Greetings one and all and welcome to Duerrisms for the week of January 31st. And welcome to the relative calm before the storm.
Big Week ahead for your friendly neighborhood Sports Team with the KHQA/SUBWAY Superfan Shootout on tap Friday and Saturday February 7th and 8th as well as all the NLI Signing Week craziness. And on the back end, we've got Wrestling and the Girls Basketball Postseason about to rev up. Suffice it to say, we will be in hyper-drive from now until the end of March. Would not have it any other way....
Tune in all week long to KHQA for breakdowns of all the matchups for the Superfan Shootout. It's our humble goal to get to every local school to give you the flavor of this unique event. All your ticket info can be found here : http://www.connecttristates.com/superfanshootouttickets/
For those asking: DO or DIE BOWL invitations should start being mailed in mid-to-late February, after we have cleared the deck on the Shootout. As always, we kindly ask that if you receive an invitation, you let us know your intentions of playing (or not) by returning the pledge sheet so we can plan accordingly with our alternates list. Speaking plainly, there are a lot of politics I have to play in building a roster representative of every school in our area and yet still filling up every position we need. Please understand that if you don't get an initial invitation, it's not a slight on your talent but rather me trying to figure out how to fill out the numbers game in the most "encompassing" way possible. To wit, we've had guys who were fourth or fifth alternates win Game MVP honors. So please don't take it too personally. It's just the nature of that beast.
LAST CHANCE to nominate a deserving Senior (3.5 GPA) for KHQA Student Athlete of the Week honors. Our committee meets on February 10th to designate the last 12 honorees; kids who will be eligible for our year end scholarship as well. Time to put the bug in your favorite Athletic Director's ear. There are still a half dozen schools in our area who have nominated not a single candidate this year. Let's remedy this. Now.
Also...please e-mail us any National Letter of Intent Signing Ceremonies you'd like us to try and cover here: email@example.com and we will do our very best to accommodate all our deserving Student Athletes.
2013/2014 KHQA STUDENT ATHLETE OF THE WEEK PRESENTED BY SUBWAY, CELL TECH AND PETERS HEATING AND AIR
Now in its ninth year, The KHQA STUDENT ATHLETE OF THE WEEK program strives to honor the Tri State's outstanding Senior achievers. Every Wednesday, we will profile one Senior (minimum 3.5 GPA and participation in one sport) chosen by independent nominating committee for their outstanding accomplishments. And from that pool of 30 honorees, we will award one scholarship each at year's end to the Top Male and Female Student Athlete in our region. Our next committee meeting AND YOUR LAST CHANCE TO GET A WORTHY CANDIDATE CONSIDERED is February 10th. Your favorite High School Athletic Directors and Principals have forms in hand now. Or you can print one out from our website. Help them out by nominating/suggesting a deserving candidate you know from your community. Again, the minimum bar for inclusion is a 3.5 GPA and participation in one Sport or State Activities Board Recognized Activity. And because of the Scholarship component of the award, we can only recognize High School Seniors who graduate in May/June before our annual Awards Banquet. This is a highly competitive process and we are usually inundated with incredible candidates. In that spirit, I suggest that you get your nominee of choice into the voting pool as early as possible to get him/her as many different long looks in the process as possible.
