A thrilling and competitive season of high school basketball came to a sudden and cruel end with the cancellation of the state basketball tournaments after first round action due to concerns over COVID-19. It will always be a shame that we did not get to find out if the Seaman Lady Vikes could be the squad that dethroned mighty St. Thomas Aquinas in 5A, or if the Topeka High Lady Trojans could finish their unfinished business and become only the fourth team – boys or girls – in the history of the capital city to be undefeated state champions.
But rather than mourn the lack of a conclusion to the season that was lost, we should take time to celebrate the season that was – a season of dominance in girls basketball and a hotly contested Centennial League title race in boys basketball. It was a year where young talent shone brightly and where veteran leaders carried their team’s load.
For the fourth season, I’m proud to recognize the best the city had to offer with WIBW’s All-City honors. I will name a first and second team for boys and girls hoops, as well as a coach, freshman, and player of the year. In addition to recognizing those award winners, I want to shout out the other seniors who played their final high school seasons, as well as one underclassman from each team who I am looking forward to seeing continue their careers on the hardwood.
Let’s begin with the seniors (and to clarify before we begin, this is to acknowledge seniors who are not selected as All-City honorees):
Girls – Sydney Hillmer came back to the basketball program this season and the volleyball standout was a crucial addition thanks to her ability to score, rebound, and defend inside. McKenna Ellis and Haley Karolevitz each provided good backcourt minutes off of the Lady Wildcats bench.
Boys – John Roeder was the go-to guy for Hayden on offense, with a nifty mid-range game. Noah Schneider was one of the city’s best post players, providing rugged defense and scoring. Cade Pavilk stretched the floor with his shooting. Cole Chisham was a solid, consistent role player.
Girls – Aaliyah Washington’s motor never stopped running. Her effort and energy made her one of the peskiest defensive players in the city.
Boys – The young Scots relied mostly on sophomores and juniors this season, meaning Kelvin Curry and Tracy Garland played supporting roles. Curry started games in the post and Garland always gave good effort when called upon.
Girls – Maddie Steiner and Sophie Sparks were integral parts of the Lady Vikes’ backcourt rotation, with Steiner’s shooting and Sparks’ defense the standout skills. Riley Polter was an important frontcourt piece off the bench.
Boys – As the lone senior with previous varsity experience, Drayton Foster’s example was a valuable one for the young Vikings. Eric Patterson’s presence was welcome as well thanks to his athleticism and efficiency on offense.
Girls – Alie Fulks was a steady, dependable presence at guard for Heights, and her offensive game complimented the improvements made around her on that end of the floor. Faith Childs and Abi Ostenson gave their best when their names were called, and the Lady T-Birds benefitted from the additions of Alexis Dial and Jaycee Ginter, whose athleticism and size were a big help.
Boys – What a shame that Marquis Barksdale’s season ended due to injury. His toughness and leadership were integral to the T-Birds and their late-season run could have perhaps gone even further if he had been able to play. Nasire Anderson changed the equation for Heights in a big way once he became eligible at semester. In his only year of high school basketball, he led the city in rebounding and gave his team size they sorely needed. Elijas Watson’s work on both ends of the floor was valuable for the T-Birds, as he ran the point and served as one of their best defenders. Drew Buchanan was one of several role players who contributed when Ken Darting called upon them.
Girls – Yana Grassity was a major addition to the Lady Trojans this season, willingly taking a backseat offensively and improving as a distributor and a defensive player to help her team win. Laryn Murray and Gracie German played valuable roles off the bench, particularly defensively.
Boys – Carlos Esquibel was as exciting as anyone to watch when he got downhill on the drive. His ability to finish and length on defense made him a valuable piece of Topeka High’s starting lineup. Camren Cooks had the best three-point percentage in the city and hit some big shots off the bench down the stretch of the season. Though Terrel Carr, Trejon James, and David Jackson weren’t consistently part of Eric King’s rotation, they each had moments throughout the season that proved important.
