The Hayden Wildcats had the most talented underclassmen in Topeka last year.
Jett Canfield, Zach Harvey, and DeShawn Hanika showed flashes throughout the season on their way to a 12-10 season.
With a year of experience playing together in addition to other key pieces on the team, the Wildcats are looking for a big year.
“The sky’s the limit for us,” said Canfield, a junior point guard who was an All-City first team pick a year ago. “We’ve got all of the pieces. We’ve just got to put them together.”
The Wildcats, which begin the season ranked seventh in Class 4A-II in the KBCA poll, are looking to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2014 with their eyes on winning the school’s first state title since 2008.
“We have so much talent,” Canfield said. “We’re really good offensively. We just have to key in on the defensive end so we can get stops and get fastbreaks going the other way so we can run.”
Hayden begins their season Friday at home against Basehor-Linwood, which is ranked second in Class 4A-I.
“We’re just extremely excited to get after it,” Canfield said. “We’ve been practicing for just about a month now and we’re just ready to get out there on the court. Obviously it will be an awesome environment having it at home and everything.”
Canfield returns after leading Hayden in scoring averaging 14.7 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.0 steals a game.
“Offensively I’m trying to get the ball and pushing it hard to get it to those guys up the floor so they can go make some plays,” Canfield said. “Defensively I’m doing a lot of the same things, but just trying to be more vocal and talking on screens, switching, and all of that.”
Canfield had another solid summer playing with KC Run GMC and has fielded interest from Ivy League schools. He took an unofficial visit to Northern Arizona in September and has also taken one to Washburn this fall.
Harvey is a talented sophomore guard, who is poised for a huge year after picking up offers from Kansas, Kansas State, Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska, and Creighton in the offseason.
“He just keeps getting better,” Canfield said. “His body is continuing to develop. He’s so hard to stay in front of and so hard to guard. He’s making plays for everybody along with himself, which is going to make him hard to stop.”
Hanika is looking to make improvements in his junior season after averaging 11.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.3 steals last year.
“He’s been working hard, running the floor, and knocking down open mid-range shots,” Canfield said.
Senior guard Kendall Sutton is a transfer from Jefferson West who is a nice addition to the Wildcats.
“He’s an athletic out there,” Canfield. “He has bounce. Defensively he can get down and guard, and he goes to the offensive boards hard, which is a big positive for us. He’s tough to box out for the smaller guards.”
There are also a number of other players looking to be key contributors this year.
“Carson Dinkel has been shooting the ball really well doing what he can do,” Canfield said. “Scott (Wilson) and Hayden (Federico) are two big dudes doing the same thing working hard, getting it out to us, and scoring when they need to score. Levi (Braun) is getting better too—he’s a knock-down shooter.”