West’s Harrison, North’s Johnson selected as DiRenna Award finalists

dmcqueen@lsjournal.comMarch 21, 2014 

Monte Harrison of Lee’s Summit West and Imani Johnson of Lee’s Summit North have been selected as finalists for the DiRenna Award, the top honor for Kansas City area boys and girls high school basketball players.

Harrison, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, is a three-sport star athlete who has started for the Titans basketball team the past three seasons. He has averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game this season while leading his team to the Class 5 Final Four. He has been selected to both the all-conference and all-district teams.

Harrison, who also started for the Titans’ Class 5 state champion football team last fall, will play football and baseball next year at Nebraska. His older brother, Shaquille, who plays basketball for Tulsa, was also a DiRenna Award finalist.

“I believe Monte being up for the DiRenna award is well deserved,” West boys basketball coach Michael Schieber said. “Monte has been a leader for us on both ends of the floor and I know he is honored to be up for such a prestigious award. I know he is also very proud that he is up for the same award that his brother was up for his senior year.”

Johnson, a 6-0 senior forward, is averaging more than 17 points and seven rebounds per game while leading Lee’s Summit North to a Class 5 final four berth. She is the all-time career-leading scorer at North, surpassing the 1,520 points scored by former DiRenna Award winner and K-State and WNBA player Claire Coggins.

An all-conference, all-district, and all-state honoree, Johnson will play basketball at Southeast Missouri State next season.

"Being nominated for the DiRenna award is an extreme honor,” North girls basketball coach Tricia Lillygren said. “Considering the number of amazing basketball players in the area, being a representative of that group is truly special. Imani has developed into an outstanding post player and, with the help of her teammates, has had a great season and career."

Joining Harrison as boys award finalists are Clayton Custer, senior, Blue Valley (Kan.) Northwest; Kevin Puryear, junior, Blue Springs South; Joe Schneider, senior, Lansing (Kan.) and Tyrone Taylor II, senior, Grandview.

Girls finalists along with Johnson are Becca Jonas, senior, Truman; Tyler Johnson, junior, Leavenworth (Kan.); Kylee Kopatich, junior, Olathe (Kan.) South and Monique Townson, senior, Staley.

The DiRenna Award, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, is given to the most outstanding male and female high school basketball player in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. The award was established in 1954 by James A. DiRenna, a well-known surgeon, teacher and hospital developer. His son, James A. DiRenna, Jr., has continued the tradition of this award with the assistance of the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association after his father’s death in 1996. In 1997, the award also began recognizing the top female player.

The DiRenna award winners will be announced April 10 as part of the GKCBCA All-Star Challenge Awards Show at the College Basketball Experience in downtown Kansas City. The announcement will be televised live on the Time Warner Sports Channel beginning at 7:30 p.m.

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