Week One: MACKENZIE GROSSMANN, Mark Twain Softball/Basketball/Track
Week Two: MITCHELL NICHOLS, Hannibal Football/Basketball/Track
Week Three: LANE DAVIS, Unity Basketball/Football
Week Four: BRETT GENENBACHER, Liberty Cross Country/Basketball/Track
Week Five: ALEMA STONE, Macomb Football
Week Six: LUKE WATSON, Quincy Notre Dame Cross Country
Week Seven: BETHANY RAGER, Scotland County Softball/Basketball
Week Eight: MELANIE BLASE, Hannibal Volleyball, Basketball, Track and Field
Week Nine: ZACH BURRY, Quincy High Golf/Basketball
Week Ten: COLE PHILLIPS, Camp Point Central Football/Basketball/Baseball
Week Eleven: CASSIDY JOHNSTON, South Shelby Basketball/Softball/Track/Cross Country
Week Twelve: RACHEL MENCEL, West Prairie Volleyball
Week Thirteen: HAILEA HADSALL, Macomb Golf
Week Fourteen: GABBIE WILEY, Hannibal Volleyball
Week Fifteen: CONNOR WOLF, Liberty Cross Country/Track/Basketball
Week Sixteen: EANN DILLER, Camp Point Central Football
2014 KHQA SUBWAY SUPERFAN SHOOTOUT PREVIEW....BY THE LETTER
A is for ARD, NOLAN
Few area lead guards have played as well, with such little fanfare, as Illini West's Nolan Ard. And much of the Chargers resurgence since the early "darker" times this season directly translates to the progress that Nolan has made in finding and ultimately settling into his role. Perhaps no player in the Superfan will be tested more defensively in this event as Nolan finds himself going nose to nose with Lanark Eastland All Stater Dalton Shaner, who comes averaging 25 points per game on 55% shooting from the field and a 41% clip from beyond the arc. Shaner had an outlier game this season where he put 45 points on the board on 16 of 20 shooting from the field and a 7 of 10 effort at the line. The kid is probably the most explosive player to set foot in this game since Jon Gilliam and for IW to have a chance to play with the state ranked Cougars
Ard is going to have to check him effectively.
B is BASTERT, GRACI
One last go round in this format for Illini West's other luminous point guard. Geez, it seems like only yesterday Miss Graci wowed us with her stellar Freshman year debut in dropping 27 points and earning MVP honors in the 2011 Showcase. She's since gone on to score some 55 total points in this event and with a good day against Bowling Green will likely became the highest scoring non-QND Lady Raider in this history of this event. She's also the reigning Terry Kennedy Award winner from the Beardstown Tournament on major reason IW has finally (long overdue, by my accounting) checked into the IHSA Girls State rankings this week.
D is for DANVILLE
Superfan Guru Dennis Schickedanz has been working a long time to secure the Southeast Iowa powerhouse for our Shootout and has locked the Bears into a Saturday Night showdown with the host QND Raiders. Post Soukop Twins, the Danville Program continues to just grind away wins with a younger, more balanced approach. As of this writing, the Bears were 12-2 and receiving votes in the latest Iowa 1A Poll. They remain one of the most explosive teams in Iowa, averaging 76 points per game (second in the state per Iowa Quick Stats) and have four players averaging double digits a night; all of them underclassmen, which certainly makes them an intriguing "keeper" going forward for the Shootout if we can make that work. Mason Speer (17.6 ppg, 6 apg) at guard and Forwards Connor Hoelzen (16.4 ppg, 6 rpg) and Hunter Peebler (15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) are the main names to watch here, all of them Juniors. Excited to have these guys aboard this year. And with Fort Madison slated to join us next season, we are cultivating a very appreciated foothold in Southeast Iowa for this event.
E is EN GARDE
Which is just French Fancy talk for extolling the virtues of one of the better all local backcourt battles we've crafted between the Saukees and the Chiefs. Drew this pairing up with great glee last Spring. Granted, Keokuk and Pittsfield have both experienced their share of peaks and valleys at times this season. Stille we are thrilled to see Jonny Dahl and Wayde Smith go heads up for the first time in their high school careers in a pairing of Top Ten Tri-State guards. Dahl is coming off a 32 point tour de force effort against West Hancock and is one of the three best volume long range snipers (along with Macomb's Blake Lowderman and Palmyra's Brock Butler) in Tri State Basketball. He has also significantly evolved as a pure point guard and the Junior has great floor vision. Wayde Smith is a power forward in a two guard's body who can do anything you ask of him on the floor. He can stroke the three pointer or slither/muscle his way to the basket with Marcus Smart like effectiveness/devastation. Both these kids may easily go for 30 apiece in this game. Worth getting to The Pit early for on Sunday Afternoon.
F is for FAN FRIENDLY
Basketball is only part of the sell of the Superfan Shootout. We want this to be more than just a basketball showcase, it's our Roundball Summit for fans to get together, see high level players and unique matchups that exist nowhere else. We've priced the tickets in a manner that encourages volume viewings in allowing you to see all twelve games for one low price, and to come and go as you please while doing so. You want to watch a little basketball, catch a movie and come back for Rolling Meadows/QND Girls? Great. You want to take root in The Pit for an entire Saturday for 14 hours of basketball? Even better.You don't have to leave the confines. We've got great food, hospitality, and a chance for you to share your opinions on what you've seen this winter with a host of fellow basketball junkies from around the area who you might not ordinarily get to meet. Or if you just always wanted to chew me out over something I said...more power to you. Come on down. We just want you in the building supporting great kids, great coaches, and extending the rich high school basketball culture that makes the Tri States so great.
