Basketball Team Takes 3rd in Valley Park

Second-year head coach Kevin Kullum leads the BHS boys in practice Dec. 2. (All photos by Steve Bowman)
Second-year head coach Kevin Kullum leads the BHS boys in practice Dec. 2. (All photos by Steve Bowman)

Jones, Sappington return to lead improved team

 
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

There may be a shortage of female basketball players at Brentwood High School but the boys program is bursting at the seams. The male Eagles started their season this week with 21 players on the roster while the girls have only eight.

The healthy turnout means more competition for starting positions, which should make the team better than last year. Not that the 2014-15 team was bad. Though first-year coach Kevin Kullum inherited only one returning starter, Brentwood won the conference and came within 4 points of winning the Valley Park Invitational for the first time since 1980.

But after two of the top three scorers left the team in mid-season, the Eagles struggled to re-establish a rhythm and lost by 15 points in the first round of the district playoffs. Said assistant coach Dennis Buckley at the time, “That’s at the epicenter of our problems: fluctuating lineups.”

Junior varsity and assistant varsity coach Dennis Buckley is starting his second season with Brentwood.
Junior varsity and assistant varsity coach Dennis Buckley is starting his second season with Brentwood.

But all that seemed like a distant memory on Wednesday as Kullum and JV coach Buckley watched their 21 players in practice.

“I’m feeling good,” said Kullum. “I like the kids we’ve got. It’s a great vibe, a great group to be working with. All of them are very respectful and about their business.”

His optimism isn’t unfounded:
• The Eagles are off to a 2-1 start, taking third place in the eight-team Valley Park Invitational.
• Key starters are back in top scorer Charles Jones and assists king Skylar Sappington.
• New SLUH transfer Jacob Menne leads the team in rebounding.
• The freshman class is the best in years, with Cade Jones and Jordon Tate already making an impact on varsity. Jones scored 18 in only his third game.
• Most of the Eagles are coming off a busy summer of organized hoops in Missouri and Illinois.

Assistant coach Dan Williams instructs a player in practice. Williams assisted the girls team last year but has come over to the boys program because the roster is so much larger this season: 21 boys to eight girls.
Assistant coach Dan Williams instructs a player in practice. Williams assisted the girls team last year but has come over to the boys program because the roster is so much larger this season: 21 boys to eight girls.

3rd at Valley Park Invitational

Brentwood was made the No. 1 seed of this tournament after almost winning it last year as the No. 2. On Tuesday they looked to be on track with a 40-point win over No. 8 Crossroads. But two nights later against Kennedy they came out cold, scoring only 10 points in the first half before losing by 6. They recovered in the match with Principia for third place on Friday as Cade Jones and Charles Jones combined for 35 points.

The tournament revealed Kullum’s new starting lineup. Though forward Charles Jones and point guard Sappington are still running the show, forward Menne is the new rebounder, averaging 10 a game. The 6-foot-3 junior attended SLUH last year and started at BHS this fall.

“He’s awesome, a great athlete who can run, jump and shoot,” Kullum said. “I learned he was coming out this summer. He was hurt this summer so he didn’t get to play too much with us.”

Jordon Tate (left) tries to disrupt a pass thrown to Jacob Menne.
Jordon Tate (left) tries to disrupt a pass thrown to Jacob Menne.

The other two starters have been freshman shooting guard Cade Jones and senior center Seth Winkleman. The 6-3 Jones led the team with 18 points against Principia. The 6-6 Winkleman is the team’s tallest player.

“He played awesome for us this summer,” Kullum said of Winkleman. “He really came out of his shell.”

Cade Jones, a freshman, scored 18 against Principia.
Cade Jones, a freshman, scored 18 against Principia.
Coach Kevin Kullum calls 6-6 center Seth Winkleman
“He played awesome for us this summer,” coach Kevin Kullum said of 6-foot-6 center Seth Winkleman

Butters is better

No Eagle is more excited to be on the floor than Charles Jones, or “Butters” as he’s been called since he was a child. After leading the team with 17.4 points a game last year, he was named first team all-conference. This summer, with his senior year approaching and a desire to play in college, he devoted himself as never before to improving. He and his BHS teammates played in the weekly Crossroads summer league and at an intense weekend team camp at the University of Illinois. He started a personal workout program, which included running every day.

