A-I)

Clark is only a junior and is already over 1,000 career points. He also help pull off a few upsets this season that included 5A team to beat Goddard-Eisenhower. Ark City is one of the hottest teams at 17-5 entering the state tournament and the junior sharpshooter is a huge reason why. They get Wamego in round one and with a big day should have an opportunity to get in at least three tournament games.

Kobe Dickson, Holcomb (4A-II)

Dickson has had big shoes to fill since Conner VanCleave graduated last season. VanCleave led the Longhorns to four different state titles while he was in high school, two in basketball, one in football and one in baseball. He is now a freshman playing baseball at KU. Dickson is having his own big year and a big reason they have only one loss and are back in a position to contend for another title. He is a double-double machine, averaging 15 and 11 per game, and has finished around the rim this season. Standing at 6-foot-9 he will be one of the tallest players in any of the state tournament sites this week and weekend. He has signed to play at the Divison I level for Ivy League member Cornell. Throw in Trey Gilbert (12 ppg), one of the top multiple sport athletes in 4A-II and Holcomb should be primed for another run. Frontenac wont be an easy out, a team in round one that has played a much tougher schedule with larger out of state opponents than that of Holcomb. Frontenac and Holcomb also met this fall in the 4A-II state football title game that Holcomb would win.

Trey Duffey, Seaman (5A)

Duffey has scored in double figure points in his last 10 games and is playing his best basketball at the right time. Seaman is a very balanced offensive attack but Duffey leads the way at 16 points per contest in 2017-2018. Duffey, just a junior, will also depend on teammates Nathan Heinen, Jackson Cobb, Kobe Bonner and Kaden Henley to get a shot at a top four finish in the state this season. They take on a very balanced Pittsburg team in round one.

Josh Earley, Bishop Miege (4A-I) & Ezekiel Lopes’, Bishop Miege (4A-I)

Earley is a 6-foot-9 power forward/center that combos with one of the best player in Kansas in fellow 2019 recruit Jeremiah Robinson-Earl for the Stags. He has had a quiet year on a loaded squad but is always capable of going off for a double-double as he averages around 10 points per game and eight boards. Lopes’ is a 6-foot-2 senior guard that is the second leading scorer on the Miege squad with 14 points per game. He is shooting close to 40 percent from the three-point line this season.

Marque English, Pittsburg (5A)

English is a big reason the Pittsburg High program has made it back to the state tournament two consecutive years after a 20 year drought until last season. The senior, who stands 6-foot-6, is one of the most consistent 5A players in Kansas and has over 1,000 career points. He is averaging 20.5 points and 11 rebounds per contest this season for the second seeded Dragons. Pittsburg last placed at state in 1997 when they took second. The Dragons fell in the first-round last year but returned around six players who all saw significant action a year ago including Chase Curtis, Gavyn Elkamil, Jerek Butcher and Drew Roelfs. Roelfs hit the game winning three in overtime last week over Aquinas to punch the Dragons ticket.

Tyron Grant-Foster, Schlagle (5A)

Grant-Foster helped lead his Schlagle Stallions to a 5A runner-up finish a year ago and is ready for another run at the 5A title. The 6-foot-6 senior was a first team All-5A pick last season and looks to repeat that again in 2018. Schlagle will have to get past a very balanced scoring attack of Bishop Carroll in round one but there’s no question Grant-Foster will be one of the top talents at the 5A tourney.

Zach Harvey, Topeka Hayden (4A-II)

Harvey is one of the most recruited players in the state for Topeka Hayden. He is an athletic 6-foot-5 guard that is rated as high as the #35 overall player in the nation in the class of 2019 by recruiting services. He combines with Deshaun Hanika and Jett Canfield are also All 4A-II caliber players for Hayden to add to what could be a recipe for a 4A-II state title this season. They have a very tough round one matchup with Marysville, last years 3A state champion. Harvey is capable of taking over a game and has over 1,000 career points already as a junior and had 42 in a game in sub-state.

