Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The Stanleys have become the first family of Bishop Gorman athletics in recent years.
Ronnie Stanley planted considerable roots, leading Gorman’s football team to three straight state championships from 2009-11 as one of the best offensive linemen in the nation before committing to Notre Dame. Robert Stanley followed in the same footsteps, landing a scholarship to Fresno State as a linebacker last year.
Now there’s little sister Raychel Stanley, a sophomore basketball standout who some believe could turn out as the best athlete of the bunch.
“Her family knows what athletics is all about, and they expect her to be just as successful,” Bishop Gorman coach Sheryl Krmpotich said. “That means the bar is risen. The bar is high.”
Good thing she has the ups to eclipse it, if her near-prodigious knack for rebounding is any indication. In the first game of her second high school season last week, Raychel pulled down 19 boards to go with 26 points.
She averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds per game as a freshman, claiming a spot on the Sun’s Super Seven preseason team — a group of the best players in Southern Nevada. The 6-foot-2 center is one of two sophomores to make this year’s team — along with Foothill’s Taylor Turney — after no underclassmen had previously ever received the honor.
“It’s a big deal for me because there are a lot of great players in Vegas, and I’m still young,” Raychel said. “I felt my season went really well for a freshman, but I feel like I could have finished it off better.”
Bad memories of last year’s state championship game, which Gorman lost 52-39 to Reed, stuck with Raychel all offseason. Although she snagged 16 rebounds, she struggled offensively with just 3 points.
Raychel kept that in mind as she set out to polish some of her post moves and add a jump shot as a new wrinkle in her repertoire.
“She gained the experience she needed last year to be an impact player and felt the pressure of the state tournament,” Krmpotich said. “To come so close in a situation like that, it drives you.”
Raychel first started learning about drive growing up with her siblings. Raychel always wanted to keep up with Ronnie and Robert regardless of the sport or activity.
It’s no wonder she wound up consumed by basketball, which was also the first love of both of her brothers.
“I was really competitive with them,” Raychel said. “I used to fight with them a lot. Just because they were bigger than me didn’t mean I couldn’t take them, and I did because they couldn’t hit back.”
Although her brothers ultimately gravitated toward the same sport their father played in college — Ron Stanley lettered in football at Tuskegee — Raychel stuck with her mother’s choice. Juli Stanley played college basketball at UCLA.
“Since my parents played so many sports and had two kids make it to college under crazy circumstances, they know what they’re talking about,” Raychel said. “They try to help me with everything and point out what I’m doing wrong.”
Her parents are also more familiar with the ins and outs of recruiting after going through the process constantly for the past half-decade. Raychel will likely garner similar attention to Ronnie and Robert from college coaches.
She’s trying to take it slow and not think about the next level yet, but it’s difficult with a daily reminder of what awaits. Raychel walks past a pile of her brothers’ leftover letters from colleges every day in the dining room of her house.
“A lot of schools wanted to keep in touch with them,” Raychel said. “Now they’re at a D-1 college having the times of their lives. I want that too.”
Meet the rest of our Super Seven team below.
Cherise Beynon, Canyon Springs
About Cherise: Beynon is a 5-foot-10 senior guard who averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game last season.
Why we picked Cherise: Beynon was the only junior to make last year’s Super Seven team. And she’s done nothing but strengthen her credentials since then. “I feel like it’s a big accomplishment,” Beynon said of making the team two years in a row. “I’ve been stepping my game up to the next level.” She was the cornerstone of a Pioneers team that went 23-7 and came painfully close to advancing to the state tournament. Canyon Springs lost by two points to Liberty in the Sunrise Region Championship Game in February before falling to Bishop Gorman in the state play-in game.
Cherise’s story: Beynon’s excellence on the court might only be matched by her standing in the classroom. Beynon projects as Canyon Springs’ valedictorian, according to coach Dorothy Kendrick. “And her basketball IQ is equal with her GPA,” Beynon said. “She always knows what to do and she’s embraced that, which has allowed her to succeed.” Beynon is just as likely to take over her game with her scoring as she is with her ability as a distributor. Her goals for this season included pushing Canyon Springs to play with a faster pace and becoming a better leader. “She’s risen through all obstacles and has a bright future ahead of her whether it’s athletics or academics,” Kendrick said.
Ariona Gill, Arbor View
About Ariona: Gill is a 5-foot-10 junior guard who averaged 12 points and 3 rebounds per game last season.
Why we picked Ariona: Coming off the first Northwest league title in school history, Arbor View is a team to watch in the 2013-14 season. Gill is the biggest reason. A threat all over the court, Gill is ready to take on whatever role coach Donna Gentry assigns on any given night. “She has that natural basketball court-sense that you just can’t teach,” Gentry said. “Her fundamentals have developed. She can leap out of the gym, and she’s as quick as anyone.” Although Gill projects as the team’s leading scorer, she insists her best strength is setting up her teammates.
Ariona’s story: Getting a word out of the shy Gill is as difficult as outplaying her in a game of one-on-one. That doesn’t mean her teammates don’t know whom look toward for guidance. “Even though she’s meek and quiet, her leadership comes out of her playing,” Gentry said. “I think she’s more about shutting up and putting up — not talking any smack, just playing her best all the time.” Opponents have noticed. Two opposing coaches nominated Gill to make this year’s Super Seven team. They know she’ll be a terror to deal with, especially come playoff time. “We will go to state this year,” Gill said. “We’re a family. We hang out all the time, so we have chemistry and know what each other is going to do on the court.”
