Weston Meardon enters his third year at the helm at Eads where he’s spent the last two seasons trying to teach the skills needed to compete at a high level of basketball. He now has a core of players who have been on the court since they were freshmen and, on the court, when they lost in the Regional finals a year ago to the eventual 1A state champions Denver Jewish Day Academy, 57-25.
For their end-of-the-season showing CHSAA has ranked Eads #10 in the pre-season polls.
Although their record from last year isn’t anything to write home about, 11-11 overall and 2-3 in the highly contested Hi-Plains League, they did get better and better as their young players developed.
They lost two seniors, AJ Vasquez who saw limited time due to an ongoing injury, and Conner Wollert who started and led the way in rebounds a year ago. Wollert was needed on the floor for his rebounding, but also for his ability to handle the ball and shoot the three. As the season advanced, Wollert was key to the big improvements the Eads crew made.
But Meardon says his returners will be one of the strengths the Eagles will bring to the season, “The strength of the team will be our experience and guard play.”
The Eagles return everyone else and that includes All-Conference and All-State senior point guard Porter Spady who led Eads a year ago scoring 15 points per game, hauling down 8.2 rebounds, grabbing 3.0 steals per game, and distributing 3.5 assists to his teammates. Spady spent the summer playing with an elite team on the front range and is versatile playing any position on the floor.
Eads also returns senior Brentley Lening, who can play point guard or shooting guard and can shoot the three. Lening got hot at the end of the 2022-23 season averaging 10.5 points per game. He also chipped in 3.1 boards, 2.1 assists, and 1.8 steals. Lening has grown this year and will have to play physical for Eads on every night.
Another key member of the Eads returning triangle will be junior shooting guard and forward Stockton Mitchek who has a massive amount of court time experience and can rebound and shoot the ball well. Last year as a sophomore Mitchek averaged 7.3 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.6 steals.
The final returning starter is junior post Case Nelson. The lefty, who was injured early in the season last year, came on strong in the paint for Eads. But don’t be fooled as Nelson can also shoot the three-ball. Last year he was a workhorse on the boards hauling in 4.2 each game and added 3.0 points and 1.3 steals per outing.
Of his core group Meardon says, “For those players, they bring a lot of experience as all four players either started or played a lot of minutes as freshmen/sophomores. They bring a level of competitiveness day after day that I would be willing to bet is unmatched anywhere at the 1A level. They have a hunger for success and are willing to do whatever is asked of them to achieve the goals they have set.”
Going along with the four returners is a good junior in Kadan Dunlap who was the first man off the bench in many instances last year. Dunlap is a hard worker and has a lot of speed and will play aggressive ball.
The Eagle freshmen make up the rest of the 10-man unit. They come from a good program that Meardon and assistant coach Kyle Morlan have prepared at the middle school level for the past three seasons. Freshmen include Adyn Hough, Anthony Paez, Jayson Bletzacker, Wes Mitchek and Tayden Smith.
Eads will have exceptional speed, but they will be small in stature with Spady their strongest rebounder. According to Meardon, “We have to learn how to play bigger than what we really are, and to have better in-game shot selection. Also, we need to learn how to better limit teams’ runs.”
Meardon sees the Hi-Plains League as a tough one but mentions McClave and Cheyenne Wells as teams who could be very tough outs. McClave is currently ranked #4 in the CHSAA pre-season poll while Cheyenne Wells is on the list of teams to watch.
Eads will begin the 2023-24 season at home, yes that’s right, the gym floor has been replaced with a beautiful, shiny new floor. Friday, December 1 will be the first games on the floor when Eads welcomes Hi-Plains to town for a non-conference season and home opener.
The Eagles will be in the Border Wars for three games in Kansas during the week of December 5-9. Finally, before the holiday break, the Eagles are looking forward to getting on the floor at the Lamar Community Building for the annual Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament.
Meardon and his Eagles are looking forward to a successful season, “As a team, we have very high goals and expectations for this season. We feel like we have the ability to play with anybody in the state in 1A and look forward to making some noise in the post season.”