Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Bidding War

Just a few days ago, soon to be Heights sophomore Perry Ellis received yet another scholarship offer, this time, from Kentucky and John Calipari. This brings the grand total of offers to three for a kid who can't even see R-rated movies by himself yet. Granted, Calipari has technically offered Ellis twice, once when he was still with Memphis and now while he's with Kentucky. A lot of the chatter on different websites has people asking, "is this way too soon to offer a kid a scholarship?" My answer, well, I think it depends on the kid. Perry has shown himself at a very young age to be very mature both on and off the court. He works extremely hard, doesn't let the hacking fouls get to him in games, and was most recently the only member of the class of 2012 invited to the Vince Carter skills camp down in Orlando. This kid is going to be a star and what makes me even happier about that fact is that he's going to do it in the right way.

Which brings me to my next point of contention today: Xavier Henry. Wow, that's really all I can say about this kid. Quick disclaimer, I've never met him, never interviewed him, and yet already I'm annoyed by him. He has no desire to go to college, no desire whatsoever! Add this in with the fact that his father, Carl, is saying things along the lines of, yeah Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor are nice and all, but CJ (Xavier's brother) is better. CJ has never played a game in college. Check out this article on Deadspin.com.

Essentially, this just makes me like Perry Ellis and his family even more. He's good, his family knows he's good, he knows he's good, and they're acting like they've been there before. Hopefully, Ellis takes one of those college scholarships, much like his sister did, and realizes that sports can actually be more about the game and not the money.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nice to see some basketball in the offseason

Saturday night’s Border Battle between graduated seniors from Kansas and Nebraska was a fun event. For basketball fans like me, it was nice to see some basketball games in the offseason. It was a perfect time for indoor sports, too, because a rainstorm occurred that evening.

The games took place at Park City’s new arena, Hartman Arena. It’s a nice facility, if you don’t mind the $4 bottles of water and the $5 parking fee (unless you have a carpool group of four or more, or you’re driving a hybrid – then it’s free).

Despite the oddball policies, there was plenty of parking space available and adequate room to move inside. I remember the bottlenecks that used to occur at Big 12 tournaments in Kemper Arena, where people were cramped just moving through the hallways. Of course, Hartman isn’t as big as Kemper was, and the Border Battle didn’t attract as many as the Big 12 tourney. But the fans were about as vociferous, especially during boys basketball action.

That was the most exciting game. Kansas trailed 58-49 near the 8-minute mark of the second half, but the boys rallied and pulled out a 69-66 victory. The girls’ game wasn’t quite as close; the exciting period in that contest took place early, when a 13-4 Kansas deficit transformed into a Sunflower State lead, thanks to Derby’s Joanna McFarland (above) and Concordia’s Alex Muff.

It was interesting to watch Joanna dominate the game, aided by Alex and Goddard’s Lindsey Keller. Joanna, who will play for the University of Oklahoma this year, was named MVP. The Kansas roster featured considerable talent: Lindsey, who will play at Oklahoma State; Alex, who received a volleyball scholarship to Kansas State despite her impressive basketball and track talents; and Washburn Rural’s LaSharra Riley, who will join Lindsey at Oklahoma State. LaSharra’s absence from the game was disappointing. She had to sit out due to a fractured right wrist, but she was there to support her Kansas all-star teammates.

The scoreboard operator left a lot to be desired, but Hartman Arena should be able to work out those kinks before it hosts additional sporting events. After all, it is early in the arena’s existence, and the games were for charity anyway.

Some wondered what the Border Battle would be like if it included all-stars from every grade in high school, not just recent grads. The format is similar to an established event, the Kansas basketball coaches’ all-star game in August. The Border Battle would be fun if it included younger players like Tiffany Bias of Andover Central and Perry Ellis of Wichita Heights. Nebraska no doubt has some younger players who could compete well, too.

