LINDSBORG – Despite losing a few key graduates, the 2022-23 Smoky Valley boys basketball team looks to seven seniors to lead the Vikings to a top three league finish and a possible berth at the state Class 3A tournament in March.
Guiding the Vikings will be Doug Schneider who enters his 12th season as head coach after being a Viking assistant coach for 11 seasons. Last season the Vikings finished 11-11 overall and 5-4 in a league that includes 2021-22 Class 2A champion Hillsboro and 2021-22 Class 3A champion Hesston.
While Smoky Valley returns seven seniors to lead the team, they will also need to replace 29.9 points and 20.4 rebounds per game produced by graduated starters Haven Lysell-Stewart (11.3 pts, 5.7 rbs), Trayton Miller (9.1 pts, 2.5 rbs), and Lukas Apel (5.6 pts, 3.8 rbs). Lysell-Stewart was the team’s leading scorer and second top rebounder a year ago while Trayton Miller was the third leading scorer.
“WE graduated three starters from last season but return a solid group of players who played significant minutes,” noted head coach Doug Schneider. “Interior scoring will be an area that we will need to develop throughout the season as our graduates took a chunk of it with them.”
Leading the Vikings into the 2022-23 season will be six-foot-one senior guard Karson Pihl who missed his sophomore season due to injury but returned to have a strong junior season where he averaged 9.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and making honorable mention all-league honors.
Other seniors returning include leading rebounder and starter Kade Blanchat, a six-foot-five forward who grabbed 6.1 rebounds and scored 4.2 points per game last season plus six-foot-one guard Vincent Pickering who put up 8.2 points per game in 2021-22. Gus Griffith, a six-foot-four forward who grabbed 3.3 rebounds and scored 3.2 points per game last season will be expected to help Blanchat in the paint.
The other three seniors looking to lead the Vikings to success in 2022-23 will be Justice and Jerome Autry, a pair of five-foot-eight guards along with Trystan Stambaugh, a six-foot-three forward. Ki Blanchat is a junior guard with size at six-foot-four that will also be counted on.
Coach Schneider explained the team will have a few weaknesses to work on, explaining, “Beyond the interior scoring, our team defense will also be important as this season’s group needs to develop a bit of an ‘attitude’ defensively as they continue to look for an identity.”
Speaking of the Viking strengths for the upcoming season coach Schneider said, “The strength this time will likely come for the teams cohesiveness. The guys have played together a lot and many of them were called upon last season to play in key situations at the varsity level. This group also has the potential to really shoot the ball well from beyond the arc, which should open things up for the frontcourt players inside. Out 2022-23 team might also have the ability to open up the floor a bit with some very different lineups that could provide some difficult match-up problems for opposing teams.”
Concluding his pre-season reflections, coach Schneider added, “As always, we must replace some very good players from last year’s team, but we have players who are chomping at the bit to fill those roles. We look to be competitive in every game, work to finish in the top four at the competitive Sterling Invitational Tournament while looking to finish in the top-three of the Central Kansas League and then earn a berth in the Class 3A state tournament.”
With two reigning state champions in their league, the Viking coaches also pointed out that Wichita Collegiate, Southeast of Saline, and Hugoton look to be strong team in Class 3A.
Smoky Valley will open the 2022-23 season at home on Friday, December 2 when they play host to Abilene. The Cowboys finished last season 16-7.
2022-23 Viking Boys Schedule: Friday, December 2 > host Abilene; Tuesday, December 6 > at Southeast of Saline; Friday, December 9 > host Concordia; Tuesday, December 13 > at Hesston; Friday, December 16 > host Halstead; Tuesday, January 3 > at Hoisington; Tuesday, January 10 > at Hillsboro; Friday, January 13 > host Larned; Monday, January 16-Friday, January 20 > at Sterling Tournament; Tuesday, January 24, host Hutchinson Trinity; Friday, January 27 > at Clay Center; Tuesday, January 31 > host Lyons; Friday, February 3 > at Nickerson; Tuesday, February 7 > host Hoisington; Friday, February 10 > at Haven; Tuesday, February 14 > host Pratt; Friday, February 17 > host Hesston; Tuesday, February 21 > at Halstead; Monday, February 27 – Saturday, March 4 > Class 3A Sub-State
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