Girls – Miyah Larson concluded her career as an excellent all-around player, carrying the scoring and ball-handling loads and using her length to cause problems defensively. Kaitlyn Shima was a consistent presence in her career as well. Both players were valuable leaders for a very young team.
Boys – Rick Bloomquist’s team was full of players who understood their roles and played them whenever called upon, and his seniors were no exception. Bryson Bitler and Chris Hargreaves spaced the floor with long-distance shooting, Nolan Elder was a defensive specialist, and Dre Durall’s strength, toughness, and finesse helped West win some big games.
Girls – Crucial contributors to the state championship run of the season before, Riley Bagshaw and Shelbey Wichman resumed those same roles this year as relentless post defenders and eager rebounders.
Boys – Drew Bortz’s senior season never really got going due to injury and illness, but he got credit from his coaches for finding ways to encourage his teammates from the bench, a sign of a true leader. Kael Markham went from the end of the bench at the start of the season to a starting role as a facilitator and hard-working defender.
ONE TO WATCH
HAYDEN – Sophomore guard Macy Smith can do it all. The niece of Maryland head coach and all-time Wildcat great Mark Turgeon has hoops in her blood, and her ball-handling and scoring abilities are going to keep that program’s trajectory trending upwards. Junior guard Vacarrio Triplett has quickness and handles and showed tremendous improvement throughout the season, and will be one of the top point guards in a point guard-rich league.
HIGHLAND PARK – Sophomore post Aisya Taylor enjoyed a breakout year for the Lady Scots, showing a nice inside scoring touch and holding her own in a league full of impressive post players. Junior guard Muh’Khajhae Daniels led the city in assists and led the team in steals, happy to set his own scoring aside to help the Scots win – but he’s plenty capable of scoring as well.
SEAMAN – Junior guard Raigan Kramer offered terrific man-to-man defense and knock-down shooting, proving to be a perfect compliment to the Lady Vikes’ stars. Sophomore guard Dagen Brewer has the skills, particularly shooting-wise, to be an excellent player. He’s one of a handful of promising young guards that I expect Seaman will build around and see rapid improvement from in the future.
SHAWNEE HEIGHTS – Junior guard Adysen Burghart earned second-team All-UKC honors, showing all-around improvement from her sophomore season, and has the right attitude to become a team leader. Junior wing Harvey Davis is a three-year starter for the T-Birds now, and has gotten better each season. Named to the All-UKC second-team, his strength and quickness make him a tough check every night.
TOPEKA HIGH – Junior guard Ja’Neysha Hendricks made some of the biggest strides on a team loaded with young talent. She added dead-eye three-point shooting to her fine point guard skill set. Junior guard Geivonnii Williams was already known as a long-ball threat on the football field as the Trojans’ top wide receiver, but he likes the deep shot on the hardwood, too, as he was one of his team’s top three-point shooters.
TOPEKA WEST – Freshman post McKinsey Jones is an exciting prospect for the Lady Chargers. She showed tenacity on the glass and on defense, and as she refines her offensive skills she’ll have a chance to be a two-way standout. Junior guard Marque Wilkerson showed flashes of excellence this season for the Chargers, and if he finds consistency he should be one of the city’s top guards next year.
WASHBURN RURAL – Freshman post Brooklyn DeLeye has the total package – she can score inside and out and defend the perimeter and the rim. There aren’t many freshman players anywhere who can match her ceiling. Sophomore wing Quincey Kidd developed rapidly into one of coach Kevin Muff’s most trusted players, with his length and athleticism helping him on both ends. He also showed a knack for staying poised in clutch situations, especially at the free throw line.
And now, without any further ado, the WIBW All-City Teams. Players are listed in alphabetical order within the team, with relevant stats (and ranking among city players in parenthesis).
