Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Andover Central's Rachel Zarich determined to play basketball

There’s not much going on in high school sports this week, but we managed to find a scrappy competitor who plays basketball at Andover Central and at the YMCA on North Woodlawn.

Senior Rachel Zarich, left, followed her dad to the pick-up games and became a regular player. She has no plans to continue her basketball career in college, but she sets her alarm for 5 a.m. and braves the cold weather to show up at the Y three times a week. What does she get for her trouble? A game where she constantly battles taller players and stands out as the only girl on the court.

“It was kind of intimidating at first,” she said.

Rachel, who is 5-3, admitted that she struggles in the paint because the guys block her pretty easily. However, she can grab long rebounds and shoot from the perimeter.

She said the other players encourage her to shoot.

“Once you make a couple, they’re like, ‘Oh, maybe she can kinda play,’” Rachel said.

Her determination to play starts before she even leaves the house. Sometimes she prods her dad to get up early.

“There’s plenty of times I wouldn’t have come if she wasn’t coming with me,” said Mike Zarich.
The father and daughter share of a love of basketball. Rachel doesn’t play at the YMCA as much during her high school season, but it’s a good bet she’ll be back in the spring.

“I’d miss it too much if I didn’t play,” said Rachel.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Most voters favor longer basketball season

A couple of weeks ago, I invited you to vote in our CatchItKansas.com poll on whether Kansas high schools should be allowed to play more basketball games.

KSHSAA currently caps the regular season at 20 games. With playoffs, a state championship team will play 25-28 games, depending on classification.

Its much higher in nearby states. In Missouri it's 30 games; in Texas 35-36.

In our poll, 68.3 percent favored more games, and 31.7 percent wanted to maintain the regular season cap at 20 games.

A basketball mom in our office offered this interpretation of the results: The 31.7 percent who oppose a longer season are probably parents who are worn out from going to watch their kids play as often as they do now. The 68.3 percent who want more games are probably the kids who just want to play as often as they can.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No new basketball rankings until Jan. 12

There'll be no new basketball rankings under the Christmas tree this week.

Seems that a lot of coaches were anxious to get away for the holidays and the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association was unable to round up enough voters to put out credible rankings this week.

So with best wishes for the holidays, the KBCA apologizes and promises to have new rankings out on Jan. 12.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Naughty & nice: Santa's plans for athletes, teams

As Dec. 25 rapidly approaches, Santa Claus has given CatchItKansas.com a sneak peek at what some sports organizations and athletes will receive for Christmas. Chris Parker and I just couldn’t stand to keep that information to ourselves, so here is the list – which we typed up for you – of gift recipients and the most appropriate Christmas presents they could find under the tree this year:

New York Yankees – A piece of coal roughly the size of the pecan pictured above because they will not settle for anything but the biggest, most expensive coal. Anything less would not be their style.

Bishop Carroll wrestling team, which earned its 100th dual win and hopes to break the City League record – Permission from Obama campaign supporters to use their slogan: “Yes we can!”

The rest of the City League wrestling teams – Permission from Obama campaign supporters to use their slogan: “We want change!”

Marcus and Markieff Morris – A special trip by Santa’s elf to make sure the KU basketball twins don’t inadvertently receive a Red Ryder BB gun.

Bill Walker – A map to the restrooms at Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden. No matter what they tell you at Bramlage Coliseum, towels on the bench are not an option. Period.

Detroit Lions – A box of Christmas candy, suitable for sharing, and a sincere note of appreciation from the Kansas City Chiefs. As long as the Lions are around, the Chiefs can point to a team worse than them.

Tour de France – A unicorn. Based on drug testing records, nothing seems to be real in the race anyway.

Tony Romo – A break from his relationship with Jessica Simpson. We’re tired of hearing about it, and he might even play better. After all, going on a break worked for Ross and Rachel – didn’t it?

The National Hockey League – Well … um … Santa left you off the list. He kinda forgot you existed.

Kansas’ 5A football teams – An influx of transfer students to Hutchinson to bump the Salthawks back up to Class 6A.

College football – Six tons of dynamite to finally blow up the BCS.

KU basketball fans – A DVD of the national-championship game so everyone can forget the loss to UMass in Kansas City. Seriously! UMass?!?!

Oklahoma City Thunder – A winning streak, since the program has yet to experience one in OKC.

The New York Mets – Training courses in the Heimlich maneuver so that if they start another epic September collapse, they will know what to do.

Downtown arena – An opener that features WSU vs. KU or K-State. This may be premature, but when it opens, it should open big.

PGA tour – The ability to freeze time because Tiger Woods is on his way back.

Manny Ramirez – A cardboard box and freeway overpass to sleep under, just in case he doesn’t get the $20-plus million he is demanding. Who could possibly live on anything less?