G is for GLASGOW, ALEXIS
One of three Division One recruits plying their trade for Rolling Meadows, currently the third ranked team in Class 4A Girls Basketball and a 2013 Final Four Qualifier. I am always going to be be partial to the original QND/Clopton Girls Series as the best games we've seen in this format because they really made the Superfan what it is now. That established, I certainly concede that QND/Meadows last winter (which the Lady Raiders won 87-82 in Overtime) was as entertaining/satisfying a watch from start to finish a high school girls basketball game as I have ever seen. Not sure how two teams were able to play that well, for that long, at that break neck tempo. Glasgow, who is pledged to Northwestern next season, is a high volume wing who can flat find points. And at nearly 6 feet tall, her shot is exceedingly difficult to contest. In early January, she was averaging nearly 18 points, 4 rebounds and two steals per game. I am guessing here she becomes the defensive draw for QND's Cassidy Foley, who possesses as much bounce as any girls basketball player in our area. I would suspect Miss Foley's efforts in checking Miss Glasgow should be one of the real highlights of the days true marquee battle.
H is for HILDEBRAND, CODY
Let's disavow ourselves of any notion someone other than Payson Seymour's dynamic senior is going to win the Tri State's mythical scoring crown in 2014. Cody is scoring at a 23.3 points per game clip so far and doing so on 72% shooting from the field. That's a staggering rate of efficiency for a kid who is barely over six feet tall and who does the bulk of his work from six feet and in. I've said it for two years now, this is a kid with one outlier skill that likes of which I think we've not seen in this area from a player in his size: a relentless ability to fill up the basket from short range through/in spite of contact, defense, or the size of the impediment in front of him. I've spent long hours trying to discern why it is no one can ever seem to get a good contest in on his shots from close range. Obviously, he's incredibly strong and decisive with the basketball and he's got a better wingspan than you realize down low, which allows him to "stretch through" defenses and deliver the ball from attack angles that are surprising for a kid his size. He's also incredible quick in the post; both with his footwork and perhaps more importantly, with his decision making. Hildebrand is almost innate in his ability to set up a defender with a feint or a deke type move and then go to his intended finish. Honestly, I think there is some kind of really incredible Basketball Masters Thesis of Sports Science piece that could be done on the Tao of Cody Hildebrand but I am kind of done over-thinking it. It's just better to watch and enjoy this unrelenting force do his work. He tormented Madison in the block last season and I am not sure this version has as much defensive firepower as last years did. Advantage Hildebrand.
I is for IMPROVEMENT
Coming off a rough week of basketball at The Bowl, Bob Sheffield needs his Quincy Notre Dame Raider squad to find some traction. QND should come into the Superfan well rested and plenty hungry. And as we have seen at various times this season, particularly over the Christmas Holiday, that when things are going right the Raiders can be dangerous. Heck, the Fourth Quarter vs Jacksonville version of QND looked awful darned salty. There just hasn't been a whole lot of consistency or sustained confidence in that endeavor; which is endemic when you are playing a lot of young guys and you graduate kids the quality of Alex Fitch and Matthew McPherson. This was always going to be a transitional year for QND. The critical component of that is ending on a crescendo. Both Elsberry and Danville are good teams. Neither is superhuman. A win over either would be a very good feather in the cap heading towards the close of the regular season and would be a chance for the Frosh/Soph faction here (so critical to the long range health of this program) to really assert itself with a "we're ready to be varsity guys" moment. When Drew Eaton is shooting with confidence, when the Walz Twins play free and easy instead of with the weight of the world on their shoulders, when Tony Stella is healthy and able to do pesky, hustle play Tony Stella things and when Austin Ridder realizes just how capable he is; that creates the right dynamic for kids like Carter Cramsey, Aubrey Reis, Justin Bottorff, and Johnny Ray to feed off. And when all thos cogs are moving in the right direction, QND has a lot of admirable assets and some real potential to create some fun on the hardwoods. From what I saw on Saturday, these kids right now are just pressing themselves too hard. More than anything, this team needs to just ignore what the win/loss record says at this point and go out, relax, and play they basketball they've been taught. We've seen enough evidence in spots that when they do, they will be just fine.
