When the Great Bend High School boys’ basketball team entertains Pratt in the Panthers home opener Friday night, the Greenbacks will be missing some of their swagger.
Junior point guard Micah Swank, who led Pratt to a third-place finish last season in the Class 4A state tournament at the Salina Bicentennial Center, is out until late in the basketball season after having knee surgery in October.
“He’s a player, an all-class, all-state player last year as a sophomore,” Pratt head coach David Swank said of Micah Swank, the youngest of his two sons, both of whom are mainstays for the Greenbacks. “He’s out with a knee injury. He had surgery and he will be out until February.”
Micah Swank averaged 15 points, eight assists and three steals per game last season for a Pratt team that took the likes of Class 6A state tournament team and defending Western Athletic Conference foe Dodge City down to the wire at home before falling by three points.
Instead of entertaining high hopes for a return trip to the state tourney, Pratt goes into its season opener as youthful and inexperienced, the dynamics of the Greenbacks having changed with their point guard going on the injury shelf.
“He had a great summer, played AAU ball and things were going to really well,” David Swank said of his younger son. “We take him out of the equation and we’re obviously a different team. It’s a pretty rare injury. He had a bone chip off his femur and they surgically re-attached it.
David Swank is no stranger to the Panthers, having coached against them four straight seasons at the El Dorado midseason tournament when he was the head coach at Wichita Trinity.
“It should be a good test for us playing against Great Bend to open our season,” said David Swank, who coached Junction City for six seasons back in the 1990s.“That Great Bend gym is a great environment to play in, and we’re pretty young right now.”
The Greenbacks do have their most experienced player back in 6-3 swingman Matt Swank, a three-year letterman, who averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists last season.
“He’s a player, and he can play a lot of different positions for us,” David Swank said.
The only other player with any varsity experience from last season is Peyson Maydew, a 6-4 junior post player.
Suffice to say, the Greenbacks are green.
“He didn’t play a lot,” David Swank said. “We placed third in the state in 4A, and he was a post in our rotation. He averaged six points and two rebounds.
“He’s a good kid and a hard worker. We’re pretty young. We’ve got the one senior and we’ll put a lot of juniors out on the floor Friday night. I couldn’t tell you who are starting five is going to be. I really don’t know right now.”
The Panthers are coming off a second-place finish at the season-opening Hays City Shoot-Out last weekend. GBHS drubbed Colby in the opening game last Thursday, 48-26, before nipping Newton 35-29 in a semifinal game on Friday night.
In the championship game, the Panthers lost to Kearney, Neb., 58-36 after falling behind 30-17 at halftime.
GBHS point guard Will Gray and swingman Greg Hildebrand were named to the all-tournament team.
“Great Bend finished second last weekend at the Hays Shoot-Out and I have a lot of respect for the Great Bend,” David Swank said.
“(Panthers head coach) Chris Battin does a great job, and they came on strong late in the season and made it to the Class 5A state tournament.”