Sports in Kansas has released its annual list of player of the year winners across the seven classifications in Kansas. A media panel of over 30 members in Kansas vote to compile finalists and winners each and every year.
Capsules are provided by Conor Nicholl of Sports in Kansas. Media day was handled by Bethany Bowman of Sports in Kansas and Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas. Photos by Terry Rinehart for Sports in Kansas.
6A: Jadyn Wooten, Blue Valley
In terms of preseason rankings, Blue Valley has a strong case for the state’s biggest surprise on the girls’ side. Blue Valley finished 16-7 and qualified for the 6A tournament last winter.
The Tigers returned all five starters for coach Bruce Erickson, who has coached multiple decades, including stops at Salina South and University of St. Mary as head coaches and assistant coach stints at University of Missouri-Kansas City and Oklahoma State. The starters were seniors Sophie Deveney and Katie Daniels, along with juniors Aden Bax and Ainsley Lister and sophomore Jadyn Wooten. In her freshman season, Wooten delivered three points, four rebounds, five assists and four steals a contest.
Blue Valley was unranked in the preseason top-10 by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. Blue Valley finished 21-4 and third place in 6A. BV was the lone girls’ team to finish in the top-three in a classification and be unranked in the preseason.
Wooten hit two memorable shots in the state tournament and paced Kansas for all classes with 5.9 assists a game. She also was in the top-five in 6A with 19 points a contest. Wooten earned Top 5 all classes.
In the quarterfinals, Wooten went full court and hit a buzzer-beater to defeat favored Topeka High, 33-32. Topeka High was favored by many to win the state title. In the semifinals, Wooten delivered 31 points on 13-of-22 shooting, including the game-tying 3 in regulation. BV lost, 51-49, in double OT to Derby. In the third-place game, BV beat Olathe North, 48-46, in triple OT. ON had been No. 1 ranked most of the year in 6A.
Wooten played all 44 minutes, went 11 of 13 from the free throw line, and delivered 23 points with five rebounds in the third place contest. Wooten earned SIK Most Outstanding Player of the 6A state tournament. Blue Valley made its fourth final four in school history, after 1976, ’11 and ’12, per Kansas historian Carol Swenson. This marked the third-best finish ever behind the runner-ups in ’11 and ’12.
Wooten headed a very close race for 6A Player of the Year. In the Eastern Kansas League, a conference that featured two state champions, Wooten was second in points, first in assists, third in steals, second in shooting percentage (45.9) and first in total efficiency (18.35).
In three state games, Wooten had 68 points, seven assists, 15 rebounds and four steals. She was a DiRenna semifinalist for the best player in the greater Kansas City area. Wooten has received Division I offers.
The 6A race featured Derby junior Addy Brown, a Top-5 all classes selection, Shawnee Mission West’s S’Mya Nichols, Wichita Heights Zyanna Walker, Topeka High junior Kiki Smith and Washburn Rural junior Brooklyn DeLeye, among others – girls basketball in Kansas was loaded to say the least this season. Brown has committed to Iowa State. Nichols has multiple Power 5 Division I offers and was Sunflower League Player of the Year. Walker is headed to Louisville and is arguably the states top recruit, Smith was Centennial League Player of the Year. DeLeye was the top player for 6A champion Washburn Rural, was Kansas volleyball player of the year and a Kentucky volleyball commit. Brown, Nichols and Smith were all top-10 all-state selections in 2020-21.
Congrats to Jadyn Wooten of Blue Valley High School on the Kansas 6A Player of the Year. We are proud of you – Mom, Dad, Morgan and Kenzie
Congratulations Jadyn, we are so proud of you for being named 6A Player of the Year- Grandma, Grandpa, Amara and PJ.
5A/All-Classes POY: Beatrice Culliton, St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas senior post Beatrice Culliton helped Aquinas win its sixth straight state championship and earned the SIK award for the best Kansas girl basketball player this winter. Culliton finished 8 of 19 shooting for 18 points and 17 rebounds in a 52-38 championship game victory against previously undefeated Salina Central. Aquinas finished 23-2 and was plus-23 on the glass in the final. Culliton was SIK Most Outstanding Player of the state tournament.
