Possibility of no state basketball tournament disappointing to Shawnee seniors
SHAWNEE — Disappointment and heartbreak were few of the sentiments felt by Shawnee High School senior basketball players J'Briell Easley and Ka'Veon Sharp last week after they were denied an opportunity to play for a Class 5A state basketball championship.
The fourth-ranked Wolves were set to face fifth-ranked Tulsa Edison Prep in the opening round of the Class 5A State Tournament at Skiatook when the event was postponed just a couple of hours before the start of the tournament's first game.
The culprit was and still is COVID-19 (coronavirus) which has hampered gatherings, events and lifestyles all over the world.
Ron Arthur, Shawnee head coach, learned of the postponement while in Tulsa during a team meal at Ted's Cafe Escondido
“I was upset. That was my birthday. It was tough,” said Sharp, a starter and defensive specialist for the Wolves, who averaged 9.5 points per game.
Easley, who has been part of the high school basketball program for four years and averaged 7.2 points this season, didn't make it to state as freshman, the last time Shawnee qualified in 2017.
“I went into baseball (while the state tournament was going on),” Easley said. “This is heartbreaking. We were super ready to play.”
For Easley, the unfortunate situation is a double whammy. Not only has he missed out on playing in the state basketball tournament, he is missing and will likely miss a chunk of his final season of high school baseball. He has already drawn the attention of professional scouts for baseball and has signed to play at Cowley County College in Kansas next year.
But despite the disappointments, the pair – along with the Wolves' only other senior Moses Martinez – can look back at a magnificent season in which Shawnee went 21-6, the most wins in Arthur's 16 seasons as head coach of the program.
Defense was a major factor in the Wolves' success.
“Our defense was just active. It was just staying locked in and being on the help side when needed,” said Sharp.
“Probably our teamwork and the chemistry we had between all of us was big,” Easley said. “A lot came from what we would hear from Coach Arthur. The way to get back in games is with your defense and the fastbreaks which lead to easy baskets.”
Since the abrupt and possible premature ending to season, Sharp says he has been to the gym a couple of times while Easley has been lifting weights and playing catch with the baseball.
“It's upsetting but this (coronavirus) is a serious thing going on. You have to take it serious,” said Sharp.
Easley sees two sides to the issue.
“It's our senior year and it's not like we get to come back and do it again,” Easley said. “Maybe something good can come from this – trust God and hopefully he can fix it,”
Arthur praised his three seniors for their efforts this past year and feels particularly disappointed for them.
“You realize that there is no closure to the season and you realize what this group of seniors meant to the program and me personally,” said Arthur. “J'Briell is arguably one of the best athletes I've ever coached. Ka'Veon and Moses were a big part of getting us to state. Their leadership will be missed with Moses by the way he led by example. J'Briell and Ka'Veon were our vocal leaders and will be tough to replace. You think about who can fill their shoes.”
Arthur remembers numerous times in which his seniors stepped upped and corralled the group, trying to get everyone on the same page.
“We're going to not only miss them because of their defensive abilities,” Arthur said. “Their leadership will be hard to replace. That (leadership) was a factor for us throughout the season.”
Arthur says that the leadership qualities of his seniors were evident to strangers and those not around the program.
“At one of our games I had a relative who sat behind our bench and he could tell who are senior leaders were. He is a basketball official, so he has been around the game and knows it,” said Arthur. “He was impressed at how the seniors kept the others focused.”
Arthur describes his senior crew as great people.
“I've been around J'Briell the longest, coaching him since he was a freshman and we had our fair share of close encounters and conversations,” Arthur said. “Ka'Veon was a great addition to our program. Take the basketball our of it, it was their leadership in the locker room that kept people's minds right.”