2023 Sports in Kansas Basketball Coach of the Year Honors Released

Left to Right: Aaron Ihm, Martin Shetlar, Trey O’Neil, Garrett Roth, Vance Unrau, Jeff Kuckelman, Josh Gooch. Photo: Terry Rinehart for Sports in Kansas

Sports in Kansas has released its annual list of coach of the year winners across the seven classifications in Kansas. A media panel of over 35 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. Postseason honors are powered by Watco, Mammoth, Nex-Tech Wireless, SAFE, Lewis Automotive Group.

Sports in Kansas 6A Boys’ Coach of the Year: Aaron Ihm, Blue Valley Northwest

Aaron Ihm of Blue Valley Northwest

Aaron Ihm has continued the success at Blue Valley Northwest after longtime coach Ed Fritz left. Northwest finished 21-4 and defeated Wichita Heights, 55-50, for the state championship.

Ihm has served as a high school coach for 17 years. He led girls’ teams for nine years and boys for eight. This marks his second year at BVNW. He is 151-68 as a boys head coach, including 42-8 at Blue Valley Northwest. Ihm previously coached at Missouri schools Harrisonville and Raytown South. He called this team “an absolute joy to coach.” BVNW has three goals: win the Eastern Kansas League, win sub-state and state championship. Northwest was undefeated in EKL play. NW lost to Wichita Heights in 2022 state finale and fell to 0-7 all-time against the Falcons.

Northwest went undefeated against Kansas teams. NW had Grant Stubblefield a returning 6A POY from last season as Northwest finished with 13 straight victories. Plus, Joey Matteoni had 16.8 points, 10.9 rebounds and shot 63 percent from the field. Entering the state tournament, NW had a low rate of turnovers on just 17.4 percent of possessions. NW went 6-2 in games decided by five points or fewer.

“I will always remember how well this team got along and how unselfish they were in their dedication to each other and the mission,” Ihm said.

Sports in Kansas 5A Boys’ Coach of the Year: Martin Shetlar, Andover

Martin Shetlar of Andover

Andover coach Martin Shetlar led the Trojans to their first-ever boys’ basketball state title. Shetlar has coached 21 years overall, 11 seasons at Andover and six as head varsity coach. Shetlar is 104-30 at Andover. Two years ago, Shetlar led Andover to an undefeated COVID Final Four season.

The 23-2 Trojans beat Maize South (49-46), Highland Park (55-54) and Kapaun Mt. Carmel (54-46) at state. This marked Highland Park’s only loss this winter. Andover had Eli Shetlar, a Top 5 all classes player, and BJ Redic, the large class defensive player of the year. Andover started 2-2 and won 21 consecutive games. Andover had the No. 14 offense and No. 3 defense for all classes, per Massey Ratings. The Trojans especially improved their defense from last year after a 17-5 team.

“This season was an amazing ride with a group of players that trusted each other and worked together towards our season goals,” Shetlar said. “Their selflessness and commitment to our team allowed them to continue to improve throughout the season and become a truly great team.”

Sports in Kansas 4A Boys’ Coach of the Year: Trey O’Neil, Hugoton

Trey O’Neil of Hugoton

Hugoton coach Trey O’Neil continues his remarkable playing and coaching career. O’Neil was a two-time SIK Player of the Year for his dad, Glenn, at Scott City. SC won four state titles from 2011-15 and five total under Glenn. Trey was on three state title teams and was top-5 all classes as a senior.

O’Neil led Hugoton to its first-ever boys’ basketball state title with a 23-2 record. Hugoton opened 1-2 at the Hays City Shoot-Out against much bigger schools and won 22 straight. At state, Hugoton won by 17, 20 and beat McPherson, 67-58, in the state title game. Hugoton was ranked ninth in the preseason.

Trey played in 117 career games as a four-year player at Fort Hays. He is eighth all-time in Tiger history in made 3-pointers. O’Neil started his coaching career as a two-year assistant under Alex Hutchins, a Scott City graduate. They helped Hays High boys enjoy the most wins in a three-year stretch in school history. HHS was a 2020 COVID Forever Four team and lost in the state quarterfinals in ’21. Last season, O’Neil took over a relatively inexperienced team and brought the Eagles back to the state tournament.