Culliton repeated as 5A Player of the Year and has signed with Oklahoma. This season, Culliton finished with 14.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a contest, along with 58.3 field goal percentage. She finished fifth in Aquinas history with 1,227 points and first in rebounds at 730.
Culliton set the Aquinas record for career field goal percentage at 60.5 percent (493 of 815). Culliton joins a short list of Aquinas players that have signed with a Division I college, including Lauren Willis (Oklahoma, 2007); Kelsey Hill (Oklahoma, 2007); Carolyn McCullough (Kansas State, 2004); DaShawn Harden (LSU; 2011). Plus, all three Weledjis (Nelly, Tia and Sereena) signed with an Ivy League school.
4A: Harper Schreiner, Eudora
Eudora senior Harper Schreiner delivered one of the most seminal moments of the state tournament in the Class 4A quarterfinal comeback against Clay Center. Schreiner went full court and hit the game-tying 3-pointer just before the regulation buzzer. Eudora never led the game until overtime and trailed 18-2 after the first quarter. Eudora earned a 50-46 victory in overtime, the first state tournament victory in program history. In the semifinals, Schreiner led Eudora to a 49-41 win against Wamego. It marked the second time Eudora beat Wamego this season; the first came in the Tonganoxie tournament championship game.
Against Clay Center, Schreiner finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and six steals. Eudora coach Brandon Parker told SIK that “there’s not a kid in the state that wants” big moments more than her.
Eudora lost in the championship game to Bishop Miege and finished 23-2 for the best season in school history. Eudora set school marks for total wins (23) and consecutive victories (23). Schreiner has exceeded 1,000 career points and signed with Pittsburg State. She helped Eudora enjoy a plus-13 victory improvement from last winter after a 20-win season as a sophomore. The 5-foot-7 Schreiner earned Tonganoxie tournament MVP honors.
Schreiner was the lone Eudora player to average double figures. She finished with 18.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 120 steals, 107 assists and 21 blocks. In a rarity, Schreiner paced her team in all five categories. For perspective, only five NBA players in ’73-74 have led a team in all five statistical categories. No other Eudora player was above 7.9 points per game.
Congratulations Harper on your 4A POY award, from your life long #1 fans! Ll of your hard work and dedication has paid off. No one is more deserving! #cousinproud – From the Schreiner Cousins
Super proud of Harper Schreiner of Eudora High School on being named the 4A Player of the Year! It has been such a pleasure to watch you on your basketball journey. We love you lots. – Mom and Dad
Wheat State Elite, Dylan Evans, would like to congratulate their very own Harper Schreiner on the 4A POY from Sports in Kansas! We are proud of you!
3A: Taryn Sides, Phillipsburg/Ava Jones, Nickerson
A pair of juniors, Phillipsburg point guard Taryn Sides and Nickerson post Ava Jones, shared 3A player of the year honors in a highly close statewide voting. Both were consensus Top 5 all-classes picks. Sides led Kansas in scoring, Jones was sixth. They finished 1-2 in 3A in scoring. Jones led Kansas in rebounding. Sides was ninth in the state and first in 3A in steals a contest. Both are known for their leadership.
Overall, Sides finished with 27.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, five steals and 3.6 assists a game. As a team, the Panthers had 55 points, 35.5 rebounds and 12.5 steals a game. Sides shot 57.6 percent from the field, including an incredible 66 percent on 2-point shots. She also made 75 treys for 45.5 percent and 87.5 percent from the free throw line. Sides and Salina Central senior Aubrie Kierscht, a Navy commit, were the state’s best shooters.
Nickerson finished 23-3 and took fourth in 3A. The Panthers were ranked first in 3A during the year and had one loss until the state semifinals. In 69 career games, the 6-foot-2 Jones has 1,336 points (19.3 per game), along with 822 rebounds (11.9 a contest). Jones is also a second team all-state volleyball player and won a 4A state title in high jump last spring. This season, Jones finished with 20.8 points and 15.4 rebounds a game. She shot 59 percent from the field and 79 percent from the foul line.