City of Detroit – A hug. First the Tigers, then the economy, now the winless Lions and the Pistons, who are 10-11 since Allen Iverson debuted. Hey, at least the Redwings are still good.

Ohio State football team – Mercy. Enjoy it now because an angry Texas team will offer none on Jan. 5.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bishop Carroll Wrestling Invitational

The Bishop Carroll Wrestling Invitational should be very entertaining on Saturday. By my count, if every wrestler wrestles, there will be 42 ranked wrestlers in action from classes 4, 5 and 6A. The only weight classes with no ranked wrestlers will be 103- and 152-pound weight classes. Nathaniel Martens of Newton will be the only ranked wrestler in the 189-pound weight class. Every other class will have at least two.

The weight classes to highlight are the 125- and 160-pound weight classes.

In the 125-pound class there are six ranked wrestlers, but there should not be much doubt the title will come down to a bout between Daniel Deshazer of Heights and Dylan Penka of Carroll. Both wrestlers are ranked number one in 6A and 5A respectively. These two will face off several times this year.

In the 160-pound weight class there are five ranked wrestlers including Andale’s Benny Armstrong (4A #1) and Carroll’s Kyle Detmer (5A #1). Depending on how the bracket shakes out, we may get to see 4A’s number one and two ranked wrestlers in the 160-pound weight class square off. Independent’s Derek Soucie (4A #2) will also be at the tournament.

Other top ranked wrestlers in attendance will be Kendric Maple (135-pounds) and Chase Nelson (171-pounds) of Heights. BJ Finney of Andale (285-pounds) will be the other number one ranked wrestler in attendance.

There are too many ranked wrestlers to mention in this blog, but there are guaranteed to a lot of good matches on Saturday!

Understanding the KFCA All-State team

Some of you have written with questions about the Kansas Football Coaches Association’s All-State football team. (Click here to see the team.) How, some of you have asked, could Carroll’s record-setting quarterback Blake Bell have been left off the team?
The answer is pretty simple. The coaches’ all-state team is a senior-only team. Bell is a junior.
That makes the all-state team pretty unique. But that’s the way the coaches want to do it.
There are probably some other selections you might wonder about.
Any coach who was a member of the KFCA could nominate a player for all-state. The coach then had to provide film for other coaches to watch. No film, no nomination.
Interested KFCA coaches then met in Wichita to watch all the film. There were at least a dozen coaches in each classification who watched the film, selected an all-state team for their classification and then nominated the most outstanding players for the Top 11 team.
All the coaches then watched the film of the Top 11 nominees and voted on that group.
I'll say this, that's more work than goes into selecting any other all-state team I've ever heard of.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Kansas Rudy

Two "firsts" happened for me today: One; I stepped foot inside the "Home of Basketball," Allen Fieldhouse. Two; I met Jordan Juenemann in the arena. Both thoroughly impressed me.

For those of you that don't know, Jordan was a stand out player for Hays High School last year. He was given plenty of offers from junior colleges and from some smaller Division I schools. But none of the schools wanted Jordan on scholarship. They all wanted him to walk on. Including the Jayhawks.

Jordan had spoke to the Jayhawk Coaching staff about trying out with the team and said he had a shoot around with the team during the summer, getting to know the players and the coaching staff as well. The best part about that pickup game was the location, Allen Fieldhouse.

The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the place. Make no mistake - it's large. Not only is it tall, but also wide, and the blue and red bleachers seem like they reach to the ceiling. And then the "Phog Banner." It's old, creepy and awesome that it still hangs in the rafters of the arena after all these years. One can only think of the walkons that banner has witnessed.

Jordan is not Joe Street Hoops. He's a baller. Played on AAU squads, and trained with the best he could find to get himself ready for the tryout. After two weeks of giving everything he had, Jordan got the phone call he was looking forward to his whole life. Assistant Coach Joe Dooley told Jordan that Bill Self, 2008 NCAA National Championship Winning Head Coach Bill Self, would like to see him in his office.

Self told Jordan that they liked his hard work and skill on the court, and would like him to join the team. Jordan emphatically agreed, but couldn't really celebrate too much - practice started in 45 minutes.

A few weeks later, the Jayhawks have their first home game as the defending national champions, and Jordan realizes his life long dream of putting on a KU uniform and running out of the tunnel into the Allen Fieldhouse.

It's loud at tip off. Like, Metallica loud, so I'm told. And as sturdy as the foundation is, it feels like this thing is rocking back and forth, to the swaying and jumping of the student section. Considering it's over 50 years old, this is some pretty darn good construction.

KU blows out Washburn 98-79, but Jordan does not get any real playing time. That would come next week against Emporia. He said he played for over four minutes, and took three shots. Two jump shots were no good, but with just over thirty seconds left, Jordan got the ball again, drove to the hoop and layed one up for an official basket. He was so excited that he pulled a Tiger Woods Fistpump on the floor, which led to a lot of ribbing from the coaching staff afterward.