The only low point in Saturday’s showdown was after the boys’ game, when Nebraska’s Jarrell Crayton was named MVP and was greeted by a smattering of boos from the crowd. That’s not sportsmanlike, especially at a charity event, and he was the most deserving player. It’s tough to argue with 20 points and 22 rebounds.

All in all, it was a worthwhile way to spend time and it provided entertainment that an entire family could enjoy. But to keep it affordable, you might want to borrow a hybrid car – and bring your own water.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three's A Crowd

Jordan Ottley of Victoria was invited to play in every single post season football all star game in Kansas. But because he will walk on with Fort Hays next fall, he had to turn one down.

Ottley, who played quarterback and safety for the Knights, was invited to play in the East/West Kansas 8man All Star game, the Shrine Bowl and this weekend's Kansas/Nebraska 8man All Star game in Hays. Jordan turned down the East/West game so he could still remain eligible to play for the Tigers.

Seems ridiculous, but a lot of things that the NCAA does is ridiculous, i.e.; the BCS. Ring a bell?

More importantly, Ottley was invited to play in the Shrine Bowl in Wichita - an 8man player will battle with the best in the state in 11man. We'll see how he does. Ottley is one of only two 8man players invited to play in the Shrine Bowl.

Funny enough, Ottley will be playing with the Bruna brothers of Hanover, John and Alex, against Nebraska. Hanover beat Victoria in the 8man Division II title game, and now they are playing on the same team! HA! And the coaches of both teams are coaching on the same side against Nebraska! HA again!

They haven't had a chance to talk about it yet, but Doug Oberle, Victoria's head coach, said some comments had been shared and some friendly ribbing is going on. Ottley said they talked about it but have moved on.

I guess in this case, three isn't a crowd, but it's company.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Boys tennis featured repeat champs, nice-guy Dippel

Boys tennis featured repeat team champions at two of its four state tournaments this year. Salina Central, which won its sixth consecutive title in Class 5A, may struggle to add a seventh since numerous seniors graduated this spring.

However, Wichita Collegiate still looks promising after picking up its second championship in a row – and its third in four years – at Class 3-2-1A competition. The Spartans are in good shape since only one of their six semifinalists was a senior. Collegiate sent two singles players and two doubles teams to the state semifinals.

The doubles team of Paul Abromeit and Wyatt Kesler emerged in first place. The pair faced half of last year’s state-championship doubles team, Brandon Somerhalder, in the final.

Brandon, also of Collegiate, won last season with teammate Miles Dunne. He played doubles this year with senior Varoon Bashyakarla.

Independence nearly put together a four-year run in Class 4A, but Smoky Valley dethroned the three-time defending state champ. It was Smoky Valley’s first team title since 1997.

The 4A state final pitted last year’s 4A singles champion, Smoky Valley’s Chase Dippel, against last year’s 3-2-1A singles winner, Independent’s Ryan Norman. The Independent School moved up to 4A this year, so only one of the seniors could defend his title.

Ryan barely escaped 7-5 in the first set at Oakdale Park in Salina, but he cruised 6-1 in the second set of the championship. Despite ending his season with a loss, Chase was in good spirits after the contest. He and Ryan are friends, and it probably didn’t hurt that Chase and his teammates secured a team title.

I asked Catch It Kansas high school prep editors to name, in their opinion, the athlete with the best sportsmanship – but it had to be a player who didn’t attend their school. One writer gave a resounding endorsement of Chase.

“He is a superb athlete in football, basketball and tennis, and he’s not cocky at all,” said the prep editor. “He was his school’s best player – and really the only player – but he just worked hard regardless and never gave up. During a basketball game when someone yelled, ‘Hey, Dippel! Remember football season when I tackled you?’ all Chase did was turn around during the game and smile, saying, ‘Yeah, man, I still do.’