Teirra Hicks, Centennial
About Teirra: Hicks is a 5-foot-8 senior guard who averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds per game last season.
Why we picked Teirra: She’s all set to turn into an Anteater next year. As one of the most coveted senior recruits in Las Vegas, Hicks signed with UC Irvine before the start of the season. Anteaters coach Doug Oliver raved about the same two characteristics as Centennial coach Karen Weitz upon inking Hicks — her versatility and work ethic. “She goes above and beyond with everything she does and always gives 110 percent, even if it’s not always the correct 110 percent,” Weitz said. “It’s hard to get on her because she’s always working so hard. In this society, it’s tough to say that about kids nowadays.”
Teirra’s story: Through the first three games of the season, Hicks has three double-doubles with points and rebounds. Weitz expects that to continue all year. She’s talented enough that she could have managed the feat the past couple years, in all honesty, but her role didn’t necessarily call for it. On a team with several other Division 1 athletes, three of which made the Super Seven as seniors last year, Hicks was more of a complementary player. Not this year. She’s the go-to girl for Centennial, one of the best programs in Nevada that’s looking for its first state championship since 2011. “I think we’re well prepared,” Hicks said. “I’m just leading my teammates to where we’re trying to get. The people on this team, we’ve been together since seventh grade, so we’re looking to go out with a bang this year.”
Paris Strawther, Liberty
About Paris: Strawther is a 6-foot-2 junior center who averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.
Why we picked Paris: “She could average 20 points and 20 rebounds per game if we left her in the whole time,” Liberty coach Rich Santigate said. Luckily for Santigate, that’s usually not necessary. Strawther tends to get the Patriots out to such a big lead in the first half that she’s resting in the second. She’s carrying on the burgeoning Liberty program, which has advanced to the state tournament in three of the past four years. “She does everything as near-perfect as you can,” Santigate said. “She’s a great player and a great leader on the court.”
Paris’ story: Basketball didn’t come naturally to Strawther. She only started playing at the behest of her cousin, who coached a youth team, in the third grade. “I wasn’t too great,” Strawther reminisced. “But I was always so tall that I could score over the rest of the kids.” Her height advantage piqued her curiosity enough to keep playing. That curiosity eventually turned into a love for basketball, which led Strawther to refining all the small things. She worked extensively on her footwork and developed an outside game to match her lethal inside presence. Strawther also became enamored with defense, to the point where she says it’s her preferred end to play. “Even if I’m not having the best offensive game, I’ve got to get defensive rebounds, steals and blocked shots,” Strawther said. “I’ve got to play hard on defense every game, and defense is what we focus on at Liberty.”
Taylor Turney, Foothill
About Taylor: Turney is a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard who averaged 17 points and 4 assists per game last season.
Why we picked Taylor: She’s a pure scorer, as talented as anyone in the valley at lighting up the scorecard despite her young age. As a freshman, she led the city in 3-point shooting and ranked in the top 10 in points per game. “It’s just what she does,” Foothill coach Eric Kruger said. “One way or another, she finds a way to get the ball in the basket.” Turney was able to lead Foothill to the playoffs despite major roster turnover last season. Now she wants to take the Falcons a step further. “I’m determined to be the best I can be and make us the best we can be,” Turney said.
Taylor’s story: Want to know how much basketball means to Turney? Let her describe the scene from this offseason, when a torn ACL sidelined her from playing AAU ball. “I couldn’t watch my team,” Turney said. “I would just cry at the games. I couldn’t go to the games anymore because I just wanted to play so bad.” Ten months away from the game she’s played virtually her entire life taught Turney “not to take basketball for granted anymore.” She’s coming back with lofty expectations for herself, even with Kruger keeping in mind the big picture. He’s trying to limit her minutes and keep her fresh. “We have the luxury to do that with depth this year,” Kruger said. “There’s no hurry to get her back playing a full game. It’s important that she stays healthy. This is a long-term thing for her.”
Kennedy Wharton, Valley
About Kennedy: Wharton is a 5-foot-8 senior guard who averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.
Why we picked Kennedy: She led Southern Nevada in points per game last season — and did everything else, too. “I just like to sit and watch her,” Valley coach Roger Hansen said. “She’s just a great all-around player. She can play point, where she’s very good sharing and handling the ball, or post, where she’s worked really hard on her game.” Wharton roped in some accolades playing inside her sophomore season before moving to the perimeter last year. She’ll spent most of her time at guard this season, but Hansen is thankful for the comfort of having a player who can excel at all five positions.
Kennedy’s story: Stanley isn’t the only one on the Super Seven team with an athletic bloodline. Wharton’s older brother, Garic Wharton, was a standout football and track athlete at Valley before signing as a wide receiver at the University of Arizona. Kennedy is carrying on the family tradition with multisport stardom as she supplements basketball with the high jump and 100-meter track events in the spring. She also joined cross country to stay in shape for basketball last fall and became one of the team’s top runners. “She’s just a tremendous athlete,” Hansen said. “I can’t think of a better all-around athlete in the city.” Kennedy wants to take Valley to its first state tournament in 11 years. “Let’s go,” she said. “We should be cool. We’re coming out with fire. I’m coming out with fire. When I step on the court, I will bring it regardless of who’s guarding me.”