Phillipsburg finished 18-5 and shared the Mid-Continent League regular season championship with Smith Center and Thomas More Prep-Marian. SC finished third in 2A. Phillipsburg was second in the MCL midseason tournament. The Panthers lost, 40-33, at Goodland in the sub-state title game. Goodland won the state championship. Nickerson lost to Hugoton in the state semifinals. Hugoton fell to Goodland by one in the state title.
Sides’ older brother, Trey, was a former 3A Player of the Year in basketball. Both brothers, Trey and Ty, were Shrine Bowl selections among many other honors. Sides led a Phillipsburg girl squad that had one senior with significant playing time and had three freshmen in the top-seven. Phillipsburg junior standout Heather Schemper, a first team all-league basketball selection in ’20-21, a first team all-state volleyball pick, and state track titlist did not play this winter because of injury. Sides has committed to Kansas State.
Jones was the 3A state tournament Most Outstanding Player. Jones originally committed to Arizona State, though recently de-committed. Trey Sides was a top-six player for Central Missouri basketball this season. Jones’ older brother, Hunter, helped Pittsburg State finish third at national indoor track. Hunter took fourth nationally in the heptathlon.
Nickerson High Panther Pride would like to extend our sincere CONGRATULATIONS to the 3A player of the year, Ava Jones.
Inman Irrigation, Jake Childs, would like to congratulate Ava Jones on an outstanding year and her 3A POY honor. Congrats to Nickerson on a top four finish at state!
Engelland Construction would like to congratulate Ava Jones of Nickerson High School on the Sports in Kansas 3A Player of the Year as well as Top 5 All-Classes! Congrats on a great year!
Wheat State Elite, Dylan Evans, would like to congratulate their very own Ava Jones on Top 5 All-Classes and the 3A Player of the year!
Ultimate Image Photography would like to congratulate Taryn Sides for being named the 3A Player of the Year. We are proud of you!
Sides Farm of Almena, Kansas would like to congratulate Taryn Sides. Congratulations Taryn! We are so proud of all of your accomplishments! Grandpa Dale and Grandma Shirley!
4C Land and Auction would like to congratulate Taryn Sides of Phillipsburg! Congratulations Taryn! We are proud of you and all of your accomplishments! We admire your amazing work ethic and love for the game! We appreciate your leadership and determination to be the best! Keep chasing your dreams! – Cody, Rachel, Cooper, Casey and Chisum
2A: Kali Briar, Sterling
Sterling senior point guard Kali Briar repeated as 2A Player of the Year. Briar was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2A state tournament. She helped Sterling win back-to-back state tournaments, the first two state championships in program history. Sterling went 26-0 and currently has the state’s longest winning streak for either gender at 40. Briar finished with 1,033 points, 388 steals, 278 rebounds and 160 steals. A four-year starter, Briar went 8-2 in state tournament games with a second-place finish, a state quarterfinal loss and back-to-back championships. In all four years, Sterling faced Garden Plain at state.
Briar averaged 13.5 points and 3.8 assists this season. The top-four scorers all averaged at least nine points a contest.
Briar led an exceptionally experienced group that also had seniors Makenna Linden, Bennie Horsch, and Sadie Beagley. Briar is headed to NAIA power Sterling College. Both of her parents have long-time ties to Sterling. Her grandfather, Lonnie Kruse, coached Sterling for 33 years and is in Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
In the state quarterfinal win versus Mission Valley, Briar finished with 28 points and three assists on 9 of 12 shooting. She was 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. In the semifinals, Sterling beat league rival Berean Academy behind 11 points, four assists and just one turnover from Briar. In the 47-38 final win against Garden Plain, Briar went 4 of 9 from beyond the arc with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Congrats to our very own Kali Briar on earning 2A Player of the Year from Sports in Kansas from Wheat State Elite/Dylan Evans.