This year, Hugoton was much more veteran-laden with Ryle Riddlesperger, Carson Bennett, Dasean Lewis and Emmett Gaskill. Riddlesperger set Hugoton single season and career 3-point records. He averaged 18.6 points per game, Bennett 16.1. Lewis recorded 35 steals and 12 taken charges; he has 26 charges in the last two years. Gaskill had 5.8 rebounds, 31 steals and shut down main scorers in the 4A state tournament. O’Neil, 26, is one of the youngest coaches to win a state title.

O’Neil does an excellent job with infrastructure. During the summer, Hugoton lifts four days a week at 6 a.m. In the school year, Hugoton lifts five days a week. He and his program have worked with Hugoton youth.

Congrats to the Hugoton Eagles on an awesome 2022-2023 season! Congrats to all of our players and coaches on a fantastic season. We are proud of you. A big congrats to Coach O’Neil as the 4A COY from SIK! – from Hugoton High School and Hugoton High School Athletics.

Congratulations Coach O’Neil for being chosen the 4A boys coach of the year!  Farm Bureau Financial Services-Jeff Ramsey Agency and the Hugoton Sports Boosters are very proud of you as is the entire Hugoton community and fans!

Sports in Kansas 3A Boys’ Coach of the Year: Garrett Roth, Hesston

Garrett Roth of Hesston

Hesston won the last two 3A state championships before Greg Raleigh retired. Garrett Roth, a former Hesston player and assistant, took over the program. Roth is just 25 years old. Hesston lost the season opener to Southeast of Saline and won 25 straight games. The Swathers beat SES in the state semifinal. Jake Proctor was the lone starter back from a group that graduated first team all-state pick Cason Richardson. Roth had new assistant coaches Lance Carter and Gaven Schumann.

“It was a pleasure coaching this group this season. When I took over I knew we had a serious shot to be in the same position we have been in the past couple of years,” Roth said. “…They brought the energy and enthusiasm that our guys needed each day. They are some of the best and I am so grateful for them. Our team was made up of a great senior class. They have been waiting for their shot on the varsity level and we had seven guys who truly wanted to win. We also had some underclassman fill some key roles on both sides of the court. Outside of Jake Proctor, we had little to no experience coming into the year and it showed early in the season. Jake was able to win us some big games throughout the year and was a dude each and every night.”

In addition to Proctor, Lane Magill, Micah Dahlsten, Adrian Hernandez, Tyler Rewerts, Jackson Fry and Reed Friesen were key players. Hesston had an average score of 58-36.

“Had tough defensive assignments the last 3 games against good opponents and they played hard to try to contain those guys,” Roth said. “Overall, I am nothing but proud of our group and what they were able to do this season. They are great basketball players but most importantly, they continued to make positive strides in their journey to be great young men this year and that was awesome to be apart of. They earned every bit of this state championship and really took it all in!” Roth said.

Sports in Kansas All-Classes & 2A Boys’ Coach of the Year: Vance Unrau, Moundridge

Vance Unrau of Moundridge

Moundridge and coach Vance Unrau was the top story down the stretch in Kansas high school basketball and collected both All-Classes and 2A Coach of the Year. The Wildcats opened ranked third in the 2A poll. During the season, Unrau, a legendary coach, announced his retirement after the year. Moundridge never lost after Jan. 13 and won the Class 2A state title. The Wildcats were the third seed and finished 23-3. Moundridge defeated TMP in the semifinals, 56-55, on a last-second shot from Henry Hecox. In the title, Moundridge defeated Wichita Independent, 66-46. Moundridge had lost, 53-47, to Independent on Dec. 16.

Unrau coached 36 seasons at Moundridge and posted a 566-261 record. He had 10 state appearances, seven state title game showings and six state titles. Unrau won four in a row from ’90-93, ’97 and 2023. Moundridge ended a 10-year state drought this winter. Moundridge was 8-1 and won the Heart of America league. Moundridge qualified out of the Sterling sub-state, which had four top-10 teams. The Wildcats beat Inman in the semifinals and Sterling in the championship. Moundridge beat Inman three times and Sterling twice.

