The Highland Park Scots will have four new starters this season after a successful senior class graduated.
One of their new faces will be junior point guard Malik Keith, a crafty ballhandler, who has the ability to knock down shots and find his teammates while providing solid leadership.
“I’ve been a leader on all of my basketball teams since I’ve been little so I feel like I have a leader mentality,” Keith said.
Keith, who begins the season as the eighth-best 2016 prospect in Topeka according to TopekaHoops, played in 16 games last season in a limited role on the Scots’ 23-2 team that finished second in Class 5A. He’s improved in the offseason by putting in work in the gym and playing with Top City.
“I think I’ve developed my jump shot way more,” Keith said. “I’ve always just tried to get in the gym whenever I can.”
Highland Park has been one of the most successful programs in Kansas and has had a number of successful point guards in their program in the last decade including Hank Harris, Lamont Austin, Canon Fields, DaVonte Grant, Tray Wheeler, and Kameron Clark.
The Scots open up against Grandview (Mo.) in the opening game of the Blue Valley Shootout on Dec. 11 as Keith will be making his first start.
“I can’t wait,” Keith said. “That’s all I can say. I just can’t wait. I’m excited, but at the same time I’m not because we have a lot of pressure on us.”
Keith and the Scots have been going through preseason practices this month.
“It’s been going pretty well, it’s pretty different because we have a whole new lineup, but it’s gone pretty well so far,” Keith said.
It has been a transition for the Scots, who will be looking to replace Clark, Jahmal McMurray, Shaffee Carr, and Eddie Hunt.
“It’s hard because we only have two players on varsity who really got minutes last year,” Keith said. “It’s basically like the JV team is playing varsity and it’s been especially hard for me because I haven’t really played (a lot of) varsity yet.”
Senior swingman Daniel Kingcannon is the lone returning starter and he’ll be taking on a larger role this year, junior shooting guard Jahlil Osby will also have an increased role this year after being the team’s top reserve last year, and senior forward Abdul McFoxx also returns after earning valuable minutes off the bench last year. Senior Marshawn White is expected to round out the starting five for the Scots.
“We’ve been looking good,” Keith said. “Our chemistry is getting better since we’ve been practicing. It’s way different, but once we get the hang of it, I think we’ll be fine.”