1A-I: McKenna Vogl, Pretty Prairie
Pretty Prairie, based on its defense and rebounding, beat Centralia, 37-35, and won the first state girls’ championship in program history. Vogl anchored the 25-1 team. The Bulldogs allowed just 25.1 points a game, statistically one of the great defenses in Kansas history. At state, Pretty Prairie collectively held teams to 25.6 percent shooting. Pretty Prairie ended the season with back-to-back victories against Hodgeman County and Centralia, which were both undefeated squads.
Vogl helped Pretty Prairie reach state for the first time since 2000 and into the first final since 1996. PP had 1.03 points per possession and allowed 0.44 points a possession, a remarkable defensive rate. PP collected 42 percent of available offensive rebound. Vogl, who works on farms in the Pretty Prairie area, is known for her grit and toughness. She has committed to Barton County Community College basketball and coach Alan Clark, who is known for recruiting small-town Kansas players. Vogl led her team with 12.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and two blocks a contest.
In the state championship game, Vogl finished with a near triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks. In the last three seasons, Vogl delivered 658 points, 582 rebounds and 148 blocks. She delivered eight double-doubles this winter.
In the fall, Vogl, a 6-foot middle blocker, was second team all-state (top-14) by the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association for the state runner-up Bulldogs.
Congrats to McKenna Vogl of Pretty Prairie High School for being voted 1A Div 1 Basketball Player of the Year. We are so proud of you!! – Mom, Kayleigh and family
1A-II: Kassidy Nixon/Brynna Hammeke, Central Plains
Central Plains junior Brynna Hammeke and senior Kassidy Nixon are best friends. The duo has played basketball together since rec ball. They have helped Central Plains continue its state record run for state championships. In the last nine years, Central Plains has eight straight state titles and an undefeated Forever Four season in 2020. CP is 229-5 in that span under coach Pat Stiles.
Both players fought through significant adversity this winter for the 25-1 Oilers. Central Plains’ lone loss came against undefeated 2A state champion Sterling. In the semifinals, Central Plains held off Hanover, 49-44. In the championship, CP beat previously undefeated Golden Plains, 50-38. Central Plains is the only team to defeat Golden Plains in the last two seasons.
Both Hammeke and Nixon are highly decorated. Nixon has signed with Barton County volleyball. She is a former 1A volleyball player of the year and was first team all-state softball last spring. Both Hammeke and Nixon were first team all-state (top-5 selections) in basketball last winter.
This season, Hammeke was unanimous first team all-league, and Nixon was first team all-league. For the season, Hammeke delivered 19 points, 4.2 steals and 3.4 assists a contest. Nixon finished with 10.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 4.3 steals per game. They both shot at least 46 percent from the field and 33 percent from the 3-point line.
Hammeke has battled through back problems all season that severely limited her practice time. She also went through cramps in the state semifinal win against Hanover. In that contest, Hammeke still delivered a game-high 18 points, along with six assists and three steals.
Nixon vomited during the state championship game. She finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and seven steals.
Nixon ranks third all-time in Central Plains history with 349 steals. Emily Ryan is first and Reagan Phelan second. Both were Kansas players of the year. Ryan holds multiple Kansas records, including all-time steals. She is currently Iowa State’s current first team all-Big 12 point guard. Phelan went on to a great career at Washburn University.
Congratulations Brynna! We’re proud of your hard work and dedication to your team. Love Mom, Meritt, Kenna, Paxton, Stacie, Levi, Grandma and Grandpa!
Congrats to Brynna Hammeke and Central Plains on earning POY! Squeegy’s Bar and Grill would like to congratulate the Oilers on another awesome season!
Odin Store would like to congratulate the Central Plains HS Oilers on the 1A-II state championship. Congrats to all of the players and coaches on another outstanding season!
Congrats to Kassidy Nixon of Central Plains on being named 1A Player of the Year. We are so Proud of you, Love your Family! Congrats to all of the Oilers on their state title!