By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Basketball season is underway in Missouri. Below are the Class 3 Boys Basketball Players to Watch along with a breakout player.
NOTE: MSHSAA won’t be releasing new class and district assignments until Friday, Dec. 11. WE ARE USING LAST YEAR’S CLASSIFICATIONS for our watchlists. There will be SIGNIFICANT changes to classes when the new assignements come out, as Missouri is adding a sixth class of basketball this year.
• Mason Ballay, Mt. Vernon Senior
Ballay is the next up in a long line of great Mt. Vernon guards. The 6-foot senior is a big-time shooter, averaging 15 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists as a junior. He’s a winner with a high basketball IQ. With a great senior class leaving, look for Ballay to have a huge senior year.
• Andrew Dalton, Ava Junior
Dalton has put together two incredible seasons at Ava. As a sophomore he led the Bears to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual Class 3 runner-up Charleston. The 6-foot-3 wing averaged 19.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He’s the reigning SCA Player of the Year and a Class 3 All-State selection and currently on pace for 2,000 career points.
• Kaden Daniels, MV-BT/Liberty Senior
Daniels is one of the area’s top offensive linemen, but he might be even more dominant on the basketball court. As a junior he averaged 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound big had a pair of 30-point games and five other 20-point games. But, he’s more than just a back to the basket post, Daniels also knocked down 31 3-point FG at 35% clip. He’s a matchup problem.
• Zach Howell, Springfield Catholic Junior
When he hit the 3 at the buzzer to beat Lebanon in the Blue and Gold – part of a 27-point performance – we should’ve known he was different. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 18.9 points as a sophomore and he makes scoring just look easy. Big guards that shoot it like him are impossible to defend, especially at the high school level. He’ll be approaching 1,500 points by season’s end.
• Wilson Murray, Licking Senior
He’s been flying under the radar, but that should change this winter. As a junior he averaged 19.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.4 steals. His dominant year included three 30-point games and 11 additional 20-point performances with 11 total double-doubles. He even had a 21-21 game against Plato. He should be a 20-10-5 guy this year with several highlight dunks.
• Marcus Price, Pleasant Hope Junior
Pleasant Hope isn’t quite the Mecca of basketball in the Ozarks, but Price has helped put the Pirates on the map. As a sophomore he averaged 17.7 points and 10.1 rebounds. At 6-foot-3 he’s a little undersized, but he has long arms and athleticism that has allowed him to find ways to be productive. PH was over .500 for the first time in a decade thanks to a great backcourt in Colton Highfill and Tanner Hillenburg, as well as Price.
• Kyle Renkoski, Pierce City Senior
He’s been a double-digit scorer and All-Southwest Conference selection for each of the last two years. The 6-foot-3 wing averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as a junior. But, he’s also a gifted passer. He ended last season on a high, scoring 20 points in a 77-72 overtime district title win against Mount Vernon. Look for him to ride that wave into this winter.
• Jamen Smith, Buffalo Senior
There aren’t many athletes that have accomplished what Smith has across multiple sports and his final run on the hardwood has a chance to be scary. He averaged 18.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.3 blocks as a junior, including a season-high 42 points against Sherwood. He enters the season with 1,133 career points.
Others to Watch
• Owen Duddridge, Willow Springs Junior
• Jaesik Friggle, Aurora Junior
• Colton Highfill, Pleasant Hope Senior
• Kyson Lehman, East Newton Senior
• Mike Misner, Sarcoxie Senior
• Buck Sanders & Gavin Lux, Forsyth Seniors
• Jake Twigg & Bryce Gelle, Clever Seniors
• Jake Vestal, Conway Senior
Class 3 Breakout Player: Senior Vance Mullins, Strafford
Like quarterbacks, point guards are often measured on their ability to win and Mullins has done that at a high level. Entering his third season as a starter, the 5-foot-11 point guard has guided Strafford to 39 wins over the last two seasons. He’s been more of a true point guard, averaging 6.6 points, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals. Expect Mullins to again facilitate as a senior, but his scoring numbers should also increase.