JOE BERRY, junior, Washburn Rural
17.0 ppg (2nd), 5.2 rpg (6th), 1.9 apg, 2.0 spg (t-5th), 61% 2FG, 76% FT
Steady and consistent, Berry led the Junior Blues to a share of the Centennial League title as an anchor on both ends of the floor. His athleticism, versatility, and poise in the clutch were instrumental in another strong campaign and makes him a first-team pick for the second straight year.
ELIJAH BROOKS, sophomore, Topeka West
17.1 ppg (1st), 6.4 rpg (2nd), 2.1 apg, 1.8 spg (t-8th), 56.4% 2FG
Brooks emerged as the ‘closer’, if you will, for the Chargers, routinely playing his best down the stretch in tight games. He won the city scoring title thanks to his ability to get to the rim against whoever was guarding him.
DA’VONSHAI HARDEN, senior, Topeka High
13.0 ppg (6th), 5.3 rpg (5th), 2.6 apg (9th), 2.4 spg (2nd), 59.6% 2FG
The Trojans were sure glad to have Harden, a Northern Iowa football signee, stick around for his senior season, as he provided scoring from all over and an ability to defend against any position on the court.
CJ POWELL, junior, Highland Park
16.9 ppg (2rd), 6.1 rpg (3rd), 1.9 bpg (3rd), 35% 3FG
The 6’7” Powell can score from all over the floor, and could get his shot just about any time he wanted. His growth was emblematic of the rest of his team’s, as they improved by 12 games and made it to state.
KING SUTTON, senior, Topeka High
15.4 ppg (5th), 4.5 rpg (9th), 1.8 bpg (4th), 57.1% 2FG, 73.9% FT
Sutton was capable of dominance on both ends of the floor and had the highest-scoring night among city players (38 points against Wichita Northwest in the Topeka Invitational). He can score and defend on the perimeter and in the post, and was the city’s best dunker.
TRE ALEXANDER, junior, Topeka West
12.9 ppg (7th), 5.0 rpg (8th), 3.0 apg (7th)
Alexander got off to a hot start, and when his scoring cooled off a bit, he proved capable of impacting games in several other ways for the Chargers. He’s a complete player who continues to get better.
NOAH KRUEGER, senior, Washburn Rural
9.7 ppg, 55.3% 2FG, 42% 3FG
Always an excellent shooter, Krueger became a more well-rounded player his senior season, and was a consistently positive contributor to the Junior Blues’ cause. His 51 made three-pointers was the top total in the city.
JAHI PEPPERS, junior, Highland Park
9.1 ppg, 3.1 apg (6th), 2.1 spg (4th)
Peppers’ skills and confidence grew throughout the season. There aren’t many guards who can stay in front of him, and as his shooting improves, he’s going to be even harder to guard.
JUAN’TARIO ROBERTS, sophomore, Highland Park
15.5 ppg (4th), 3.2 apg (5th), 1.8 spg (t-8th), 34% 3FG
They call him ‘Scrappy’ but ‘Smooth’ is just as apt a description of what Roberts brings each night, with tough defense and a silky scoring touch. Last year’s City Freshman of the Year moves on up to the second team this year.
JALEN SMITH, junior, Topeka High
10.9 ppg (10th), 4.4 apg (1st), 1.9 spg (7th), 54.7% 2FG, 33% 3FG
Smith’s game grew by leaps and bounds, as his point guard skills made the Trojans the cohesive unit they became on their late season winning streak. He led the city in assists.
COACH OF THE YEAR
MIKE WILLIAMS, Highland Park – Going from 3-18 to the 5A state tournament in one year is a remarkable achievement. In his second year as head coach, Williams has full buy-in from a young and hungry group of Scots.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
KAEDEN BONNER, Seaman – Bonner showed off impressive shooting range, making 40% of his threes and making a total of 45 triples that ranked second in the city. His ability to mesh well with some other talented young guards that will form the core for Seaman to rebuild with.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JOE BERRY, junior, Washburn Rural – Berry gets the nod because of his consistency and his ability to be whatever Rural needed him to be on any given night. His calm in the clutch helped see the Junior Blues through to several close wins throughout the season.