Landon Kaufman, Logan Churchill and Bear Moddelmog all had uncles or dad play for Unrau. Those three each averaged between 13.4 and 14.7 points a contest.

“Coming into the 2023 basketball season, I felt like we had the pieces to be pretty good,” Unrau said. “But potential doesn’t guarantee success. This group had more collective offensive firepower than most any team that I have ever coached. But we lacked a willingness to be good at the defensive end of the floor. We finally figured out that Rebounding and Getting Stops, along with our high performing offense, was going to be our ticket to becoming a contender for a state title.”

Sports in Kansas 1A-I Boys’ Coach of the Year: Jeff Kuckelman, Macksville

Jeff Kuckelman of Macksville

Macksville coach Jeff Kuckelman started to coach the current seniors in third grade. After the first MAYB tournament, Kuckelman set the goal for the group to win a high school state title. Ryan Kuckelman and Alexis Barron started every game of their careers. Rogelio Ibarra started nearly every game. Lance Lickiss started multiple years. Kuckelman, Barron and Ibarra all cleared 900 career points, Lickiss 400 career rebounds.

Macksville was third in Class 1A, Division I last season and went 24-2 with a state championship this winter. Kuckelman won his third title after ’06 and ’11. He has 10 state appearances in 21 seasons and has a 381-128 record. Kuckelman called this team the deepest he’s ever had. Macksville stressed defense and assists. The Mustangs had 410 assists and had an assist on 64 percent of made baskets. The top-five players all had between 9.5 and 12.8 points per game.

Last season, Macksville had .93 points per possession and allowed .71.

This year, the Mustangs upped to 1.01 points per possession and allowed .67 points a possession behind its quick pace with 64 possessions per game. Macksville was known for its great turnover creation and had steals on 21.1 percent of possessions.

“After getting 3rd in 2022 and with 7 of our top 8 players returning, we knew going into the season that we would have a chance to be really good. We were very successful in the summer as we played a little over 30 games in June and only losing 3 times.  We had a strong start with winning our first 9 games including the Larned Keady Classic Championship and then lost a tough game against a good Ellinwood team.  The next week we lost another tough game to a good Wichita Independent team but got better from those games and won the rest of the regular season games, got the 1 seed in substate, and had to beat a good Little River team on their home court for the substate title.  We felt going into the state tournament that if we played well, we had as good of a chance as anybody.  We did that and then some as we probably played our best basketball in the state tournament and our kids just played so hard that they were not going to be denied.” Kuckelman said.

Sports in Kansas 1A-II Boys’ Coach of the Year: Josh Gooch, Tribune-Greeley County

Josh Gooch repeats as SIK 1A-II COY for Greeley County.

Tribune-Greeley County was the No. 1 team in the classification throughout the year and won its second consecutive Class 1A, Division II title under alumnus Josh Gooch. Greeley County finished 25-1 and defeated Lebo, 49-43, for the state championship. The Jackrabbits won their fourth state title in school after 1968, 2011 and 2022.

Greeley County returned all five starters: Jaxson Brandl, Titus Sherer, Jariath Yanez, Valentin Villalobos and sophomore Lincoln Shafer. GC ended with 18 straight wins. The Jackrabbits averaged 1.09 points per possession and allowed .65 points per possession. Last year, Greeley County averaged .96 points per possession and allowed .22.

Brandl will look to repeat later this week as 1A-II classification player of the year and finished as the No. 16 scorer in Kansas history. Sherer has a Southwestern College basketball offer.

“The expectations were high coming into the season this year, but my goal was to keep the kids focuses on each game that we were playing instead of only looking at March. The kids did an amazing job staying in the moment and not looking ahead. They were a fun group of kids to watch play the game the right way, share the ball and play some great defense. This group of kids will be one to remember not only because of the results, but for how they did it, this team averaged 18 assists on 27 made field goals, 10.5 turnovers, 14 steals and forcing 22.5 turnovers.” Gooch said.

Congratulations to Coach Gooch and the state championship basketball team on all of their accomplishments. Congrats on Back-to-Back State Championships! Your hard work has paid off!Dwight and Ronda Gooch

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