Basehor-Linwood boys take aim at KVL title No. 3
Mike McBride is in his fifth year of coaching basketball at Basehor-Linwood High School. He successfully led a class of basketball players to back-to-back Kaw Valley League championships.
The Bobcats have been a contender in the Class 4A sub-state tournaments, but fallen frustratingly short of a trip to state the last two years.
Those players who helped him turnaround the program have graduated — this is a new beginning.
“We have called this a new era,” McBride said. “The first four years are the easy years. Kids are tired of losing and want to win. They do what you say. The next wave of kids we have worked in junior high, when they are in seventh and eighth grade. Now are they going to have the same type of work ethic, or are they going to become complacent?”
If the players are willing to work, then the Bobcats are capable of going from a program that plays well when a talented class arrives on campus to one that is a consistent contender for a state tournament spot.
“We are going into a five- or six-year run that we have a lot of talent coming up,” he said. “I am more excited about that than even one season. Now, you can say we are on the border of a state trip every year, lets go. That is what we are working on, and I am not saying (we) can’t go this year.”
There are pieces to work with this season. The trick is determining where players are going to play. Just a week into the season, McBride is teaching a young group of players the intangibles of Bobcats basketball.
“We are just trying to figure out where everyone is at,” he said. “We are not sure what offense we are going to run. We are seeing what players can do and trying to figure it out.”
The answers to Basehor-Linwood’s questions begin at the guard position.
Guards Chandler Schaake, Anthony Pierce and Mark Vaca return for BLHS.
“Those three guards, I would put up against anyone in the metro,” McBride said. “They are experienced and all played at least one season. They don’t turn the ball over, don’t shoot bad shots and can control the game.”
Those players give Basehor-Linwood the luxury of playing a fast, up-tempo style, or playing the game at a slow deliberate pace. New faces will dot the Bobcats’ interior.
“We do not have a lot of experience coming back,” McBride said. “We lost some good size last year.”
There are names that could fill those spots, but McBride is taking a wait-and-see approach to who will start.
One of the challenges is preparing younger interior players for the rigors of a high school schedule. Players have to learn the toughness of varsity basketball, and while he acknowledges there is talent at the younger levels, there is a difference between a 15-year-old going up against a senior.
“These kids have not played against seniors that are tired of hearing about Basehor-Linwood winning two league titles in a row,” McBride said. “We are trying to figure out how to simulate that, I am not sure you can.”
This new crop of players might have more natural talent than previous classes. The players are capable of putting the basketball on the floor and creating opportunities to score off the dribble. Currently, more players capable of playing significant minutes are on the team.
The key will be whether those players can match the previous group’s work ethic.
“Kids in the past worked so hard,” McBride said. “We had some things to work past, but man you could not ask for any better effort than what those kids gave.”
Today, he talks to his players about carrying out that legacy and outworking the competition to become better players. So far, players are responding.
“Right now they look focused,” McBride said. “We have had better practices than I have had in 11 years as far as kids concentrating and getting things done. If that is a sign as far as improving everyday, which is a goal of ours, then we are on our way.”
The Bobcats open the season on the road Dec. 9, against Osage City. The game will be at Osawatomie High School.
“Usually the first tournament I don’t take players unless I am going to play them, because I don’t want to waste playing time,” McBride said. “Now, if we had to leave today, I would take 10 kids; eight is the most I have taken.”