NIJA CANADY, sophomore, Topeka High
18.8 ppg (2nd), 10.2 rpg (1st), 1.0 bpg (t-3rd), 2.5 spg (3rd), 56% 2FG
A ferocious paint presence, both offensively and defensively, Canady improved upon her standout freshman campaign. Teams tried a lot of different ways to try and stop her, and none of them really worked.
CHLOE CARTER, senior, Seaman
16.1 ppg (4th), 4.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 45% 2FG, 39% 3FG
The four-year letterwinner steadily improved throughout her career and put all the pieces together as a senior, scoring and defending inside and out and coming up big in big moments.
KASEY HAMILTON, senior, Washburn Rural
13.3 ppg (6th), 5.1 rpg (10th), 3.3 apg (3rd), 1.4 spg, 33% 3FG, 78% FT
The tough-as-nails point guard led the Lady Blues back to a sub-state final and provided leadership and a great example for her young teammates.
KIKI SMITH, freshman, Topeka High
20.0 ppg (1st), 3.4 rpg, 3.1 apg (5th), 2.7 spg (2nd), 60% 2FG, 48% 3FG
Smith hit the ground running and never looked back, scoring at a high level and defending ravenously each and every night. She’s a rare talent and it’s going to be exciting to see just how great she becomes.
CAMRYN TURNER, junior, Seaman
16.6 ppg (3rd), 8.3 rpg (2nd), 4.0 apg (1st), 3.0 spg (1st), 84% FT
Anything and everything the Lady Vikes needed, Turner gave them. Steals, blocks, assists – Turner provided those in spades. And the southpaw scored plenty, as well, as one of the best ball-handlers and finishers around.
DARIAUNA CARTER, senior, Highland Park
16.1 ppg (4th), 5.5 rpg (t-8th), 2.3 apg (9th), 1.8 spg
Carter returned from a devastating knee injury that cost her her junior season and led the short-handed Lady Scots, playing nearly every minute and helping her teammates get better around her.
EMMA KRUEGER, sophomore, Washburn Rural
10.7 ppg (10th), 7.2 rpg (3rd), 3.0 apg (7th), 1.0 bpg (t-3rd), 2.2 spg
Krueger’s stand-out skill is her basketball IQ. She always seems to be in the right place at the right time and is a superb rebounder and defender.
SOPHIA PURCELL, senior, Hayden
12.5 ppg (8th), 2.6 apg (8th), 2.4 spg (t-5th), 39% 3FG, 70% FT
The point guard had an excellent senior campaign, pushing the ball up the floor for the up-tempo Lady Wildcats and featuring nearly-flawless shooting fundamentals.
LILLY SMITH, junior, Topeka High
10.3 ppg, 42% 3FG, 78% FT
She’s more than just Kiki’s big sister. Lilly was the most prolific three-point shooter in the city this year, making 48 triples, and when she got hot, that usually meant the Lady Trojans were at their dominant best.
KAM WELLS, senior, Shawnee Heights
9.6 ppg, 1.9 spg, 43% 2FG
Wells, a four-year starter who was named a first-team All-United Kansas Conference player, became the Lady T-Birds’ most reliable scorer down the stretch as they went on a winning streak.
HANNAH ALEXANDER, Topeka High – Topeka High had more talent than anyone else, enough to roll the ball out on to the floor and win a lot of games. But it’s to Alexander’s credit that her group never, ever took a night off, and each player accepted their role on the team.
KIKI SMITH, Topeka High – You could tell Smith was special the instant you first saw her play this season. There’s not much she can’t do and do well, and she has a chance to go down in city and state history as she continues to improve.
NIJA CANADY, sophomore, Topeka High – In the rare moments where the Lady Trojans found themselves in a bind, their solution involved getting the ball to Canady inside. She was the unsolvable problem for Topeka High’s opponents all season, and that includes her work on the defensive end as the last player back in their ferocious full-court press.