Darrin “Dai Dai” Ames, Kenwood’s star senior guard, isn’t the type to sugarcoat anything. The Broncos had several crushing losses last season and Ames always detailed the failings directly. He repeatedly said things weren’t right with the chemistry between his talented teammates. Kenwood’s stars weren’t on the same page all the time.
A new season began on Monday, the first day of practice across the state. Ames is stronger now, he’s matured physically since March and he says there is a different feel in the locker room today.
“Everyone knows we have to play as a team if we want to win,” Ames said. “We have to do the little things. That stuff matters. I want to be the leader they need. I’m trying to lead by example.”
Ames committed to Kansas State this summer and will sign his scholarship on Wednesday. The talented guard was never fully healthy after December last year but still led Kenwood to a 26-9 record. The Broncos lost to Young in the supersectionals.
“[Ames] is the closer,” Kenwood coach Mike Irvin said. “He’s one of the best players in the country and I couldn’t write a better script than to have him with this young group.”
Irvin is quick to boast that he has the most talented team in the state and he’s probably right. Sophomore Bryce Heard transferred to Montverde (Fla.) and Davius Loury left for Donda in California, but Kenwood reloaded.
There are three transfers: Isaiah Green from Hillcrest and Tyler Smith from Leo. Chris Riddle, a 6-6 junior, is back after a year in Arizona. He started high school at Kenwood.
Jaden Smith, a 6-11 junior, and Calvin Robins, a 6-5 junior, return and will be major contributors this season.
“Robins does it all,” Ames said. “He hustles, rebounds and blocks shots. He does all the things we need. That’s going to make a big difference.”
Then there is Aleks Alston, a 6-8 sophomore that could be the most highly-regarded prospect on the team. Irvin says he may start.
“The sky’s the limit for what he could be a year from now,” Irvin said. “He already shows the flashes.”
Solomon Mosley, a 6-7 senior, is a solid rebounder and leader. He grew up with Ames and will be the team’s backbone.
“We have pushed the egos aside and are becoming a family,” Mosley said. “Last year we fell short because we just weren’t together.”
Kenwood’s entire rotation is likely to go on and play college basketball. That’s eight to ten players. The amount of talent on hand is immense for a high school team. Green and Smith were stars at other schools last year, but the remaining juniors and Alston are untested. It generally takes time for a player to fully acclimate to the speed and intensity of high-level Public League basketball.
“That’s the one thing,” Irvin said. “We have the most talent in the state, hands down. But I’m worried about the lack of experience in big games. We are going to have to see how that goes.”
A lot will be revealed very quickly. Kenwood and Young will face off on the first day of the season, Nov. 21, at DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips arena. The Broncos lost to Young in the city semifinals and the state supersectionals last year.
Kenwood fans turned out in droves last year and the team expects the same support this season.
“Everyone is going to be at DePaul,” Ames. “They are all waiting for us to beat Young.”