TOPEKA – A number of former Topeka high school stars were on display in the Sunflower State Games in the men’s division over the weekend.
Theron Wilson, a former Highland Park star who has played three seasons professionally overseas after a standout career at Bradley, was one of nine former Division I college players from Topeka who participated in the 25th annual event filled with former college and professional players.
Wilson (pictured) was on a team with former Topeka West forward Jay Tunnell (Indiana State) and former Seaman forward Dallas Blocker (Youngstown State).
“Definitely appreciated playing in such an event to where I seen former players I played with and yet played against–players that were once rivals, but we joined forces together, players or brothers of players that I have at once played against that were from different cities, but have a close enough bond to them because I played against them so much throughout high school, junior college that I grew to form true connections with,” Wilson said. “And within all of that, it truly brought a sense of Kansas love in one area during one weekend and I greatly appreciated that to the fullest.
“Of course I wanted to come out and win the state games as I did in 2012, but the group of guys I played with played just as hard as any team and any player there in which that’s all I could ask for all the way around.”
Former Topeka High teammates Onzie Branch (Gardner-Webb), Marcus Fillyaw (Southern Illinois), and D.J. Johnson (Coppin State) played on a team together and fell to Team Swagg led by former Topeka High grad Xavier Burnette (Centenary) and Topeka West guard Michael Williams (Northern Iowa) during bracket play held at Lee Arena.
“The state games is just a great all around sporting experience, and the basketball portion is a pretty big deal in Topeka especially with the increase of local talent that play,” Williams said. “Basketball generates a buzz in the community no matter whose playing whether it’s the young kids at the local recs, the high school games during the season, or the many current and past college players able to get involved in the state games. It’s just good to see the people in the town come together for the event, I think it’s great for basketball in the city because there are a lot of guys around here that are still able to play a little bit. But ultimately its good to see the young guys getting involved because as the faces change the game stays and it’s good to see basketball continuing to be a great opportunity for the youth in the community.”
Despite the loss, it was a positive experience for Fillyaw, who will be attending Kentucky Wesleyan this fall.
“I loved it,” Fillyaw said. “I was looking forward to it all summer. Watching and playing against all of the older players and guys my age that I’ve grown up playing with and against is fun to me. Having all of them hooping in one tournament is entertaining because it gets so competitive and it’s interesting to see how everyone does.”
Team Swagg, last year’s champs, lost in the semifinals to eventual champ, the Seasoned Boars, and finished third.
“It’s always good to see ex-teammates and opponents out there competing and having fun. The games have become a family event for me over the years,” said Burnette, whose brother Ashton Patton was also on Team Swagg.
Highland Park 1996 graduate Jameel Anderson, who played one season at Jacksonville, was the veteran of the former Topeka high school stars.
Topeka’s two-time city player of the year and future Division I player, Jahmal McMurray, who will be attending Sunrise Christian Academy next month, also participated in the event.
Allen Community College point guard Josh Sweet provided one of the best individual performances of the tournament when he scored 39 points in a game.
“It was just in the flow of the game and my team just told me to keep shooting and so I just kept finding ways to score by going to the basket making mid-range shots and my threes were falling too,” Sweet said.