By Sports Editor Peter Holland Jr.
The first few games are the toughest for the McPherson High School boys basketball team. This year won’t be any different in Kurt Kinnamon’s 25th season with the Bullpups.
The boys open up the season at home against Andover High School on Friday. Andover is ranked 10th in Class 5A KBCA Preseason Standings. Then next week the they will be on the road to take on the Andover Central, the reigning Class 5A State Champs, and Derby High School, which is ranked No. 10 in Class 6A. The Bullpups, ranked seventh in the standings, hope to avoid another 0-3 start and make a statement before taking on league rival, Buhler High School.
“It has always been our belief that you get better by playing the best competition possible,” Kinnamon said. “Playing competition of this caliber will give us an early indication of where we are and what we need to improve on.”
Cody Stufflebean is the only starter back for the Bullpups, and Kinnamon hopes to be back in basketball shape sooner rather than later after another strong football season.
“Cody came through football relatively healthy and is just starting to get his basketball legs under him,” Stufflebean said. “I would hope that by Christmas break he will be back in the kind of shape that he wants to be in.”
Outside of Stufflebean, McPherson has more size and athleticism compared to last year. Guys like Seth Madron, Cooper Courtney and Sam Pyle have been focusing on basketball throughout the offseason and are expected to step forward in the starting lineup.
“You can really tell that all of our guys, but especially the top seven, have put in a tremendous amount of time and love to play,” Kinnamon said. “I am really excited to see them get on the floor and compete on Friday night.”
Kinnamon also mentioned Jayton Alexander stepping into a leadership role, and the Bullpups staying on the same page.
“We have had a number of players step up into being very good leaders,” Kinnamon said. “Jayton Alexander is one of the most vocal and enthusiastic players we have ever had and I am really pleased with the whole group and their ability to communicate and help each other.”
The Trojans went 11-10 last season and returned two of their top scorers. Harper Jonas scored 24 points the last time to two teams meet. They also have a pair of young 6-foot-5 players in Jack Johnson, who started as a freshman last season, and Jack Taylor, who is a freshman this season to stretch the field and play on the perimeter.
“A big concern for us is the ability of their bigger players to step out behind the arc and make shots,” Kinnamon said. “We will have to limit them to one shot on the offensive end. Our team has really impressed me with their ability to move defensively and be in the right positions.”
Tipoff for Friday’s matchup will start immediately after the 2019 Wall of Fame ceremony.