In Kansas City, Kansas, an improbable hoops renaissance 

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Kalen Allen and the Hibler twins, Myles and Michael, are the other Washington seniors who played a lot as sophomores. Myles starts, and Michael comes off the bench, an arrangement explained in large part by the fact that Myles, at 6 feet 6 inches, is 4 inches taller. "One robbed the other one in the womb," says the boys' father, Michael, who usually finds a seat in the front row of his sons' games.

The team also features a shot-blocking specialist, Rakim McCoy, and a 5-foot-6-inch point guard, Jervon Hooks. What Hooks lacks in size — a portion of the No. 35 on the front of his oversized jersey disappears into his shorts — he makes up for in speed and tenacity. He's also annoying, in the best possible way. During the Sumner game, he tagged along when the opposing point guard huddled with Parra on the sideline. Wanting privacy, Parra gently pushed Hooks in the chest as he spoke to his player.

Hooks transferred from Harmon after the 2009-10 school year, tired of sitting on the bench. He has integrated easily, having played on rec-league teams with Washington's core group when they were in elementary school. Hooks' father, Jerome, coached one of them.

"These kids have played against each other since they were little-little," Cooper says. "All the kids know each other and know each other's game."

Players developing reputations on the playgrounds isn't unusual. The unique thing about KCK is the way the kids amass into tribes. Some basketball players even identify themselves by the middle school they attended. "If you're an Argentine guy," Parra says, "you're an Argentine guy until you die."


Once players experience varsity basketball in Kansas City, Kansas, the games outside the league taste a little stale.

Sumner finished its regular season 17-3. But because all three losses came in league play, the season felt like failure. "It's almost like we've lost a ton of games," Parra says. "It's almost like we're 12-8."

The players didn't care that they entered the postseason having lost fewer games than last year's team, which left the 4A tournament in Salina with a big trophy. "They care that we lost to Washington twice," Parra says.

Parra, 39, grew up in KCK and attended Bishop Ward, a Catholic school that's less than a mile from Wyandotte High. Baseball was his best sport — he played at the University of Louisiana–Monroe — but he wanted to coach basketball. He was an assistant at Washington and the head coach at one of the middle schools. He coached Sumner's girls before taking over from Springs.

On game nights, Parra looks like he's coaching a college team. He wears pinstripe suits and has three assistants. Beefy and demonstrative, he stamps his feet when he gets frustrated.

The team that Parra coached to a state title in 2009-10 dominated. (Sloan suspects that the team could have won the 5A and 6A tournaments.) But the departure of four seniors left Parra with a group of mostly untested players with a halfhearted commitment to playing defense. "This group I have to stay on," he says.

The team's point guard, a 5-foot-10-inch blur named Benny Parker, started on last year's title team. This season, he had to learn to play without Reese Holliday and Davonte Chaney, who took their games to the University of Toledo and Coffeyville Community College. "This year, I was that dude," Parker says.

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