Guest Opinion: A Decade of Dominance

The story of how Kansas coaching great Ed Fritz and company have shaped the success of the Blue Valley NW basketball program

Andrew Lind

Editor’s Note: The author of this article, Andrew Lind, is a 2018 graduate of Blue Valley Northwest High School. Andrew is also a former player of head basketball coach Ed Fritz and a teammate to several players mentioned in this story. Lind is a junior at the University of Kansas majoring in journalism.

There is a high school in Johnson County, Kan., that opened its doors only a scant 28 years ago but has accumulated a rich basketball history, one that rivals any other high school in the Kansas City metro area over the last 10 seasons.

It’s a program led by one of the nation’s best coaches, who annually fields a team full of players who continuously set the bar high for those who follow.

I am talking about the men’s basketball program at Blue Valley Northwest High School (BVNW) and the success the Huskies have enjoyed in the last ten seasons (2011-2020).

In 2002, a coach by the name of Ed Fritz walked through the doors of BVNW after being the head coach​ for 15 years at Center High School in Kansas City, Mo. At Center, Fritz took an average team and transformed them into something quite remarkable, achieving success on the Missouri side of the state line. Then, just two years after taking the reigns at BVNW, Fritz clinched his first trip to the Kansas state basketball tournament in 2004.

Eighteen years later, the Hall of Fame coach has garnered over 600 wins, won five Kansas state championships, has coached in eight Kansas state title games, plus coached in the 2019 McDonald’s All-American game.

In the last 10 seasons Fritz has seen 20 of his players (The Twenty) hone their skills to where they could play at the college level…and that’s where this story leads. To the players who know, respect, and admire Fritz, and what he has personally done for them both on and off the court.

As many players recalled, the success of Northwest basketball stemmed from one thing and one thing only: Coach Fritz. They recollected how Fritz set his expectations from the start and never lost sight of his values: winning and building lifelong relationships with “his guys.”

“Fritz wants to win and he wants his players to win — not only on the court but at life,” Morgan Smith, BVNW 2011 basketball alum, said. “He knows when you win on the court it helps translate a little bit more to things in life. Having that confidence in yourself to be able to put in the work and know you’ll achieve something great as a result of that,” he said.

Although Fritz had taken teams in the early 2000s to the Kansas state tournament, for players like George Bugarinovic, Brett Fisher, and Morgan Smith of the class of 2011, they had to start forging their way to achieve a higher level of success, as nothing was already set in stone for them. They were the rock upon which Fritz built his foundation, which led to even greater success in years to come. They showed others the way.

Then-sophomore Kyle Harrison acknowledged what the older guys meant to him and what they essentially meant for the program and its history.

“Those guys [the class of 2011] helped a lot, they were all just great role models,” Harrison, BVNW 2014 basketball alum, said. “Obviously, tremendous basketball players. I know they didn’t win a state championship, but they started things off in the right direction.”

The transformation was tedious and tiresome for the 2011 team, but if they wanted to get better that was their only option. There was never an off-season for Fritz’s teams as it was go-go-go mostly 350 days of the year.

During the summer, his players would wake up early in the morning to get a workout in with the football team before hitting the gym floor at 9 a.m. for 5-on-5, a tradition that lasts to this day, although it may have seen various adjustments over the years.

“We would come to school 4-5 days at like 5 or 6 a.m. in the summer and we would workout with the football guys,” Bugarinovic, BVNW 2011 basketball alum, said. “Every single morning for like 2-3 hours doing weights, plyometric stuff, jump drills, agility drills outside, and then we would play open gym — just absolutely exhausted.”

The work ethic and journey that the 2011 class endured was the start of a ten-season run to five state championships. That class appeared in back-to-back title games in 2010 and 2011 but lost both contests to former KU star and Wichita Heights legend Perry Ellis and company. With a strong foundation rooted in toughness, grit, and a daily will to get better, the table was set for what the program had in its future.

With the loss of Bugarinovic, Fisher, and Smith, some thought it might be an off-year for the Huskies but little did they know they were back better than ever with a team composed of friends who had played basketball with each other since the third grade. They were a group of then-sophomores that would end up taking the Husky basketball program to the promised land. The school’s first state basketball championship.

The 2014 class, centered around Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson, would post an amazing 94-6 record over their high school career, including back-to-back state championships, a perfect 25-0 record their junior season along with a top 25 national high school team ranking, plus a lot of bragging rights in Kansas City.

Team forward David Salach, BVNW 2014 basketball alum, ventured to say that’s what brings attention to Northwest basketball. It’s high school-age students wanting to perfect their craft under great coaches and alongside great teammates.

“If you are trying to be a college basketball player and you have the opportunity to go to a school where they have won 94 out of their last 100 games, not to mention the six games they lost included two to Perry Ellis and their stacked Wichita Heights team and one to a former Duke point guard Tyus Jones, why would you not wanna go play for a school like that,” Salach said.

Clayton Custer, BVNW 2014 basketball alum, spoke to Fritz’s success while recollecting his high school record.

“Coach Fritz has to be the best high school coach that has been in Kansas City for a long long time,” Custer said.

