Three shooters return to lead Thunderbird offense from last year's championship team
Four-time defending Heart of the Plains high school boy's basketball champion Skyline held its first practice at 5:30 a.m. last Monday.
“All 22 players showed up ready from the get-go,” T-Birds coach Hagen Turner said on Tuesday afternoon.
That’s the good news, because Skyline might need the extra mental toughness and work in 2021-22. The T-Birds’ repeating as conference champions very likely will be more difficult than getting gelatin to stick to a tree.
Skyline graduated all but one starter from its 15-7, state tournament team from last season. And (gulp!) top returning scorer Nate Adams, a dynamic guard who averaged 15 points per-game a year ago, moved to Hesston for his senior year.
Only three T-Birds varsity players return, albeit all elite student-athletes who will collect double-digit minutes in most games this season:
. Ty Binford, a 6-foot-3 senior post player
“Ty is a pure scorer, and we’ll learn heavily on him for offense,” said Turner. “He’s a strong finisher who likes to face the basket.”
. Leo Egging, a senior guard.
“Leo’s an excellent three-point shooter, quiet and leads by example,” Turner said.
. Ryan Miller, a junior point guard.
“Ryan started every game last season, and had minutes as a freshman,” said Turner. “He’s an excellent on-ball defender who led us in rebounding last season, averaging 6.5 boards a game. He scored at about a six points per-game clip a year ago, and exploded for a 24-point game against Medicine Lodge.”
Other T-Birds players are also being asked to step up their games, including:
. Brayden Berens, a sophomore guard.
“Brayden’s extremely physical, who likes to play high-intensity defense. Nobody comes to practice and works harder,” Turner said.
. Gage Egging, a sophomore guard.
“Gage loves to play defense, loves to fly around and play fast,” said Turner. “He’s definitely fighting for a starting spot.”
. Wyatt Snider, a senior guard-forward.
“He’s our team leader, who never missed a practice all summer and gets everyone else to compete,” said Turner.
Turner said while last year’s team was big and long, this season’s smaller team will rely on its speed, quickness and physical and mental toughness. And continued early-morning workouts won't hurt.
“We’ll push the ball up the floor and play as fast as we can go, try to spread everybody out and get up as many shots as possible,” Turner added.
Norwich, which graduated only one starter, is the heavy favorite to win the Heart of the Plains this season.
The T-Birds will open the season Dec. 3 at Kiowa County and plays it first four games on the road.
“Kiowa likes to fly around and will be a tough test for us,” Turner said.
2021-22 Skyline Schedule
Dec. 3 – at Kiowa County
Dec. 7 – at Otis-Bison
Dec. 9 – at Kiowa County
Dec. 11 – at Medicine Lodge
Dec. 14 – Kinsley
Dec. 17 – South Central
Dec. 18 – at Larned
Jan. 4 – Lyons
Jan. 7 – at Central Christian
Jan. 11 – at Pretty Prairie
Jan. 14 – Fairfield
Feb. 1 – at Stafford
Feb. 4 – at Burrton
Feb. 8 – Attica
Feb. 11 – Cunningham
Feb. 15 – Norwich
Feb. 22 – South Barbour