Ryan Welty made sure his accomplished career didn’t end without one more playoff run. He led the way for Park Hill South to continue its success while the Panthers have plenty of reasons for optimism.
Coming off back-to-back playoff trips, Park Hill South brings back the majority of the top players from a group that lost 66-65 to Liberty North in sectionals. Welty, a 6-foot-9 versatile threat led the Panthers with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game, finishing his career with 178 3-pointers.
Even with the all-state forward gone, Park Hill South has the chance to be better this year while in search of a return to the state semifinals. The Panthers were state runners-up in Class 5 in 2014-2015.
“You feel pretty confident when you’ve got four starters back and six out of our top seven back,” Park Hill South coach Dan Parra said. “So you know missing Ryan is a big hole for us because he was our one big kid, but overall, we feel pretty confident.”
Park Hill South’s optimism starts with sophomores Lamel Robinson and Desi Williams. As freshmen, they combined to average more than 21 points per game and were the Nos. 2 and 3 scoring options behind Welty.
In addition, senior guard Jacob Kline will start for a third straight season. He averaged nine points per game last year and shot 88 percent on free throws.
Kline also brings the last of the experience from the 2015 run to the state title game. He hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in a monumental upset of Chaminade in the semifinals that season, the biggest win of Parra’s impressive debut season at Park Hill South.
“I’m really excited,” Kline said. “We have a lot of returners and some good young guys who I think we can really compete.”
Connor Lee and Jashar Turner, both seniors, were also big contributors a year ago. Lee will continue to be an undersized forward trying to lead Park Hill South’s post game this year.
Shaadique Perkins, a recent transfer, will be a junior who should add depth in the front court. Parra also noticed the successes of the junior varsity team and the freshmen team, even without Williams and Robinson, last season as reasons Park Hill South could continue to succeed.
“We’ve got some kids that can definitely fill in,” Parra said. “We’ve got some kids that step in but the big thing is finding roles for everybody and figuring out what works and playing the five best that gives us the best chance to win at any time.”
Park Hill South went 16-11 in 2015-16 at times showing the inconsistencies of a young, inexperienced lineup. The Panthers ended up as the No. 2 seed in Class 5 District 16 but earned a second straight playoff trip with Williams and Robinson developing into can’t-miss scorers by the end of the season.