Despite losing, Bobcats laid foundation for success
It's been a tough stretch of years for the Basehor-Linwood High School boys basketball program. During my five years of association with the program, they have yet to reach .500 and have suffered through some of the worst seasons in school history.
But it hasn't been for lack of effort. Whether it was when first-time varsity coach Bruce Courtney took over and worked tirelessly to find some way to get things rolling or when he graciously stepped aside and paved the way for Mike McBride to come to town, the Bobcats have given it all they've had.
Unfortunately, they just haven't had all that much. But as my fifth year with the Sentinel quickly turns into my sixth, it's clear to me that better days are just around the corner.
Before they get here, here's a look back at a solid list of the best talent Basehor-Linwood basketball has seen in the past five seasons.
PG -- Austin Knipp -- Class of 2007
Surely everyone in Basehor knows, Austin Knipp is first and foremost a soccer player.
But during his years at BLHS, Knipp has turned into one heck of a basketball player, too.
He's as fearless with a basketball in his hands as he is ferocious with a soccer ball on his feet. He's an incredibly smart player and is just the kind of guy you want running your team.
In addition, he's as competitive as anybody on the floor and constantly finds a way to keep attacking. And although his lack of size has kept him from becoming a big-time player, it hasn't prevented him from being one of the Bobcats' leading scorers and most consistent players.
SG -- Brandon Dye -- Class of 2003
When thinking about this list, Dye's name was the first that came to mind -- and the second and the third.
Dye is hands down the best BLHS basketball player I have covered and it's for a multitude of reasons. He was a great scorer -- with his jumper and on the drive -- a fiery leader and committed himself to the game year round.
Dye suited up with the varsity squad as a freshman and received major minutes as a sophomore. His junior and senior seasons, he was a well-known commodity and one of the biggest reasons other teams always had to prepare for the Bobcats.
At times he was a silky smooth southpaw who had a killer stroke from behind the arc. At other times, he was a raging bull, charging into the lane, drawing contact and getting to the free throw line.
I always thought it was a shame that Dye didn't play on better teams, but even when the losses piled up, he kept a smile on his face.
SF -- Garyn Gorup -- Class of 2004
Like Dye, Gorup was thrown to the wolves at an early age. He played big minutes as a freshman and sophomore and because the Bobcats had very little size in those days, he was often thrust into the paint and asked to battle with much larger players.
But he never wavered. Instead, he stuck with the fundamentals that made him a solid player and played hard every time out. Initially shy and tentative, Gorup became a fierce competitor and showed improvement from year to year. By the time he was a senior, he had turned into the player everyone always wanted him to be.
PF -- Travis Fouts -- Class of 2001
Although I never covered Fouts in a Bobcats uniform I did see him play a handful of times. And from what I saw, it's no wonder I hear tales about the Bobcats once being a blue-collar, tough team that made a serious run at state every season.
Fouts was tough on the inside and crafty on the outside. He used his body well to create his own shot and always seemed to put himself in favorable positions. On the glass, Fouts was an animal. A little like Dennis Rodman in his heyday, Fouts went after every missed shot with relentless pursuit until the ball wound up in his hands or the whistle blew.
As one of the few BLHS players to continue his career in college, Fouts found more success at the next level, earning major accolades at the University of St. Mary.
C -- Joel Vandervelde -- Class of 2005
Vandervelde was a bit of a late bloomer, but his potential was always there. Tentative as a sophomore and junior, Vandervelde's varsity minutes increased each year, but his impact remained minimal.
By the time he was a senior, he broke out of his shell and became a bona fide Kaw Valley League big man.
He was effective inside, even to the point of being the focal point of opposing defenses. He had good touch and finesse and combined it with grit and toughness to be a bear on the boards.
Although he never became a dominant big man, he was always solid. And at a school where quality big men were in short supply, Vandervelde was a memorable player because of the way he battled inside like so few before him had.
PG -- Chandler Schaake -- Class of 2009
Athletic and talented enough to break into the varsity lineup as a freshman, Schaake brought with him a glimmer of hope for the future of the BLHS program.
Although injuries limited his minutes on the court as a freshman, it became clear in the games he played that Schaake had what it took to be a big-time player and a terrific leader in the coming years.
SG -- Brian Gripka -- Class of 2003
Gripka always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Had he been one year younger or one year older, he would've likely been a serious contributor to the BLHS program. Instead, he constantly rotated in and out with other guards around him, limiting his minutes and his potential.
Despite having the deck stacked against him, Gripka found time to shine. Although he was mostly known as a role player, he had a handful of games where he was the team's star, running the point with confidence and burying outside shots one after the next.
SF -- Eric Laffere -- Class of 2003
If someone put another four or five inches on him Eric Laffere would have been an all-league performer. Instead, he was little more than one heck of an undersized hustler.
Laffere was as competitive as they come and game after game he gave up life and limb to help his team. He grabbed rebounds he had no business getting a hand on and occasionally scored big-time point totals simply by willing the ball in the basket. If every player who put on a BLHS jersey had Laffere's heart, the school's win-loss record would have been a lot better in the past five years.
PF -- Adam Smith -- Class of 2004
Smith, like so many BLHS big men, had the right kind of frame to be a big-time player. He was long, athletic and had great body control. All of that translated into a pretty nice career.
Although he was never a huge scorer, he almost always found a way to crack double digits. But Smith wasn't known for his scoring. Instead, he played solid defense, blocked a lot of shots and took pride in controlling the glass.
C -- Eric Peeler -- Class of 2002
Although undersized in most match ups, Peeler used his athleticism and leaping ability to hold his own.
He was a feisty defender who gave fits to his opponents with his length and quickness and an opportunistic offensive player who scored in bunches when the opportunity presented itself. He became the Bobcats go-to scorer almost by default, but did so because he was more aggressive than just about any player he suited up with.