Cooper Kaifes, Mill Valley (5A)

He hit the game winning shot on the last second to send his team into state that entered with just a 10-11 record over Wyandotte on Friday. Perhaps one of the biggest shots in school history. He also had 33 points in the game and became the schools all-time leading scorer. If Mill Valley were to pull the so-called upset (their schedule is very good, so not as big of a upset as it shows on paper) they will need a big night from the Loyola-Chicago signee against Eisenhower. Playing in the league that Mill Valley plays in wont be any bit of a surprise to see the caliber of Eisenhower.

Clarence King, Lawrence (6A)

Although it may take a major upset for King and company to move on over BV Northwest who has dominated every single Kansas team they have faced, he is one of the top players in the 6A classification. King has helped lead the Chesty Lions back to the 6A state tournament after being an all-6A pick last season as a sophomore.

Garrett Luinstra, Free State (6A)

One of the more underrated players in the state and has Free State in as the two seed with a 17-5 mark this season by averaging 19 points per game. Luinstra has been so impressive that he has accepted an offer to be a walk-on next year at the University of Kansas. Not to take away focus from his basketball season but Luinstra has quite the story, at eight months old, he lost his dad, Brian Luinstra, an athletic trainer, in the tragic Oklahoma State plane crash back in 2001. The Augusta, Kansas native was just 29-years of age. His stepfather is also a Kansas legend in Quinter native Scott Huffman, once the American record holder in the pole vault and also an Olympian. Garrett will look to lead the Firebirds deep into the state tournament and the bracket does set up quite favorable for them to make a run.

Parsons and their youth (4A-II)

It was hard to give the nod to one player here on a team that we think can be an exciting state tournament team in 2018. Parsons starts three sophomores and two juniors. Sophomore DaQuan Johnson is one of the top sophomore athletes in the state. He is joined by teammates Dariq Williams (sophomore), Zeke Lyons (sophomore), Joel Schibi (junior) and Davonte Yates (junior). All players average between 9-18 points per game. And if you like dunks, this is a team to watch. The crazy thing is they aren’t big guys but high flyers.  Parsons, one of the all-time great basketball programs in the history of KSHSAA, features just one senior on its team.  We feel like Parsons has the ability to be at least a top four team in 4A-II this weekend. It's not often you see a boys team at any level at the state tournament dominated by such young players on its roster. 

Gabe Pieschl, Marysville (4A-II)

Pieschl has had quite the year since last March. He won a 3A state title in basketball, was the Sports in Kasnas 3A Basketball Player of the Year as a junior and then was an all-state wide receiver on the 3A state runner-up Bulldog football team. Now a senior, his squad has moved up a class and will now look for a back-to-back title although in 4A-II. Pieschl has averaged at least 20 points a game over the last two season and is a sharpshooter that can take over a game. He will have to have a career afternoon on Thursday if they are to get by Topeka-Hayden. Pieschl is one of the best in Kansas, regardless of level.

Ben Pyle, McPherson (4A-I)

Pyle is on the verge of breaking the McPherson all-time career scoring mark and could possibly do so with a big state tournament. The 6-foot-8 senior has been a three-time all-state selection and is a major contender for all-classes player of the year with a solid state tournament in 2018. He has signed with Western Illinois. Pyle is averaging nearly 23 points per contest and a dead eye threat from 3-point range that can get his shot off at anytime with his frame. He has the ability to take over a game and carry his team to a win, but he also has a loaded cast of talent around him as pointed out above. 

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Bishop Miege (4A-I)

Robinson-Earl is one of the highest recruits in the nation, rated as high as five stars. He will look to lead Miege to a third consecutive state title as he is averaging 21.9 points per game and eight rebounds per contest. It’s not all Robinson-Earl either, he has plenty of help on this loaded Stags squad.

Gilbert Peters, South Gray (1A-I)

Peters is one of the best kept secrets in the state to the statewide audience because he plays small school basketball and not many know about him. Well they should beause the senior is one of the most powerful athletes in the state. Peters is averaging around 20 and 10 a game for the Rebels in limited time due to blow outs. He stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 265 pounds. He is one of the top shot put and discus throwers in the United States. You may ask if he plays football? He does not but if he did you can guarantee the recruiters would have made their way to Montezuma. Peters is a dunk machine and should be one of the most exciting players to watch in any of this years state tournaments. He’s not just a big body either, the kid is an explosive, freakish athlete.

Joe Pleasant, Blue Valley Northwest (6A) & Sam Ward, Blue Valley Northwest (6A).