“As my friend put it when they played in tennis, ‘He’s the kind of guy you want to hate because he’s so good and he beats you, but you just can’t because he’s so nice. He’s seriously like the nicest guy ever.’”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Draft: Show Me the Money

It's hard to imagine what the phone call would be like. "Hi, Garret Gould, are you ready to become a Los Angeles Dodger? We're willing to pay you, an 18 year old kid, XX amount of millions of dollars to come play for our club. Oh, and if baseball doesn't work out for you, don't worry. You can keep that signing bonus and we'll pay for you to go to college for four years. So, what'll it be?" How in the world can anyone say no?

I covered a kid back in Washington, Travis Mattair, who was an excellent ball-player. He was taken in the compensatory first round by the Phillies a couple years back and given almost half a million dollars to join the club. Of course he said yes, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity with a huge "Ka-ching" attached to the end of it. I check up on Moose (that's his nickname) every once in awhile to see how he's doing. He's doing alright I guess, still toiling around in single-A ball though. I mean, he's just a kid, never really had to face big league arms in high school. Would his life in the majors have been different if he had in fact accepted his full ride to Oregon State, one of the premier baseball schools in the country?

A good friend of mine back in Washington was drafted by the Yankees out of high school. I don't care who you are or if you hate the Yankees or what, if you get a phone call saying the Yankees want you, you're going. Jason had a big-league arm, but injured his shoulder in the minors and wasn't the same after that. The Yankees then paid for him to go to school and start a new life. What a deal, huh? But would his arm have been thrown out by a good pitching coach in college or not? It's an answer he'll never know.

I am a huge baseball fan. I went to my first game when I was literally one month old. My oldest brother is 6 years older than me and every spring and summer of my life was spent at the ball field. My family used to plan our vacations around what baseball field we hadn't been to yet, which is how I got to see Fulton County, Dodger Stadium, Candlestick and Wrigley all before I was in high school. My family is obsessed with the sport. Our family dogs we had growing up, all named after baseball players. It's a tradition that carries on today, my dog is named Lou Gehrig and my mom has Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth. Seriously, my mother could probably tell you more about baseball than you would ever expect from a 58 year old woman. I'm making another trek to Wrigley this summer with one of my best friends because she's never been to the Friendly Confines and I feel it's something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

Ok, I got off on a tangent there, I just wanted to make sure my love for the sport is understood. Because I love this sport undyingly, "Moneyball" is one of my all-time favorite reads. It chronicles a year with the Oakland A's, behind the scenes with the GM Billy Beane. The most interesting part of the book, for me, especially at this time of year, is how and who they draft. Billy Beane hates, and I mean hates, drafting high school players. Somehow, Billy Beane also manages to produce some of the best baseball players off a team that pays very little because they draft guys who have no expectations of being picked very high.

How in the world does any of this make sense? Well, to be honest, I don't really know. What I'm trying to say is getting drafted highly out of high school is such a gamble. Billy Beane was drafted the same year as Darryl Strawberry, and Beane was expected to be the next big star, but his head got in the way of his slugging. Maybe it's just some sort of "mom instinct" coming out in me that means I just worry all the time.

I just hope the best for Garrett Gould, and for the rest of the guys in the draft. I hope that Garrett's 0.88 ERA isn't spoiled by a bad pitching coach in the minors somewhere. I hope the Shockers don't suffer, yet again, because the guys they recruit get offered things that Gene Stephenson simply can't give them. But what it really all comes down to is, I hope that it's not just for the money. Of course, if I was offered millions for a shot at my dream, how could I say no?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Area soccer players end careers with impressive totals

Schools in the Topeka-Kansas City area have a stranglehold on state girls soccer championships, but the Wichita area has seen some stellar talent – including a state record holder – in the past two seasons.

We won’t soon forget the one-two punch of twins Kortney and Kelsey Clifton of Andover. Kelsey was an assists machine, and Kortney holds the state record for goals in a career (256) and in a season (80 in 2008).

