By CONOR NICHOLL
No. 1 3A Hugoton girls open much-anticipated season: “The most important thing for us is we have got to have fun”
HAYS – On Thursday, Hugoton had an early nine-point lead against Olathe West in the season-opening contest of the Hays City Shoot-Out. Hugoton is ranked No. 1 in Class 3A and returns its well-known junior trio of Mikyn Hamlin, Gianna Vos and Summya Adigun. The Eagles finished 23-2 and lost to Sabetha on a buzzer-beater in the 3A state semifinals last winter.
Olathe West went to the 6A state tournament last year, though has basically a brand-new team under Rick Rhoades, a coach known for turnarounds and building programs in the K.C. area. West eventually wore down Hugoton and delivered a 48-31 victory. Hugoton never made a trey and scored just nine second-half points. OW was plus-18 on the glass.
Afterward, Hamlin sat on the Hays High bleachers and collected her thoughts. A returning first team all-state selection and Hugoton’s record holder for single season points, Hamlin is among Kansas’ elite players.
All three Hugoton juniors have multiple collegiate offers and averaged double figures as sophomores. Hamlin’s final five is: University of San Francisco, Wyoming, Wichita State, Austin Peay and University of Missouri-Kansas City. A Wyoming coach sat close to Hamlin after Thursday’s game. Hamlin is expected to make her college choice Monday.
The juniors went 32-0 together in middle school and carried a 38-6 high school mark into this winter. Hamlin thought about the state loss and the tough start to 2021-22 for a team that has high expectations, both inward and outward. Of the seven preseason No. 1 ranked girls’ teams, five are defending champions. The two that aren’t are in 1A-1 Olpe, which is starting over, and Hugoton.
Hamlin had one question going through her mind the whole time on the bleachers: What can I do to be better for my teammates?
“We kind of didn’t come in with very much energy,” Hamlin said. “And we struggled rebounding big time. We kind of just got outplayed and outhustled, so we kind of looked and talked about how to get in better shape for the rest of this season, because we don’t have as much depth as we usually do. And so to just be together as a team, and the main factor this year is for us, we just need to have fun.”
Two days later, Hugoton was in more enjoyable spirits. Hugoton won, 58-39, against 5A Great Bend, a squad expected to be improved under second-year coach Cindy Beck, a former Washburn standout. On Saturday, Hugoton faced a key measuring stick game versus Thomas More Prep-Marian, ranked seventh in 3A.
“Honestly, we just wanted to bounce back,” Summya Adigun said. “I mean, we have a goal. Probably the ranking of No. 1 in 3A kind of got us a little bit, kind of nervous, but at the same time, we are ready to prove something.”
TMP has veteran coach Rose McFarland and highly acclaimed senior posts Kassidi Yost and Emilee Lane. The Monarchs are without two starters, 5-11 junior Jaci VonLintel and senior guard Megan Hamel, likely until after holiday break.
TMP played well, though Hugoton led by six at halftime and earned a 52-40 victory for third place in the six-team tournament. Afterward, Hugoton blasted its postgame music, an Eagle hallmark.
“They are good,” McFarland said of Hugoton. “And they have had good quality teams over the years, and these girls have played a lot. But I thought our girls really stepped up. Even though we lost on the scoreboard, I thought we really played hard.”
Northside, from Fort Smith Ark., went 3-0, while Hugoton and Olathe West both posted 2-1 records. TMP and Hays High were 1-2, and Great Bend finished 0-3.
“We are hoping to have a big season this year, so to come up here, and have the competition that we got at the beginning of the year is really huge for us, we needed it,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin delivered 20 points. Vos and Adigun each scored eight. Adigun grabbed 11 rebounds. Hamlin and Adigun, who holds an offer from NAIA top-10 national power Sterling College, earned all-tournament team honors.
“We had that connection of ‘Hey, if one person is kind of down, we are like the other two, ‘Hey, let’s go pick them up, let’s go get this,’” Summya said. “And we know how to win together. So I think that’s really our ultimate goal out of everything. We want to go win a state championship.”
Adigun’s dad, Emmanuel, is the Eagles’ well-known, charismatic high-energy head coach and has more than 100 career victories between stops at Pratt and Hugoton. He is also among Kansas’ top summer coaches. Assistant coach Jeff Ramsey has served many years with Eagle basketball, and assistant Ray Kennedy is a veteran coach. While the Eagles are well-aware of the big picture goals of a state title and college attention, Hugoton has focused on having fun and staying positive, too.