The 6-foot-5 senior was a big part of the state championship run last year and will look to repeat it this year. He is being recruited at the division one level and has had a big senior season for the Huskies. Ward has also been the leading scorer for BVNW several times this year and has had a breakout senior season. This Husky team is about as balanced as you can ask for with contributors from all classes.

Riley Sides, Northern Valley (1A-II)

Sides has his team as the one seed at 22-1 on the year and is one of the top small school juniors in the state of Kansas. He averages 17 points per game, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. The Huskies should be the heavy favorite to win the 1A-II title this season. And yes this is the same Sides family of Kevin (father of Riley) and Keith (father of Trey below) that were big-time players for Northern Valley back in the day. 

Trey Sides, Phillipsburg (3A)

After being hurt late in the football year as a three-year starting quarterback Sides made a comeback for basketball a sport that is probably his best despite being known statewide as the starting freshman quarterback for then 2A champion Phillipsburg. Sides, now a 6-foot-1, junior, is having quite the breakout year for a team that has quietly became one of the best in 3A with a 21-1 record. Sides has been back since January 5th and since then has scored in double figures in 11 of his 16 games. Sides is an even better defender than he is as his teams point guard. He is averaging four steals per contest and five rebounds. He’s also the first cousin of Riley Sides listed above who looks to lead his team to a 1A-II title this weekend. Also be on the lookout for Jordan Ford who is having a breakout season for the Panthers. Sides plays for his dad Kieth, who just went over 200 wins and made the first state tournament in 45 years.

No stars but a balanced team that could win it all

Andale is certainly a balanced team and has a shot in 4A-II with several players in that 8-12 points per game range, led by sophomore Easton Hunter. Bishop Carroll also has a lot of balance in 5A with several players around that 10-13 ppg mark. Colgan can go 10-12 deep in 2-1A and a Wayne Cichon team is always in the hunt for a state title. Parsons has a lot of balance in 4A-II as well but do they have the experience to be a bracket buster this March. Central Plains (2A) is perhaps the most balanced team with athlete after athlete and you never know who is going to step up. Wichita Heights is a similar team with great athletic ability and several contributors in the 5A ranks. Maur Hill -Mt. Academy has some good talent but also a team that doesn’t rely heavily just on one kep player and could make a run in 3A as they go in at 22-1. The entire 3A field kind of has that same feel to it.

Dylan Vincent, Eisenhower (5A)

Vincent, a senior guard, is averaging nearly 26 points per game and has over 1,500 in his career for the Tigers. He is also averaging five assists and five rebounds for the one seeded Tigers who are 19-2. If Eisenhower is going to make a run for a title, he will have to have an outstanding tournament.

Larry White, Topeka (6A) & Ky Thomas, Topeka (6A)

White averaged around 18 points per ballgame to lead the Trojans this season as Thomas, one of the best multi-sport sophomores in Kansas, is averaging around 13 points per ballgame. White scores 24 points in the sub-state final to put the Trojans into the state tournament. This team is athletic enough to hang around with anyone in the state and are a scary out with these two and teammate Da’Vonshai Harden, the quarterback on the football team, who also is averaging around nine points per game. If you want to see athletes, come watch Topeka play a game. 

Others to Watch Without Any Mentions above:

Caleb Jordan (Sacred Heart – 2A), Cade Miller (West Elk – 2A), Jake Thompson (Burlingame – 2A), Braden Leitner (Rawlins Co – 1A-I), Chase Fisher (St. John – 1A-I), Connor Ludolph (Southern Coffey Co – 2A), Maitland Witlse (Otis-Bison 1A-I), Alex Barton (Central Plains – 2A), Braden Belt (Andover Central – 4A-I), Easton Leedom (Andover Central – 4A-I), JaVon Reliford (Labette County – 4A-I), Luke Evans (Bishop Carroll – 5A), Trent Scheer (Cheney – 3A), Keenan Miller (Wichit South – 6A), Devin Davis (Wichita Heights – 5A), Jeff Wake (Eisenhower – 5A), Tanner Mans (Bishop Carroll -5A), Thomas Atkins (Hanover – 1A-I), Tymer Jackson (Olathe North -6A). Rem Lemovu (Wichita South - 6A). 


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