By BRETT MARSHALL
Drew Kite and Brett O'Neil, two seniors who played key roles in leading the Scott City Beavers to three consecutive Class 3A basketball championships and one Class 3A football title, have signed letters-of-intent to play basketball at the collegiate level.
Kite, The Telegram's 2013 Player of the Year in basketball and the 2012 Player of the Year in football, is headed to Fort Hays State University where the 6-4 forward will play for the NCAA Division II Tigers. Kite put his signature to his NCAA letter on Wednesday, the first day of the spring signing period for that division.
O'Neil, son of Scott City head boys basketball coach Glenn O'Neil, has signed to play with the Dodge City Community College Conquistadors, who compete in the West Division of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference. O'Neil had signed his NJCAA letter on April 8.
"It's exciting for both of them," coach O'Neil said. "It's a chance for both to get that first step for the future."
Two former Beavers — Corbin Kuntzsch and Tim Peintner — starred for the Tigers in the late 2000s, and coach Mark Johnson is familiar with O'Neil's program.
"Drew will make the transition to a small and/or power forward depending on the opponent," O'Neil said. "He'll have a chance to grow into a new position. He's got a nice touch from 15 feet in, as we've seen with his free throwing and I think with some hard work, that will develop for him. Our kids have been a good fit up there and they know our kids will work hard and can play. Drew will make his own steps there."
Kite and O'Neil were starters during the three-year run when the Beavers dominated 3A basketball, helping their team to an astonishing 75-3 record in basketball while also being part of a football program that went 46-3 in football over four years. Overall, the Beavers were 92-9 in the four years of basketball for Kite and O'Neil.
"They will leave behind for the younger kids a terrific work ethic, and demonstrated what can happen when you play unselfishly," coach O'Neil said of his two stars. "They've had all-state consideration in three sports (baseball being the third), and there's not many kids who have had the success that they've had. It's a real testament to how hard they worked."
Kite capped off his career by scoring a team-high 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the Beavers' 74-55 rout of Humboldt in the 2013 state championship game in Hutchinson. O'Neil also finished his SCHS career on a high note, very nearly compiling a triple double when he scored 13 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds.
Coincidentally, the teammates were the quarterback-tight end combination that came up with the winning touchdown pass in the final minute in November when the Beavers rallied for a 28-21 victory over Silver Lake to claim the school's first state football title in more than two decades.
It seems as though the two have been intertwined throughout their prep career, sharing The Telegram's 2012 Player of the Year honor in basketball when the Beavers won the middle of their three state basketball crowns.
Kite finished his basketball career with 1,114 points and 699 rebounds. His senior year, the 6-4, 220-pounder, averaged 19.1 points and 10.1 rebounds. He scored in double figures in all 26 games, with a season high of 29 and a low of 13. He was a 69-percent field goal shooter and made 75 percent of his free throws. He had incrementally improved his scoring from his freshman season (16 points) to sophomore (185), junior (405) and his senior season (516). He had a season-high of 18 rebounds and accounted for 15 double-doubles in points/rebounding.
O'Neil was the point guard and floor general for the Beavers during his prep career.
He came off the bench and played key minutes as a freshman when the Beavers were 17-6, and then moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore.
O'Neil, 6-1, scored 1,055 points in his career and had 591 assists. His senior season, he averaged 11.4 points, second best on the team behind Kite. He recorded 213 assists (8.2 average) and chipped in with 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game. He made 46 percent of his field goals and 74 percent of his free throws.
"Brett's decision was made for a number of reasons," coach O'Neil said. "He wanted to play now and he would have likely red-shirted (his other choice was Missouri State-West Plains) and they had 11 players coming back next year. Coach (Kyle) Campbell has worked with him in summer AAU ball in Wichita and he just felt real comfortable with him."
Coach O'Neil said his oldest son would likely play point guard for the Conqs next season.
"He's got a chance to be the guy to run the offense," coach O'Neil said. "He's got the mentality and the course presence to continue to be the type of leader he was for us."
Coach O'Neil said both players wanted to take their time before reaching a final decision.
"It's a big decision that impacts the rest of their life," coach O'Neil said. "They wanted to get it right. Both had a hard time saying no to some of the other coaches who were recruiting them. Things had to fall right, and I think the intangibles at both schools for them allowed them to feel comfortable. They're excited about that next step."
Fort Hays State compiled a 20-8 record this past season, reaching the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association semifinals before losing to Northwest Missouri State. Kyle Campbell guided the Conqs to a 14-17 overall record and 6-10 mark in the KJCCC in his first year as the head coach.