There’s a new man in charge of City League athletics in J. Means and he, and others, have dropped the ball by not moving Friday night’s Heights-North basketball game to a bigger venue.
As it is, that boy-girl double-header will be played at the quaint but very small North gym, which might be able to accommodate around 1,200 people, I’m guessing, if they sit on one another’s lap and promise not to breathe.
That’s not nearly a big enough place for what should be an exciting boys game that will feature two of the top players in City League history – Heights senior’ Perry Ellis and North junior Conner Frankamp. Both are headed to Kansas after their respective high school careers.
Means told me today that it’s too late to try and move the game to Wichita State’s Koch Arena or any other bigger venue, although WSU associate athletic director Brad Pittman, who is in charge of athletic facilities, said there was still time for arrangements to be altered at WSU.
Even so, this game will not be moved, Means said.
“At this point, we’re not going to do anything this late in the game,” he said. “But it makes me think about it, makes me start to think ahead and look at what we might be able to do.”
Means said security and game management issues could not be resolved at this late date.
I’m not placing all of the blame on Means, who is still learning in his new job. I’m surprised he didn’t get some help from his predecessor, Bill Faflick, or from administrators at Heights and North. This game has been looming for months and it’s not as if Ellis and Frankamp just burst on to scene.
I was telling some of my colleagues in the office today that this game felt like it had the potential to draw 7,000 fans to Koch Arena. They seemed a bit surprised by that number, but I’m sticking with it. We’re talking about Heights, which is chasing its fourth consecutive Class 6A state championship, not to mention its fourth straight City League title. We’re talking about Ellis, who can become the first City League player in history to win four state championships. We’re talking about Frankamp, who last season broke Ricky Ross’ 32-year-old City League record by scoring 52 points in a game against Northwest. And we’re talking about a huge number of KU fans who would have flocked to see this game on a bigger stage.
City League basketball is special and it’s surprising to me that the league’s officials still don’t always seem to get that. In a few years, when the seven public schools are playing games in shiny new gyms, moving games won’t be much of an issue. But for now, it’s important for the decision makers to think of the basketball fans who want to see this product. It’s OK to showcase high school sports and it’s way past time for the powers-that-be in Kansas to understand that.
The City League is missing a great opportunity Friday night and it’s frustrating. If you want to see Heights-North, show up early. Really early. And don’t plan on breathing.