J is for JAMS
Between Elsberry's 6'9" Power Forward Kenny Lesley, Payson Seymour Jumping Jack Gage Klitz, and Madison's 6'8" Arlando Cook, I tend to think those of you who are devotees of the dunk will get your money's worth next weekend.
K is for JACKIE KEMPH
Without question, she is now my all time favorite visiting player (read non-local) to ever take part in the KHQA SUBWAY Superfan Shootout and the fact that she is coming back for a second showing was met with resounding enthusiasm in these parts. The Rolling Meadows Point Guard, who along with teammate Jenny Vliet is pledged to Saint Louis next year, is the high school girls version of Damian Lillard. She runs the floor, sees the game, and plays at a completely different speed than anyone else. She is nothing shy of an uptempo magician. As a Junior she averaged 20 points, 7.6 dimes, and nearly 3 and a half steals a game. And she's going heads up again this season with arguably the best all around athlete in Tri State High School girls sports in Kristen Gengenbacher. Look, if you are one of those holdouts who still doesn't believe girls basketball holds any interest for you, come to the game and watch these two girls go heads up. If you aren't entertained, come find me after the game, and I will buy you a sandwich or something. That's how confident I am in the show we are putting on in our marquee game.
L is for LESLEY, KENNY
The numbers on Elsberry's junior man-child are as impressive as any stat line you will read this year. He is going for 22 points a game. He compliments those scoring numbers with an area leading 14 and half rebounds per contest. And his shot blocking numbers are actually down this season at just over 5 swats a game as opponents have wise up and stopped attacking him. He's gotten Division One recruiting interest from both Iowa and Wisconsin...but for the most part his core pursuers remain the likes of Missouri State, Creighton, Boise State, and Central Michigan.
M is for MEASURING UP
On first blush, the Knox County/West Hancock pairing may just seem a rare coupling of two teams with nice talent who don't ordinarily play each other. The rationale for this game goes a little deeper. Eagles Boss Zach Summers is a Hancock County kid with a unique and close proximitied insight into what has made Reno Pinkston one of the most successful and respected coaches in area history. I also know full well the esteem Zach holds Reno in. And in that sense, when you are trying to build your program into a powerhouse, who better to measure it against "The Man" himself. In that spirit, this was a game both coaches really pushed for in the pairing process and I know for a fact that it means a great deal for Zach to have this chance not only to play Reno, but just as importantly, to pick his brain afterwards in ways to get his program to that type level. We've done these kind of unique coaching pairings before (see also Clay Vass vs Matt Thomas a few years back) and I really think it is one of those unique subplots that enhances the entire experience....
To Be Continued.....
For those of you wondering, that was in fact 2013 KHQA Sportsperson of the Year Mikaela Foecke of Holy Trinity High School on the latest edition of the MTV Show "Ridiculousness" knocking an opponent senseless with one of her spikes. The rest of the nation is starting to catch on....
Quincy University Football Coach Tom Pajic continues to strengthen his recruiting foothold in the Central State Eight with a pair of major gets over the last week. News broke Friday Night on Twitter that Rochester Quarterback Robbie Kelley announced his verbal pledge the Hawks. Klley's one season as a starter for Derek Leonard, a noted QB guru, was a pretty darned impressive one. He threw for 31 touchdowns, against just 8 interceptions, had a 117 QB rating and finished the year with 2919 passing yards to go along with his state championship....
On Wednesday, KHQA first told you Jacksonville Wide Receiver Kody Wood would also be joining the QU Fold, giving Kelley a major target for the future. Wood posted over 1200 receiving yards in Mark Grounds spread offense this season and his coach calls the newest Hawk a tremendous route runner and a superb competitor. Factor in Macomb product Jarrod Rockhold's transfer to QU from Lindenwood/Belleville and it appears to found a nice foothold in his own backyard.
