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Players take part in barnstorming

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

After stealing the basketball from Kansas State University's Shane Southwell, the only thing separating Hays High School's Kyler Niernberger from a monster dunk was about two inches.

Instead of slamming it home, Niernberger's dunk attempt ended when the ball was slammed into the side of the rim, leaving the senior guard wishing he were a couple inches taller.

On the other hand, Niernberger's missed dunk just added to the comical, fun nature of Wednesday's Barnstorming event, held at the Hays High gym.

"It was all fun. It was just about the experience, playing with those Division I athletes that are far superior than us," Niernberger said. "We had a slight game plan. Then that failed quickly, so we just winged it. But we put up 89, so that's a win in my book."

The main portion of the event was the all-star game, played in two 20-minute halves with a running clock in the second half, pitting a collection of senior athletes from both KSU and Wichita State University against some of the state's best senior high school players.

While the end result was a 138-89 win for the collegiate all-stars, the high school competitors certainly weren't disappointed by the outcome.

"I liked it quite a bit. It was a couple levels different from a high school game," said Hoxie senior Kade Spresser, whose sister, Kendra, is a former player for the KSU's women's basketball team. "It was pretty cool to see how athletic and big they are. You see them on TV but playing them in person is a whole different thing."

While the University of Kansas basketball players have a long tradition of doing a Barnstorming tour, this was the first time KSU or WSU have been involved. It is primarily a fundraiser for the players, which have all exhausted their collegiate eligibility.

KSU seniors Will Spradling, Ryan Schultz (who was a late sub for Omari Lawrence) and Southwell all took part. Canadians Nick Wiggins and Chadrack Lufile represented WSU.

"We definitely enjoy doing this," said Southwell, a long time starter for the Wildcats. "It gives us a chance to travel Kansas. Especially the Canadian kids and the New York kid like myself, you don't get a chance to visit this part of Kansas that much."

Prior to the all-star game, an autograph session was held and a live auction took place at halftime, with the money going toward the college athletes. Among the items sold was a team autographed KSU basketball (bought for $120) and a pair of shoes Southwell wore in a victory over KU earlier this year (bought for $200).

While money is the primary motivation for holding such events, the college athletes also see it as a way to bring school spirit to a part of the state that doesn't always get to experience it first hand.

Plus, it's just a fun way for them to wrap up their days as college basketball players.

"It kind of lets us still be college kids for a little bit," Southwell said. "I think this is a great opportunity. Not only for us, but for the people in this part of Kansas that don't get a chance to come out to all our games, being almost three hours away. So to give them a chance to see us up close, it's a great opportunity for both sides."