“It’s just passion,” coach Adigun said. “I love the game, and I know sometimes for young kids, they base their success off how good they play, how many points they score, if they are winning the game, and one of the things I want them to understand is this is a game, let’s have some fun. We are going to coach you hard. I want you to play hard. I want you to take it serious. But the most important thing for us is we have got to have fun.”
Adigun has long embraced coaching his daughter. They have spent years in gyms trying to get to this point. Last year, Summya’s main Twitter photo for part of basketball season was a SIK picture from the Shoot-Out that showed her playing, her dad watching in the background. Currently, it’s of father-daughter embracing after a contest last winter.
“She is my favorite player,” coach Adigun said. “She is going to get in there, she is going to take a charge, she is going to clap for her teammates on the bench. She’s going to play hard every possession, and to know that’s my child doing everything she can for the team, it’s such a blessing.”
Summya was taller and served as a post player in her younger years. She is currently 5-foot-8 and has often has to go against taller girls.
“She got rebounds,” McFarland said of Summya. “She really got underneath us on the rebounds, and I thought that really hurt us.”
She plays extremely hard and understands positioning. Summya finished with five rebounds against OW and delivered 21 points versus Great Bend. Coach Adigun is consistently talking and encouraging to his team and shows much more emotion on the sideline than most coaches. Early in the first quarter versus Olathe West, Summya took a charge. Her dad exclaimed and delivered a big fist pump.
“It’s amazing,” Summya said. “Sometimes we can get onto each other a little bit, but at the same time, the connection is really there, and it’s so much fun, especially when you are winning. … I am so glad and blessed that he is my coach.”
Those moments extend to other players, including the supporting cast. Hugoton graduated key post Jordyn Beard, now at Tabor College, along with key guards McKenna Hamlin and Molly McClure. Six-foot senior Breckyn Haar is now starting.
Junior Julienne Salazar and sophomore Abi Slocum are key guards in bigger roles for the first time. Salazar missed Thursday’s loss, though returned for the weekend. The coaching staff has reminded the team that the No. 1 ranking is based off the success of last winter’s team.
“You have to be good all the time at those attention to detail components, because if you are not, one mishap can cost us,” coach Adigun said.
A key moment occurred early in the second quarter versus TMP. Hugoton led 14-9, when 5-10 senior reserve Jaelyn Kelley passed up a shot on the left side. Coach Adigun yelled, “Shoot the ball!” Kelley quickly received a pass from Salazar. This time, she sunk a trey. As she ran down the court, coach called to Kelley, “I believe in you!”
“I need every kid on my team to understand that I believe in them,” coach Adigun said. “We are going to win with you. We are going to lose with you. But we are never going to come to a basketball game where we tell you, don’t be a threat. Don’t shoot. There’s no point of having you on the team if that’s the way it goes. And I was very proud of her for lining that up and taking that shot. Because I want them to know, we need you if we want to be ultimately successful.”
Hamlin grew up with two older siblings, which helped form her competitive drive. Summya said Hamlin “has that dog inside of her,” to fuel and motivate her team.
“Everything is always a competition,” Hamlin said. “When we were younger, we’d play Knockout in our front driveway, and someone was always crying. Whoever lost was always crying. There was always some arguing. A lot of cheap shots thrown at one another, but it was always like, ‘Regardless they were your No. 1 supporters, and so growing up in that competitive atmosphere has really helped me be the player I am.”
She watched Hugoton girls win state titles in ’15 and ’17. The Eagles have several seminal former players, including Katy Heger, a former Miss Kansas Basketball, and Dallie Hoskinson, who has enjoyed a standout career at Johnson County CC and currently at Division II power University of Sioux Falls.
Hamlin saw how music helped the girls have fun. Coach Adigun has a playlist in practice. The music continues on the bus.
“Everyone sings,” Hamlin said. “Everyone starts dancing, and it just creates energy for us.”
Following the TMP win, Hugoton took on-court photos. Even coach Adigun snapped a photo of his daughter and Vos.
“Who cares what people think about us?,” coach Adigun said. “I am going to love you no matter what. I am going to coach you. I am going to have some fun with it, because I want them to do the same thing on the court.”
Then, the girls went into the locker room and turned on the music that concluded an opening weekend of expectations, college choices, reflection and plenty of fun.
“The locker room is always hype,” Hamlin said. “Everyone’s energy is always up. We are always singing and finding ways just to build our energy before games and after.”