One more note on Hawk Football Recruiting. Don't not be surprised is the Class of 2014 features an infusion of Junior College Offensive Linemen. I am told reliably that Pajic has made it a major point of emphasis to upgrade the quality of his Line Play significantly and that the Hawks were open to finding "jump start" guys via the JUCO route to get that done.
On the Hannibal Pirate recruiting front, I am told that talented Running Back Mitch Nichols is leaning towards continuing his career and his education (stellar student/future doctor) at Truman State. That would not be a huge surprise and I believe he would be a legacy student in Kirksville. The more interesting recruiting derby in Pirate Country may involve Lijah Harrison, who missed nearly his entire Senior Season with an injury. I am told he has significant interest in Missouri S&T (wants to study engineering)
One time Quincy High Running Back Mikale Wilbon has landed at Nebraska after decommiting from Vanderbilt in the way of James Franklin's departure. Shudder to think how good this year's Blue Devil team would have been with Wilbon, Malique Robbins, and Jordan Osborne all in the mix rushing the football.
Looks like QHS Middle Linebacker Malik Bondon's soft verbal to South Dakota State will hold up. The school has announced a signing time on February 5th for Bondon to ink his NLI.
Brown County Speedster Brady Long, who I actually think was far too undervalued as a Defensive Talent in media circles this season, has pledged the Culver Stockton Football Program and will sign on Monday. Can't stress enough what a really astute get that is for the Wildcat Staff. Clearly Coach Duvendeck and his crew are doing a nice job starting to kick over stones and find the right guys who may not be on everyone's easy radar.
Hearing rumblings that Central All State Linebacker/Offensive Lineman Michael Johnson may be McKendree bound.
It's probably a stretch to draw a parallel to the 2014 NBA Draft Class but at least in similar fashion, there is a renewed enthusiasm among area small college basketball coaches for this year's senior prospects. The biggest name in the pond is obviously Payson Seymour's Cody Hildebrand, who seems to rapt attention of every Division Three, NAIA, and JUCO program from one corner of our viewing area to the next. But in talking to coaches, it became very obvious very quickly that there is very high regard for Pittsfield's Wayde Smith and Macomb's duo of DJ Williams and Blake Lowderman among many of those same schools. I have also heard coaches espouse strong interest in Payson Seymour's Lance Buhlig (now verbally committed as of Thursday to MacMurray) and Liberty's Michael Blewett; though I am told the latter is going to be a very specific fit for a specific type of college given his career/vocational goal and life calling (if Michael chooses to even play basketball at all at the next level) Bottom line, it's a sellers market right now. So don't be surprised if you see the kids I've mentioned in the stands in a lot of different college gyms over the next few weeks; trying to find out what school/program best fits their total needs.
John Wood Trailblazers are riding a streak of 10 straight victories and are now 21st in the latest NJCAA Division Two Poll. It's probably not hurting the cause of the above coaches hunting local talent that Brad Hoyt continues to a great job blending it into his program every year. I am not sure anyone else saw Illini West's Brody Gronewold being this good, this fast at the college level. He's been a revelation within that squad and between Gronewold and Paxton Harmon, local fans have ample incentive to check out a game at Mountain Dew Court.
On the pledge front, talented Macomb Golfer and KHQA Student Athlete of the Week honoree Hailea Hadsall gave her verbal commitment to McKendree over the weekend. Terrific young lady who will likely prove a steal for her new coaches.
Nothing yet to report on the recruiting front for talented QND Lady Raider Golfer Lucy Clark. Best I could find out is that a decision could be coming "maybe soon."
Few things are as difficult in life as finding a parking place for Championship Night at the Tony Lenzini Invitational. And few are more worth it. Love the enthusiasm for High School Basketball in every corner of the Tri States. It's not like this everywhere in the world. Never take the support for sports in our market for grant.
Speaking of support: time for more people to climb on the Louisiana Bulldog Basketball Bandwagon. Derrick Branstetter has crafted a very effective, fun to watch basketball team that looks like it may finally breakthrough for an elusive Tournament Title at Bowling Green this weekend. Great three point shooters and a legit, bruise inducing big man who loves to battle in Tristan Castiglia. That's just a recipe for fun. These guys will be a nasty out come the postseason.