Custer, along with Ben Richardson, are the only two of Fritz’s former players, so far, that went on to play in the NCAA Division 1 Final Four.

Following back-to-back state championship victories in 2013 and 2014, BVNW finally had an off-year by their standards. A year where a trip to Wichita for the state tournament fell through the cracks.

The 2014-2015 season wasn’t a bust, but instead, a year that made every person on that team hungry for success in the coming year. The 2015-16 campaign looked bright.

The Huskies opened that season on the road with a 74-36 statement win over a star-studded Bishop Miege team led by future NBA center Bol Bol and 2020 Big East Freshman of the Year Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

However, later that season BVNW lost in the semifinal round of the state tournament to a loaded Shawnee Mission North squad led by brothers, and later Division 1 players, Micheal and Marcus Weathers.

But as we have come to expect from any team coached by Ed Fritz, BVNW would be back. Then-seniors Darien Jackson and A.J. Pleasant led BVNW to a state championship win in 2017.

In 2018, seniors Joe Pleasant, Sam Ward, and Parker Braun made their mark on program history by leading BVNW to their second-straight state championship win, and Fritz’s second pair of back-to-back state championships.

Recalling his time spent under Fritz, Sam Ward, BVNW 2018 basketball alum, remarked that, “Playing at Northwest under Coach Fritz was a blessing…as he gets you ready for the college level and prepares you for everything you should expect.”

The next year, the Class of 2019 would have an opportunity to achieve something never before accomplished in BVNW history. A team led by Christian Braun, now a sophomore guard at the University of Kansas, paired with a formidable frontcourt of Mike Peake and Matt Chapman, guided the Huskies to a 23-2 record and a third straight state championship banner.

We all know what happened next in 2020, a year plagued by COVID-19. However, BVNW was again in the mix, winning their state quarterfinal matchup before the Kansas State High School Activities Association put an end to what may have been another historic run — four straight titles.

No matter what Northwest basketball era they played in, the players all agree the credit always comes back to the head man: Coach Fritz. Despite what happens from now until his retirement, his legacy is secure and will live on forever, and many of his players speak to that. They speak to his life lessons, his family-oriented teams, his collegiate preparedness and so much more.

Listen to some of the comments from The Twenty.

“I would say the biggest impact that Blue Valley Northwest had on me was Coach Fritz himself,” Mason Schoen, BVNW 2013 basketball alum, said. “I was very blessed to play under a guy that is so similar to a collegiate head coach that it prepared me to get to this level that I was playing at. I think if I would have played for any other head coach that would not have pushed as hard as he did that I would have had no chance of surviving the Division 1 level.”

Christian Braun, BVNW 2019 basketball alum, said about his high school mentor, “I think playing under a Hall of Fame coach really helped my game just from a discipline standpoint. He taught me a lot of things that not a lot of high schoolers get to learn that early in their career.”

For Matt Chapman, it was the no-lose mind-set that he will remember Fritz for.

“Coach Fritz has the mentality that you can’t lose, like you literally can’t lose,” Chapman, BVNW 2019 basketball alum, said. “It’s almost like we were fearful of losing and his expectations for all of us individually and as a team really drove us to compete and be our absolute best.”

And here’s from a player that battled his way over the course of  four years from the freshman team to the varsity squad, and improved under the guidance of Coach Fritz to the point he signed to play college hoops at Rockhurst University.

“Fritz has the ability to bring out the best in his players, and he brought out the best version of me and my game,” Luke Blau, BVNW 2020 basketball alum, said. “Playing for him is mentally and physically challenging, but it is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

And for his oldest son, Vince, a BVNW 2014 basketball alum, I think he speaks for all his Dad’s former players when he said, “Coach Fritz has worked unbelievably hard to get BVNW to the program it is and has always put the player’s best interest first,” Vince said. “He has built the program the right way and will go down as not only one of the greatest coaches in the state but the country.”

For as long as he continues to roam the sidelines, stories remain to be written about the Husky basketball program and the success of its legendary coach, Ed Fritz. But the ink is dry on what has occurred in the last decade, a decade of dominance for Fritz and “his guys,” the long line of players that form the brotherhood of young men that he has coached.




  • Luke Blau | Rockhurst University
  • Christian Braun | University of Kansas
  • Parker Braun | University of Missouri
  • George Bugarinovic | Johns Hopkins University
  • Matt Chapman | William Jewell College
  • Clayton Custer | Loyola University Chicago
  • Brett Fisher | Benedictine College
  • Vince Fritz | Missouri Southern State University
  • Kyle Harrison | Benedictine College
  • Markell Hood | Butler Community College
  • Darien Jackson | University of Tulsa
  • Andrew Martin | Augustana University
  • Mike Peake | Austin Peay State University
  • A.J. Pleasant | Johnson County Community College
  • Joe Pleasant | Abilene Christian University
  • Ben Richardson | Loyola University Chicago
  • David Salach | Washburn University
  • Mason Schoen | Kansas State University
  • Morgan Smith | Missouri Southern State University
  • Sam Ward | Butler Community College