“He’s been a leader all summer for us,” said Kullum. “He’s been in the gym all summer working out. He’s ready to go.”

Jones also changed his shot, taking the advice of his father, Charles Jones Sr., who played guard at Ball State.

Said Butters, “I used to shoot up here [above his head]. Now I shoot it from down here [ball out front, chin level]. That makes my shot more consistent than it was last year. I still shoot my mid-range shot from up here so the bigger defenders won’t block it, which is smart because I’m pretty short.”

Said Kullum, “He’s shooting the ball way better than he was last year.”

To see a Youtube video of Jones’s highlights from last year, click here.

Charles Jones (middle) leans on Jordan McGehee (left) and Aro Ntatin.
Charles Jones (middle) leans on Jordan McGehee (left) and Aro Ntatin.

More than assists

It seems as if junior Skylar Sappington should be a senior by now, but that’s because he’s been starting since he was a freshman. As a sophomore the 6-2 point guard quietly led the St. Louis area with almost nine assists a game. He has more weapons to dish off to this year, with Cade Jones emerging as a scoring threat.

Sappington is a quiet guy, but ask assistant coach Dan Williams about him and you’ll get an earful.

“Skylar is the motor that runs the machine,” said Williams. He sees the floor better than 95 percent of the point guards out there in high school basketball. He’s the most fundamentally sound player on our team. He delivers great passes, sets the tempo of the game and is probably our best defender as well. If the other team takes away one or two of our weapons, Skylar is capable of scoring 30 to 40 points on any given night. He is a silent leader, but the heart and soul of the team.”

Skylar Sappington is in his third season as a starting guard. He led the St. Louis area in assists per game last season.
Skylar Sappington is in his third season as a starting guard. He led the St. Louis area in assists per game last season.

Team camp in Illinois

This summer BHS played for the first time in a weekend basketball camp at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“The kids got to stay on campus together and did some team bonding,” said Kullum. “They played 12 to 14 games against some people they don’t normally see. It was pretty cool.”

Said Charles Jones, “We played a lot of games this summer, which helped our chemistry. Now our chemistry is starting to come together. It’s way better than last year, way better.”

Justice Harris flips a pass in practice.
Justice Harris flips a pass in practice.

Dec. 4: beat Principia 54-44 for 3rd place in Valley Park Invitational
In the Eagles’ closest game so far, they stayed neck and neck with the Panthers before mounting a free-throw-fueled 16-10 surge in the final period. Key stat: Brentwood sank 14 free throws to Principia’s six, despite committing three fewer fouls. Charles Jones led the hot shooting from the line, making nine of 10. Leaders: Cade Jones, 18 points (8-14 FG); Charles Jones, 17 points (4-17 FG), 3 steals; Sappington, 7 assists, 3 steals; Menne, 8 rebounds; Aro Ntatin, 3 steals; Principia’s Payton Sellers, 11 points.

Freshman Courtland Hill will play both varsity and JV this season.
Freshman Courtland Hill will play both varsity and JV this season.

Dec. 3: lost to Kennedy 53-47 in Valley Park Invitational semifinal
Frigid shooting put Brentwood in a 20-point hole by halftime. They thawed out in time for a 24-10 run in the fourth quarter but needed 31-10 to win. Kennedy went on to lose to Valley Park in the championship, the first time the Hawks have won their own tournament in 39 years. Key stats: The Eagles outrebounded the Celts 49-27 and out-stole them 17-4 and thus had an incredible 71-29 edge in field-goal attempts. Their problem was in shooting accuracy: Charles Jones sank 53 percent for 24 points but got little help from Jacob Menne, Cade Jones and Skylar Sappington, who combined to make only 4 of 39. Leaders: Charles Jones, 24 points (10-19 FG), 4 steals; Menne, 14 rebounds; Sappington, 6 assists, 4 steals; JFK’s Ryan McAleenan, 21 points.

Aro Ntatiin grabbed four steals against Principia.
Aro Ntatiin grabbed four steals against Principia.

