Future bright for BLHS basketball
Emergence of freshmen gives programs more reason to smile
Freshman squad, then junior varsity, then varsity.
That's the route that most high school basketball players traditionally take. But, for a select few, tradition takes a back seat to athleticism and potential and they start out playing right away with the older kids. That was the case for Basehor-Linwood freshmen Chandler Schaake, Bren Koontz and Amber Jeannin this year.
All three became important contributors on the varsity basketball teams in their first year of high school. Schaake became the Bobcats starting point guard just a few games into the season and showed poise beyond his years. Koontz came off the bench for most of the season, but was an explosive scorer and fearless when taking the ball to the hoop. Jeannin was a key reserve who established herself as one of her team's best passers and on-ball defenders.
The three freshmen all had impressive seasons, especially considering that they were playing against eighth-graders just last year. There's really no comparison between the junior high game and the varsity game and all three said parts of the adjustment were challenging.
"Just the speed of the game and how much bigger and stronger everyone is," Schaake said. "How much experience they have and their knowledge of the game."
It didn't take long for Schaake to adjust to the physicality of varsity play. In his first home game he scored six points and added five assists and three steals against Immaculata. A few games later he was a starter and never looked back. He averaged 5.2 points per game on the season and racked up a team-high 54 assists, an average of three per game. He was also second on the team in steals, despite missing the last three games with a broken foot.
"Chandler had seniors riding him up and down the floor every night trying to get in his head and I think he handled that very well," BLHS coach Mike McBride. "There was just a couple games all year when I thought he really played like a freshman."
Girls generally arrive in high school more physically developed than their male counterparts, but playing varsity was still no easy task for Koontz and Jeannin, who are 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-4, respectively.
"There's a lot more big and strong people, so you have to be a lot tougher with the ball," Jeannin said.
For Koontz and Jeannin the transition to varsity contributer wasn't quite as quick as Schaake's, for the simple reason that the Lady Bobcats were very deep and it was hard to get playing time. Koontz admitted she felt some nerves before each varsity game at the thought of going up against juniors and seniors.
"I don't think I ever really got over being nervous," Koontz said. "After about the fourth game I think I just kind of learned how to deal with it."
If Koontz was nervous it certainly didn't show on the court by the end of the season. On Feb. 21 she had one of the best games of any Kaw Valley League freshman this year. She led the Lady 'Cats to an overtime victory over Piper with 20 points and nine rebounds, just short of a double-double. She went 6 of 7 from the field in that game and got to the free throw line 15 times.
Jeannin didn't put up gaudy statistics, but provided a steady backcourt presence, much like Schaake. She had two assists and three steals in a win over Perry-Lecompton and had three assists and a steal in the Lady Bobcats' first victory against Mill Valley. In that game she also showed good chemistry with her sophomore sister, Ashley, who finished with five points, five assists and four rebounds.
Playing with and against older siblings is something that Koontz, Jeannin and Schaake all have in common and may have helped them perform well against older players on the varsity teams.
Whatever it was, Bobcat fans are glad for it, because they've got three more years to watch the talented trio.