All Varsity Kansas Stories

Collegiate basketball’s youth to be served up quickly

Published Dec. 3 at 12 p.m. | Last updated Dec. 3 at 12:01 p.m.

Collegiate senior Landon Root’s analysis of exactly what the Spartans’ sophomores — all seven of them — can offer this season is limited to physical aspects because he sees no limitations in skills, only in physical maturity.

And even that doesn’t concern Root.

“The toughest thing for them would be size and strength,” Root said. “They are less mature than other seniors and juniors, but on the playing level, it’s equal. Really, it’s just physical, and that’s due to maturity. But I’m not too concerned about it; they’re always in the weight room.”

Collegiate, 15-8 last season, wants to finish in the Class 3A tournament, preferably with its first state title since 2010.

To get there, the Spartans will rely heavily on those eight sophomores: Cameron Christian (6-2 guard), Jack Larsen (5-10 guard), Xzavaier Adams (5-10 guard), Kendall Reed (6-foot guard), Austin Waddell (6-3 forward), Jacob Newlin (6-4 forward), Andrew Murphy (6-4 forward) and Justus Gaphardt (6-foot guard).

“It could be a challenge at some point,” said Larsen, who scored in double figures in three of Collegiate’s final five games. “It’s about how fast we mature as a group. (Coach Mitch Fiegel) has a lot of faith in us, and I think once we all get it figured out and start playing as a team and don’t let our grade level determine how well we play, I think it will work out.”

Does age really matter? Larsen shrugs it off.

“No, age isn’t a factor,” he said. “There’s some younger players on the team that sometimes get the best of the older guys, but I think that’s good. It will make us all better.”

Larsen, Adams and Christian played as freshmen, which will help them be effective immediately.

“When I whine about how young we are, we’re not as young on the court as we are on paper,” Fiegel said. “We’re still sophomores, and everyone will have to be a little patient as we get into December and January and work out some kinks.”

Collegiate starts with Root (six points, five rebounds) and Brodey Dick (five points, four rebounds), who missed the first half of last season with injuries.

“Landon, you know what he’ll bring to the table,” Fiegel said. “He’s your trench guy, your toughness. He’ll battle every second that he’s on the floor. Brodey, he’s poised, without a doubt, to have a great senior year.”

Juniors Jack Copher and Camron Chugg, who had major playing time as sophomores, will also contribute.

Fiegel’s system allows early time to learn on the job and patience. All at once.

The Spartans play a five-in, five-out system, with Fiegel subbing in a new five players every couple minutes. Not only does it keep every player fresh for the crucial fourth quarter, but it allows Fiegel to utilize his depth and also get some time to coach on the bench.

And Collegiate focuses on defense. It’s not necessarily an easier aspect of a game to focus on, but if the Spartans emphasize it like Fiegel expects, then there’s no pressure to score big.

“I don’t think (Collegiate’s youth) will be too much of a factor,” Copher said. “I feel they are all bought in. We’ll be young, but just the athleticism that (the sophomores) bring, that will be a positive. I believe Fiegel has them bought into the system, so they won’t do too much out of their roles.

“I know exactly where they’re coming from. They’ll be nervous this season, but they have nothing to be nervous for. Coach knows they can play. They just have to play their roles.”

During the summer league that Collegiate hosted, there were signs of just how young the Spartans really are. There were mistakes, but that’s understandable.

“We showed our youth,” Copher said. “They’re not really true sophomores yet at that point, having just finished their freshman year. But once they get a second year of Fiegel practices in them, they’ll be very successful.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.