The pressure of helping replace one of Blue Springs’ most decorated athletes — coupled with weighing a multitude of college options — made for a busy offseason for Lizzy Wendell, a forward for the Wildcats basketball team.
She found a little relief Wednesday when she signed a letter of intent to attend Drake on a basketball scholarship.
“I’m happy to have this process behind me, so we can concentrate on the season,” Wendell said. “We keep hearing we’re supposed to have a down year, but that’s not how we see it.”
Wendell shared the stage inside Blue Springs High School with six of her classmates, who also signed letters of intent as part of the early signing period.
Teammate Karyla Middlebrook, the Wildcats’ point guard, signed with Texas Tech. Wendell and Middlebrook will have the task of picking up the slack left by the departure of Tyonna Snow, the only athlete in school history to appear in four state title games. Blue Springs lost the championship game all four seasons.
- TWO TITANS PICK COLLEGES: The twin towers that made up Lee’s Summit West’s volleyball defense signed to play college volleyball next year.
Taylor Sandbothe will attend Ohio State, and Madi Mosier will continue her career at Pittsburg State. Both players were all-state selections and middle blockers for the Titans, who reached the state tournament for the third consecutive season.
“It’s a privilege to have this opportunity,” said Sandbothe, a finalist for the Evelyn Gates Award this year. “I think it’s a perfect place for me.”
- GOLFER CHOOSES K-STATE: Blue Springs South senior JP Derksen expects to be playing professional golf some day.
But he’s in no hurry.
With a full high school season ahead of him this spring, Derksen signed to attend Kansas State next year.
“I want to take this as far as I can and hopefully do something more after college,” Derksen said. “But in the meantime, I’m just looking forward to going to college and practicing as hard as I can every day.”
Derksen tied for third place last spring in the Missouri Class 4 state tournament.
He said he grew up as a Kansas fan before his family moved to North Carolina. They moved back to Blue Springs prior to his freshman year.
“I kind of always rooted for KU — until now,” Derksen said. “Good time to switch to K-State, too.”
- MORE SIGNING NEWS: Former Raytown South basketball player Ishmail Wainright signed with Baylor. Wainwright, a 6-foot-6 wing player, made an oral commitment to Missouri during his sophomore season but later backed out. He transferred to Christian School, a prep school in Rockville, Md., prior to his junior year. Wainright is ranked as the No. 5 small forward on the ESPN 100 list.
Five Rockhurst baseball players signed Wednesday: Travis Able, Victor Brancato, Todd Czinege, Logan Gray and Bill Maloney. Hawklets coach Jim DeGraw said he expects three more from this senior class will sign in the spring.
- OLATHE NORTHWEST SENDS THREE TO D-I: During the first nine seasons of Olathe Northwest girls basketball, no Ravens signed with NCAA Division I programs.
That changed dramatically Wednesday as three of coach Joel Branstrom’s players signed national letters of intent to play at college basketball’s highest level on the first day of the early signing period.
Point guard Kelsey Brooks signed with Arkansas, post Mikey Crall inked with Wisconsin and combo guard Jaylah Jackson signed with South Dakota.
Now, the question is whether one basketball is enough for Olathe Northwest.
“The great thing is they’ve known each other for a long time and played with each other for a long time,” Branstrom said. “They’ve really bought into the fact that they’d rather win as a team instead of worrying about who is the leading scorer. They know we’re better as a collective unit than we are individually.”
The Ravens, who finished 23-2 and were the Kansas 6A runner-up a year ago, feel like they have unfinished business and won’t shy away from the pressure of lofty expectations.
“You can see it as pressure and go or you can just get excited about and realize it’s a privilege to be able to coach a team like that,” Branstrom said. “It doesn’t happen very often.”
- WARD DUO MAKES HISTORY: It took 104 years, but for the first time in Bishop Ward history two student-athletes signed with NCAA Division I programs in the same year.
Senior guard Taylor Williams, who averaged 16 points and six rebounds as a junior, signed with women’s basketball powerhouse Memphis, while Jon Roblez signed with the Kansas State baseball team.
Williams, a three-time All-Kaw Valley League player, is ranked No. 38 in the nation as a wing player in her class by HoopGurlz.
Roblez, who pitched Ward to a win in the Kansas 4A semifinals as a freshman, is 13-10 with a 4.32 ERA in his career and also boasts a .318 career average with eight home runs and 45 RBIs.
- VOLLEYBALL STARS TO REUNITE AT KANSAS: Beginning next fall, Cassie Wait, a Gardner Edgerton senior and the Kansas 6A volleyball player of the year, will reunite with Osawatomie senior Tayler Soucie, the nation’s leader in kills this fall based on MaxPreps.com’s stats.
Wait, who can play every spot on the floor, and Soucie, who finished with 779 kills and a .537 hitting percentage this season. play on the same club team and both also signed Wednesday with No. 22 Kansas.