Fireworks, banned in Lawrence. Human fireworks shows, more than welcome. A particularly interesting crop of explosive newcomers will light things up in Kansas University athletic contests this coming school year. A look at some of the must-see shows debuting during the 2013-14 school year:
1. Andrew Wiggins: On his first play in front of a Lawrence audience, Wiggins dunked over an NBA center (Cole Aldrich), which sent expectations soaring as high as he did on the play that burned in the minds of every KU fan with access to YouTube. Thanks to Wiggins, a basketball ticket figures to be even tougher to land than usual.
2. Marquel Combs: Explosive off the line of scrimmage. Explosive personality. The leader of a junior-college class of recruits that could be pared by behavior issues, injuries and academic concerns, none of that will erode the considerable enthusiasm the highly recruited defensive tackle brings to the program.
3. Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez: The twins from Idaho haven’t played a basketball game for Bonnie Henrickson’s team yet, but they already are super famous in cyberspace, where pictures of them are easy to find and some might even say difficult to put down. Internet speculation about their dating lives captivates huge audiences. Might Dylan be seeing former Kentucky star Anthony Davis? Inquiring minds want to know. If the twins prove as popular in person as online, the KU women could break attendance records, regardless of their won-loss record. To get a feel for their personalities, check out their Q&A on blacksportsonline.com.
5. Wayne Selden: Wiggins cast such a huge shadow, but not so big as to crowd Selden completely out of the limelight. Powerful perimeter player tickles the twine with his jumper and rattles the rim with his slams.
6. Justin McCay: Wide receiver and Oklahoma transfer is not a world-class sprinter, but he’s not slow, either. What he is is dynamic and physical and adept at making acrobatic catches. His personality lights up a room.
7. Cassie Wait: An Under-Armour High School All-American and the Gatorade Kansas Volleyball Player of the Year, Wait showed off her explosiveness in setting the state meet record in the pole vault, on the basketball and volleyball courts and in the classroom, where she was a straight-A student at Gardner-Edgerton.
8. Colin Spencer: Two athletes looked like the fastest on the field during a spring practice open to the media. One was Tony Pierson, the other Spencer. He’ll back up Pierson, and when the ball is in his hands, don’t take your eyes off of him. His performance at a Nike combine blew away the competition. He ran a 4.42 40, and his vertical leap was measured at 41.7 inches. At 5-foot-10, 174 pounds, he’s not big, but in some ways that just makes him a more difficult target to bring down.
9. Brannen Greene: His super-soft jumper and long range make him a threat to become an instant-offense type of player. His shot is so pure it tends to take attention away from his ability to rise and throw one down. Freshman from Georgia will score a lot of points during his stay in Lawrence.
10. Denton Keys: Dominant high school left-handed pitcher from Denver is ranked last here only because he might never step foot on campus. The Philadelphia Phillies drafted him in the 11th round, and he must sign by July 12 to join the Phillies’ organization. Signing bonuses have dipped, since new salary rules were implemented, so Kansas has a better shot than it would have a couple of years ago. Plus, Keys’ potential is so considerable, it’s possible he might have the confidence to believe that after three years of growth and refining his pitches, he could become a first-round draft choice and really cash in. A Denver Post story about Keys during the state playoffs said he had four no-hitters as a senior, limited hitters to a .051 batting average against, did not allow an earned run in 38 innings and had five walks and 97 strikeouts. He led his team to the Class 2A state championship.