By ROY ALLEN
SCCC Sports Information Director
It may be a young bunch this year for the Seward County Saints but Bryan Zollinger’s crew has high expectations and those goals go much higher than the already lofty predictions that the Jayhawk West coaches made when they picked the Saints for second place in the West.
Seward followed Hutchinson in the coaches poll and behind them were Garden City, defending Region VI Champs Butler, and Barton rounding out the top 5 and then Dodge City, Cloud County, Pratt, and Colby were the coaches picks to finish sixth through ninth this season.
On the East side, it is Cowley that draws top billing with Coffeyville, Independence, and Neosho County expected to finish just as they did last season in second, third, and fourth respectively while KCK, Highland, Johnson County, Allen County, Fort Scott, and Labette round out the rest of the pack.
The Saints return four lettermen off last season’s 24-9 club, but bring in two other sophomores to the mix to help add a veteran presence to the squad. Seward looks to have one of the better groups of guards in the conference as newcomers Phil Hawkins and Jeremy Jones look to lead a group of playmakers that will key the Saints offense this season.
Hawkins, a 6-foot, 200 pounder from Washington, D.C. will be towards the head of the fight for the starting spot at point guard for Seward while the versatile 6-foot-2 Jones brings one year of college experience at Western Texas College to the Saints this season and has a chance to be one of the top scorers on the team.
Liberal natives Chris Chaney and Marquez Patterson as well as Spencer Moore also return to the fold for the Saints. Chaney returned from a knee injury last season to average 1.3 points per game in 21 contests while Patterson rejoins the mix after sitting out last season and averaging 10.7 points and 2 steals per game as a freshman in 2008-09.
Moore, a proven winner at Topeka’s Highland Park High School — where he won three state championships — averaged 2.3 points per game last season for the Saints and shot 41 percent from behind the arc as one of Seward’s top three point threats.
Tyler Brashears helped Blue Valley Northwest to the 6A state title game a year ago and will look to lead the Saints to a title game in March this season with a shifty 6-3 frame and a solid stroke from the outside.
Oscar Sigala will follow the steps of his brother Robert who played for the Saints from 2008-2010 as he comes to Seward from Southwestern Heights. Sigala averaged 8 points and 8 assists per game last season for the Mustangs while leading them to their first state tournament appearance in 22 years.
For the first time in a few years, the Saints should be able to match up width wise with most of the teams in the Jayhawk West Conference this season. Their lineup of six front court newcomers as well as two returning sophomores should be a strength of this year’s team.
All-Region selection and two time KJCCC Player of the Week pick Marky Nolen will be a key to the Saints success this season. As a freshman in 2009-2010, Nolen averaged 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while proving himself as one of the toughest players in the league at just 6-foot-2.
Nolen is joined up front by fellow sophomore Isaiah Thaw who comes into this season as one of Seward’s top lock down defenders as well as averaging 1.2 points and .8 rebounds per game a season ago as a freshman.
A strong class of recruits form the majority of the Saints forwards this season. Raphael Giaimo is by far the largest of the group, measuring up at 6-10 and 270 lbs as the season starts and will be one of the most formidable big men in the conference this season.
Daveon Boardingham is a 6-7 freshman from Newark, N.J. and has already won the hearts of many of the Saints fans with an electrifying quartet of dunks at the Basketball Preview Night on Tuesday. Boardingham brings a large but athletic frame to the paint for the Saints and should be able to stretch out opposing defenses with his ability to step out and shoot the ball from the outside.
Irvin Hollinger comes to the Saints from Wichita Heights High School and should make an immediate impact on the court as a freshman. At 6-foot-5, Hollinger has the size and length to play with larger opponents but also possesses the ball skills and speed to match up with smaller ones if needed.
Markee Mazyck is one of three players on the roster this season from Washington D.C. and will be expected to play a large role for the Saints early on in his Seward County career. Mazyck has a strong frame at 6-4, 230 punds and has a feathery touch with the ball in his hands as he showed by winning the WCSAA Player of the Year award twice in high school after averaging nearly 23 points and 9 rebounds per game for Cesar Chavez High.
Rafriel Guthrie is another DC native to play for the Saints this year and is a hard-nosed scorer inside and also has the ability to step out and shoot the ball outside the paint which will create matchup problems throughout the year.
Teddy Nolen joins his cousin Marky in the green and white this year and will hopefully carry his success from the court at Wichita Northwest — where he won a state championship — to the Green House floor where he and his Saints teammates hope to win a Jayhawk Championship and more this season.
The Saint will open their season Friday at 8 p.m. in the Green House when they tip off against the Colorado Kings in the Pepsi Classic. The Saints will continue action in the Pepsi Classic the following night when the Neosho County Panthers come to town with the tip again at 8:00.