BLHS lands 3 on all-league list
Kaw Valley League championship inspires coaches to honor trio of Bobcats
A banner year of Basehor-Linwood boys basketball will end with a hoarding of individual awards.
Last Monday the Kaw Valley League named Austin Knipp and Tanner Swafford to all-league first team. Sophomore point guard Chandler Schaake was awarded honorable mention.
"You can see a turn in the program," Knipp said. "(The awards) are obviously showing what we have been doing in the offseason is working. We are starting to gain confidence and turn this thing around."
Swafford was direct.
"It lets everyone know that we are done not being good," Swafford said.
In coach Mike McBride's first two seasons, only one player was honored. Austin Knipp was an honorable mention selection last year.
"Well, Austin was our first honorable mention last year in three or four years," McBride said. "That was a small step. Obviously, having two on the first team is another step up."
Swafford made the most statistical improvements. The junior forward's scoring average leaped nearly 10 points per game this season, from seven to a team-leading 16.8.
"To improve by 10 points per game, you never expect that as a coach," McBride said. "We are hoping for people to do that next season."
Although he was the leading scorer on a team that went undefeated in Kaw Valley League play, Swafford was surprised to garner the first-team nomination.
"Well I had never gotten (an award) in any other sport," Swafford said. "It was a shocker. I thought maybe I would get honorable mention. I will be happy to put that on my coat."
Swafford finished the season averaging 7.7 rebounds per game, 1.8 steals per game, and shot 54 percent from the field.
"He is so diverse," McBride said. "He is very effective from 15 feet in. Towards the end he was hitting 17-footers in the face of the kid from Baldwin (in the second-round of sub-state). He also averaged 2.7 offensive rebounds per game. The thing about Tanner is that he is a smart basketball player."
Knipp improved his scoring average by three points per game despite playing with a much more prolific offensive supporting cast.
"I didn't know how much more Austin could get out of himself, so improving his scoring average by three was instrumental," McBride said.
Knipp centered his off-season work on the constructive critiscm that McBride gave him during their closing talk after last season.
"He talked about what I had to work on over the offseason," Knipp said. "He wanted me to raise my rebounding and drop the turnovers. He also wanted me to improve my three-point shot, and work on my jump shot."
Knipp took everything to heart. This season he averaged 15.7 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. He shot 39 percent from three-point land and 81 percent from the free throw line.
"I was pretty excited (about the award)," Knipp said. "I feel like I should have gotten something higher than honorable mention last year, so this was nice. It was just icing on the cake."
Even the most casual observer recognized Knipp's contributions as an offensive gunner. His coach believed his greatest asset to the team came on the other end.
"The thing about him is that is the one place we will miss him," McBride said. "We put him on the other team's best player. That says a lot about the 2 steals, because the best player isn't going to give you the ball. That says a lot about what he can do. He took a lot of pressure off of our kids defensively. It was his will to win.
"He was very quick compared to other players, but I wouldn't call him a super special athlete. He just had more of a will to win than other players. That Piper game, I kept asking him if he wanted to come out, he was guarding the Player of the Year, Nate Daniels, in the post, and he didn't want to come out."
Daniels ended the game scoring two points in the final 14 minutes as the Bobcats stormed back to take the victory.
McBride's dynamic offensive players were perfect complements to each other.
"The two of them complement each other so well," McBride said. "When Austin makes his first move, he is by you. They are two totally different kids to guard. If you spend your time guarding Tanner, Austin will get open. When Mill Valley decided to box-and-one Austin, Tanner was open."
Knipp was thankful to have a fully capable supporting cast this season.
"It was great," Knipp said. "It is a lot easier than the other team being able to key on one guy last year or the year before. This year you could try to key on Swafford and me, and about everyone else could shoot the ball. It made things easier for us."
Like Swafford, Schaake was surprised by his inclusion on the list, as well.
"I am pretty excited, I didn't expect to get it," Schaake said. "Coach says I am too hard on myself. I feel like I could have done better."
Schaake averaged 6.2 points and just under 3 rebounds per game. He dished a team-high 89 assists compared to 60 turnovers.
"I think when the game was big, he stepped up," McBride said. "That is what some of the coaches saw. He played well against St. Joe Benton, Piper, Mill Valley. They recognized how important he was for the team. He made the show go.
"Chandler controls the pace of the entire game. Against Imac, we ran. We knew they liked to play fast, so I said, 'Let's run.' St. Joe Benton, we said, 'Don't hurry.' He plays at any pace I ask."
McBride would like Schaake to take a more active role in the offense next season.
"We let Chandler get away with some things as a sophomore that we won't let him get away with as a junior," McBride said. "Just taking care of the ball won't be good enough. He will have to score, and defensively he will have to step up. He won't be able to rely on the seniors."
McBride will have two returning honored players for his first time at BLHS. He hopes his players will use the recognition as motivation.
"It's time to step up and go to the next level," McBride said. "We want to go to state. We can't rest. We need to go out and get someone. Hopefully they take it as motivation instead of a reward."