Shawnee Mission North boys realizing being defending state champs is difficult

SM North senior Avante Williams goes up for a layup in practice on Monday. He's taking on a larger role with the Weathers twins gone.
SM North senior Avante Williams goes up for a layup in practice on Monday. He’s taking on a larger role with the Weathers twins gone.

Shawnee Mission North is excited to play in an actual game for a change as it’s been almost a month since the Indians took the court last.

Coach Steve Stitzer said his team needs to play in order for he and the coaching staff to figure out what they need to work on. Since their last game on Dec. 9, all SM North has been doing is practicing.

“I think team continuity,” Stitzer said about what this team needs to work on. “We were in a couple games we should have won. We should be 3-1. We need to learn how to close out teams and play all four quarters.”

Stitzer would like to see the Kansas State High School Activities Association allow teams to play in holiday tournaments and more than 20 games in a season. Instead of sitting idle for two weeks, it gives teams a chance to build that continuity.

“You get kids scouted a bit and it opens up a little bit of your schedule as well,” Stitzer said. “You get to play teams you don’t normally see.”

The Indians are 1-3 and are learning that things aren’t easy despite being the Class 6A defending state champions.

Last year’s team relied heavily on Michael and Marcus Weathers, who are now playing at Miami University. Stitzer said the transition has been a little rough.

“After you win the state championship, everybody thinks a lot of things ought to be given to them,” Stitzer said. “We had to get through that a little. That maybe happened in those two games we should have won. Nobody owes us anything. I think we have to discover we have to work for everything we want and this team can do it. It’s on them whether they want to do it or not.”

Stitzer said those two losses were a big wake-up call for him. He’s watched a bunch of film and banged his head against the wall a bit wonder what he should have done. He isn’t dwelling on those past games, but is hoping to learn from them so he can properly fix the mistakes for future games.

His biggest thing right now is tailoring plays to the players he has. Stitzer knows he has to adjust to his players.

With the Weathers twins gone, it’s up to Avante Williams, Will Schneider and Danny Bradley to step up and take on expanded roles.

Williams is excited for the second half of the season because the Indians haven’t played a team from Kansas yet. Tonight’s game against Olathe North will be the first one on this side of the state line.

“We’ve definitely gotten our chemistry up,” Williams said of the past few weeks of practice. “We needed to get that bond with each other more.”

He’s embracing the newfound pressure of being one of the go-to players. He’s been waiting for this moment since his freshman year since he knew Michael and Marcus would be departing.

“My new phrase for our team is ‘Back it up,’” Stitzer said. “We can’t complain or whine about anything, we need to back up everything we say we can do. That’s what I expect the second half of the season.”