Nex-Tech Wireless Central Kansas Athletes of the Month: Close-knit Macksville senior boys a state title contender

Rogelio Ibarra shoots against Ellinwood in a Jan. 13 game. Ibarra is one of the Macksville’s experienced seniors. He was named MVP of the St. John tournament. (Photo by Tessa Lickiss)


MACKSVILLE – This winter is very special for longtime Macksville boys’ basketball coach Jeff Kuckelman. His son, Ryan, is a senior and the Mustangs’ 6-foot-6 three-sport athlete.

“I have coached a lot of years, and I have never had a team with my son on it that has been this good,” Kuckelman told SIK.

Additionally, Kuckelman has coached multiple seniors since third grade. Even at the beginning, Macksville had success in MAYB. This season, Macksville has opened 11-2 and is a significant Class 1A, Division I state contender.

“There’s been a lot of water under the bridge with all of us,” Kuckelman said. “I guess the good and the bad, including my son. But with that, they have been together a lot of years. I feel like the younger kids have really blended in well.”

This marks Kuckelman’s 21st year with Macksville. He has 368 career victories, including an undefeated state title in 2006 and a one-loss 2011 state championship.

In 2019, Macksville finished 18-7. The next year, Macksville won nine games with three freshmen as the team’s top four scorers: Rogelio Ibarra, Ryan Kuckelman, and Alexis Barron. Plus, Lance Lickiss was a role player as a freshman.

The next year, Macksville improved to 13-7. Ibarra, Kuckelman and Barron served as the top-three scorers. Each one averaged at least 10.2 points a contest. Lickiss played in all 20 games with three points, three rebounds and three assists a game, showcasing an underrated multi-purpose role throughout his career. Alvaro Ibarra was a key reserve as a sophomore, too.

Last season, Macksville went 23-3 and finished third in Class 1A, Division I. Barron and Kuckelman finished 1-2 in scoring, while Rogelio Ibarra and Lickiss were fourth and fifth, respectively. Alvaro played in all 25 games.

Macksville averaged 64.8 possessions a contest, an above-average tempo rate. The Mustangs scored .93 points per possession and allowed .71, per MaxPreps stats and SIK research. Macksville collected 36 percent of offensive rebounds.

Other than games missed with injury, Barron and Ryan Kuckelman has started every game since freshman year. Lickiss is a three-year starter.

“They are a tight-knit group, and they enjoy playing together,” coach Kuckelman said.

Rogelio Ibarra had significant playing time as a freshman and moved up after he impressed coach Kuckelman on defense in JV. He has started on and off for three years.

“He played even better in the varsity,” coach Kuckelman said.

Entering Tuesday, Barron, Rogelio Ibarra and Kuckelman all had between 817 and 864 career points. Lickiss had more than 300 rebounds.

While Kuckelman, an all-state quarterback and fifth in the 1A 400-meter dash last spring, is well-known, Macksville is highly active on the perimeter and creates turnovers. Macksville had steals on 20 percent of possessions a year ago, an extremely high rate.

This season, Macksville has six seniors on varsity: Barron, Kuckelman, Lickiss, the two Ibarras and Gustavo Portillo. Class 1A, Division I is relatively wide-open after Olpe defeated South Gray for each of the last two state championships. In the Jan. 24 Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll, Macksville stood third behind Olpe and Centralia.

The Mustangs entered Tuesday’s game against La Crosse with an 11-2 record. The losses came against 2A No. 3 Ellinwood (14-0) and 2A No. 1 Wichita Independent (12-1). Macksville’s victories include Cunningham (9-4) and 3A Hoisington.

Ellinwood and Macksville played for likely the Central Prairie League regular season conference title Jan. 13.

Macksville and Ellinwood have faced off since junior high. Occasionally, some of the players have joined together for MAYB. At the time, Ellinwood and Macksville were both undefeated. Before the game, Kuckelman wrote the date on the board. Kuckelman pointed to the “1” that represented January. He asked the players what that meant. They said January.

“This game is going to teach us a lot about ourselves,” he said. “Regardless of win or lose. And no matter what happens with this game, we have got a whole lot of season left to play. It isn’t like this game and the season is over.”

Ellinwood, with four seniors, came back to win 69-56. The Eagles have the state’s leading scorer with senior Brit Dutton.

“It’s certainly a good test,” Kuckelman said. “We knew it would be, and we just hope to get better from it, and hope it pays off in March for us.”

Macksville took second in the St. John Mid-Winter Classic on Jan. 22. Ibarra was tournament MVP, while Lickiss was selected as co-Mr. Hustle.

Per MaxPreps, Macksville has played the second-hardest strength of schedule in the classification among the top-20 contenders. The Mustangs are just behind South Gray. Olpe, which graduated four starters, remains undefeated and has won 42 straight, the state’s longest current winning streak. No team in the classification has one loss. Then, Macksville is one of 11 teams with two or three defeats.

Barron has 11.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Kuckelman has delivered 11.3 points, along with team bests in rebounds (8.8) and assists (3.1). Sophomore Diego Esparza has 10.5 points and paces with 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals.

Rogelio Ibarra has 10.3 points. Lickiss, who surprisingly has never made an all-conference basketball team, has 8.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. Sophomore Hector Gomez is another key player.

“I tell people all the time – and I try to get him on all-league teams and so forth – because he just does a little of everything for us,” Kuckelman said of Lickiss. “He guards, he rebounds, he can score.”

It’s highly rare at any classification, especially in 1A, to have four players average double figures and five above eight. Macksville’s per-possession profile is nearly identical to last year – though with a nice defensive improvement.

The Mustangs are at 65.2 possessions per game and .94 points scored. However, Macksville has allowed just .66 points per possession and again forced steals on 20 percent of possessions. Macksville and Little River (10-3) pace the Little River sub-state.

“Our guys play their role very well,” Kuckelman said. “And I couldn’t be prouder.”

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