The two high school basketball recipients for the DiRenna Award have been announced — Tamar Bates and Payton Verhulst.
Tamar Bates is a junior from Piper High School. In the 2019-20 season, the team captain averaged 21.3 points per game. The DiRenna Awards is an addition to his other honors that include First Team All-State, Kansas 4A Player of the Year and First Team All-Metro.
“It means a lot just to be, like now, in the same conversation and on the same list as other great players that have won this award so I’m just glad to be a part of history,” Bates said.
This year's female winner is Payton Verhulst, a junior from Bishop Miege. She has verbally committed to Louisville. This past season, she led the Stags to a 21-2 record and an EKL Championship. She averaged 17.3 points per game as the Gatorade Kansas Player of the Year and The EKL Player of the Year. Verhulst was also named to First Team All-State.
“I think it’s just something great for women’s basketball to have this type of recognition along with men’s basketball too, so I’m just glad that we get the kind of recognition we deserve,” Verhulst said.
The DiRwnna Award dates back to 1954. Dr. James DiRenna Sr. started the prestigious DiRenna Awards to focus on high school athletics and community. The award is presented to the top high school male and female basketball player in the Kansas City area.
Originally, it was only rewarded to the top male athlete in Kansas City and was limited to those living on the Missouri side. In the 1980s, after restrictions with the Kansas State High School Athletics Association were lifted, the award encompassed the entire Kansas City metropolitan area, including both Missouri and Kansas.
In 1997, a girls' award was added with the assistance of the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association. Two former recipients currently play for the Kansas Jayhawks: Ochai Agabaji and Christian Braun.