Nov. 30: beat Crossroads 63-23 in Valley Park Invitational
Just like last year, the Eagles started the season by routing the Current at Valley Park. Key stats: Crossroads shot 18 percent from the field and was outrebounded 43-16. Leaders: Charles Jones, 18 points (7-16 FG); Menne, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks; Sappington, 9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists; Tate, 9 points, 7 rebounds; Courtland Hill, 4 steals; Crossroads’s Gabe Felsher, 10 points.

Varsity returner Nigel Bracey passes during an offensive drill.
Varsity returner Nigel Bracey passes during an offensive drill.

Brentwood’s results — 3-2 as of Dec. 6
Nov. 30: beat Crossroads 63-23 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 3: lost to Kennedy 53-47 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 4: beat Principia 54-44 for 3rd place in Valley Park Invitational

Jacob Menne shoots in a layup drill.
Jacob Menne shoots in a layup drill.

BHS varsity roster
Coach: Kevin Kullum
Assistant coaches: Dennis Buckley, Dan Williams
Seniors:
Nigel Bracey, 6-3, guard/forward
Charles Jones, 6-0, forward
Kameron Kullum, 6-2, guard/forward
Seth Winkleman, 6-6, forward
Juniors:
Justice Harris, 5-11, guard
Jordan McGehee, 6-4, center
Jacob Menne, 6-3, forward
Aro Ntatin, 5-11, guard
Skylar Sappington, 6-2, point guard
Freshmen:
Courtland Hill, 5-10, point guard
Cade Jones, 6-3, guard
Jordon Tate, 6-2, forward

BHS junior varsity roster
Coach: Dennis Buckley
Junior: Tommy Lundt
Sophomore: Charlie Trieu
Freshmen: Daniel Doebber, Billy Flynn, Courtland Hill, Gabe Lawrence, Quinn McClure, Deion Wilson, Kadar Young

Freshman Jordon Tate listens to Kevin Kullum.
Freshman Jordon Tate listens to Kevin Kullum.

2014-15 South Central AA Conference
Final Standings
Brentwood 7-1
Bayless 4-3
Valley Park 4-4
Crossroads 3-4
Hancock 1-7

Kevin Kullum teaches a new play in practice.
Kevin Kullum teaches a new play in practice.

Brentwood’s final record in 2014-15:
12-12, 7-1 in conference
Dec. 2: won vs. Crossroads 60-41 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 4: won vs. Valley Park 58-52 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 5: lost vs. Principia 42-39 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 8: won vs. McKinley 64-38
Dec. 22: lost vs. Westminster 63-16 in MICDS Holiday Invitational
Dec. 27: lost vs. Miller Career 50-49 in MICDS Holiday Invitational
Jan. 6: won vs. Gateway STEM 55-52
Jan. 7: lost vs. Lift for Life 67-30
Jan. 13: lost vs. Crossroads 45-41
Jan. 20: lost vs. MRH 56-41
Jan. 21: lost at Whitfield 61-53
Jan. 23: won vs. Hancock 63-31
Jan. 27: won vs. Bayless 53-43
Jan. 28: lost at Trinity Catholic 69-60
Jan. 30: won at Valley Park 45-23
Feb. 3: won vs. Crossroads 54-23
Feb. 4: won vs. Barat 65-40
Feb. 5: lost vs. Principia 48-44
Feb. 10: won vs. Hancock 67-59
Feb. 11: lost vs. John Burroughs 51-40
Feb. 12: lost vs. Cleveland NJROTC 65-46
Feb. 13: won at Bayless 63-50
Feb. 17: won vs. Valley Park 62-31
Class 3, District 4 Playoffs at Principia
Feb. 24: lost vs. John Burroughs 43-28

Don't worry, high-rise shorts are not the latest basketball fad. Brentwood players raised their waist bands for a few minutes at a recent practice, partly as a show of team unity perhaps, but mostly to entertain themselves. The instigators are (from left) Aro Ntatin, Cade Jones, Jordan McGehee and Charles Jones.
Don’t worry, high-rise shorts are not the latest basketball fad. Brentwood players raised their waist bands for a few minutes at a recent practice, partly as a show of team unity perhaps, but mostly to entertain themselves. The instigators are (from left) Aro Ntatin, Cade Jones, Jordan McGehee and Charles Jones.

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