However, 2009 featured a good crop of soccer players, too. Goddard’s Whitney Berry compiled 54 goals and 10 assists her senior year. She finished her career with 167 goals. She will join the Cliftons on the field at the University of Kansas.

Whitney was named the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League’s Division I offensive MVP. Ashlyn Castillo of Maize was crowned defensive MVP. Ashlyn and her Maize teammates dominated area girls soccer the past two years.

Two other Maize seniors, Tia Stovall and Leah Talley, were nearly tied in leading the Eagle offense. Tia had 33 goals and 15 assists this season, while Leah was close behind with 31 goals and 13 assists.

Seniors Lorielle Slates of Campus (Division II) and Kristy Herman of Rose Hill (Division III-IV) were their division MVPs in the AVCTL. Kristy, who also shined for Rose Hill on the basketball court, contributed 20 goals and 16 assists this spring.

Finally, Cindy Benitez completed her reign at Garden City as Western Athletic Conference player of the year during all four years of her high school career. Cindy led the Buffs with 40 goals this season, and she tied Whitney Berry with a career total of 167. Cindy will play for Butler Community College.

Friday, June 5, 2009

All-Star Volleyball Match

The state’s best volleyball players will be in action this weekend at the 24th annual All-Star Match.

The local participants include Valley Center’s Brianna Kaiser, Clearwater’s Kaitlin Stearns, Hutch Trinity’s Stephanie Zrubek, and Salina Sacred Heart’s Abby Wittman. There are two participants from Hoisington in Kayci Boxberger and Micala Jamison.

Newton’s Jamie Dibbens, Sacred Heart’s Rose Wittman and Hoisington’s Tina Johnson were among those chosen to help coach the all-star teams.

The match will be played in Topeka at Washburn University’s Lee Arena Saturday, June 6, at 6 p.m.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

East sends ultimate Frisbee team to nationals

Wichita East High School sent an ultimate Frisbee team to the national tournament May 16 and 17 in Blaine, Minn. Its team name was the Beast Aces. They were seeded 16th of 16 squads competing in the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) Western Ultimate Championships.

Wichita East lost 12-5 to Cathedral High School and 14-3 to Seattle Academy. The Beast Aces defeated the No. 9 seed, Nathan Hale, 8-7. However, they fell to Lakeside High School 15-6 in pre-quarterfinals May 16.

On May 17, Wichita East succumbed to Eden Prairie 13-8 and Fayetteville High School 15-9. Hopkins, which entered as the No. 2 seed, won the final for the first-ever Minnesota team title. Other schools in the competition were from Washington, Oregon, California and Arkansas.

East team members included seniors Michael Gurley, Andrew Lowe, Matt Heck and Dan Overholt; junior Christian Kaufman; sophomores Rachel Cross, Abby Lewis, Stephen Lowe, Eric Shook and Jesse Parker; and freshman Ryan Claybrooks. Dan, the team captain, won the spirit award at the event.

A timeless game

Some of you probably read that and immediately thought baseball.... wrong. Baseball is timeless and it's been around since just after the Civil War, but thats not what I'm talking about.

It doesn't matter how young or how old you are, skill level or physical stance but golf will always be around.

Think about it though - of all the sports you can participate in, amateur or professional, golf is the one with the longest possible career. Football is the most popular but the average career is somewhere in your mid-20's. The longest career was Mort Anderson and he was near 50, but that is one guy. Basketball is short, baseball short, hockey is longer but thats because those Canucks don't know how to quit.

But you can play golf, competitively(!) even, well into your 70's. Guys are on the Senior tour cashing checks. A little more valuable than running all those gassers in the summer...

I'm not dissing on the big sports, and trust me, Golf is not a big sport. Most people could name four PGA players, not named Tiger Woods, if they tried. But I remember playing with a guy and I asked if he played in High School. He responded, "No, I was a track guy... I wish I had played golf in high school because I play a whole lot more golf in my life than I ever did pole vaulting."