So not only did he make the team, but he scored two points in Allen Fieldhouse, during an official game - it counts. Dream come true. Jordan said that moment pretty much topped everything that had ever happened to him. Best feeling in the world, he said. If he never scored another point again for the Jayhawks, he'll be dissapointed for sure, but how many people can say their name was said over the loudspeaker and fans cheering his name, in Allen Fieldhouse? Not many.


The case for a longer basketball season

The Kansas high school basketball season is a short one. It starts later, ends earlier and allows teams to play far fewer games than in nearby states.

Some of the state’s basketball coaches have pleaded unsuccessfully for a modest three-game increase in the number of allowable regular season games, currently 20.

Currently in Kansas, a large class team that makes the state championship game will play 25 games. In the smaller classes, some have played 28.

In Missouri, the regular season starts 11 days earlier than in Kansas and lasts a week longer. A state champion, regardless of class, will play 30 games, at least 22 in the regular season.

In Texas, state championships are decided the same day as in Kansas, but the first regular season games are 21 days earlier. Teams are allowed 21 regular season games PLUS three invitational tournaments. State champions in Texas typically end up playing 35 or 36 games.

Is it any wonder players from those states are better equipped to play college basketball?

What do you think? Should Kansas schools be allowed to play more regular season games?

Cast your vote in our poll at the bottom of any CatchItKansas.com page.

Props To The Small School Players

The media does a really great job of covering city league schools. The 6A schools that have thousands of students and tons of athletes to pick from. However, the small schools need love too. Which is why I was hired and stationed in Dodge so that Southwest Kansas would get more coverage. Now I will admit I am not ALWAYS around the small 2 and 1A schools but they do get covered now.

I got to thinking about the population of some of the schools in small towns out here last night and realized some of these schools have very slim pickin' on who gets put on their field or court. They don't have 30 juniors and seniors coming out for the basketball team they have 12 and of the 12 about 8 of them were on the football team as well.

I watched Ingalls play Minneola last night. A 1A match up. Both teams with 12 players and some kids on the bench that look like they were barely old enough to know how to tie their shoes without help from their parents. Young Players.

However I particularly was impressed by one player, Zach Thomas. Thomas is a senior and quite and athlete. He is obviously the key player on the Bulldogs team. You could tell not just by the way he played but by the way every other Ingalls player on the floor looked to him for everything. He was a leader and a scorer.

I only got to see him play the first half but in the first half he was all over the floor. The point guard and a post player(and keep in mind he is only 5'9: not the tallest of guys to be on the post). He could handled the ball and himself better than any player out there.

In the time I was there I saw him hit 3 treys and he ended the game with 5. He was the leading scorer with 24 points which doubled the next closest players in points.

Not only did Thomas show great ability to play but like I mentioned earlier his teammates looked to him. Every pass their eyes went to him first, high fives were distributed regularly, and my favorite part... any assist Thomas made or was made to him... he gave the point back giving his teammate just as much credit! He was a leader on the floor.

Now I know there are kids all over the state who put up great stats and can do it all on the floor much like Thomas can and I'm not saying they shouldn't get recognition. I just wanted to let the small schools know... it isn't the size of a man that makes him great, it's the character. Keep shooting Zach!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cyphers plays against OU; Emporia wrestlers dominate

Former Wichita Southeast standout Jordan Cyphers saw some time on the court in the Utah men’s basketball game Saturday at Oklahoma.

He scored 3 points in the Utes’ first season matchup with a Big 12 opponent. OU won 70-52.
Cyphers averages 4.7 points and 1 rebound for Utah, which is 5-4 on the season.

* * *

The Emporia wrestlers continue to prove that they deserve their top ranking in Class 5A on the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association list.

Emporia won the dual tournament at Valley Center, which also included Derby and Heights (ranked among the top three in 6A) and Clay Center (the defending 4A state champ). Then the Spartans defeated Manhattan 55-21 in a dual. Manhattan, which placed third in 6A last year, is ranked No. 4 this season.

Two of Emporia’s wrestlers, Sal Tovar and Mark Kolmer, are the top-ranked athletes at their weight in 5A. Tovar placed second at the state tournament to Bishop Carroll’s John Keller, and Kolmer placed second (as a sophomore) to Hutchinson’s four-time state champ, Romero Cotton.

Emporia and Carroll will each host their own tournaments Saturday in the finale to the first part of the season. Carroll’s visitors will include Heights and Salina South.

Salina South, ranked No. 7 in 5A, has a tough conclusion to the week. The Cougars, who placed just behind Emporia at state, will battle Goddard in a Thursday dual before closing out the month at Carroll’s tournament. Salina South’s roster includes defending state champion Blaine Smith, who has moved from 103 pounds to 119.