The finalists for the 69th annual DiRenna Award have been announced, and Grain Valley's Grace Slaughter was among the five local female players nominated. The 5 female and 5 male finalists were selected by their respective DiRenna Award committees.
Slaughter led the Eagles to a 20-5 record and a Suburban White conference championship. She averaged 31.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.2 assists before an injury ended her season early. Just a junior, she has verbally committed to the University of Missouri.
The five female and male finalists will be recognized and the winners announced as part of the annual DiRenna Awards show which will be held on Thursday, April 7th. This event will be broadcast live and more information on where to watch will be announced soon.
Additional Female Finalists (listed in alphabetical order):
Beatrice Culliton, Sr., St. Thomas Aquinas
Beatrice is a two-time DiRenna finalist. She averaged 15.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals and a 23-2 record while leading the Saints to a Class 5A state championship, the sixth in a row and 10th overall. She has committed to playing at the University of Oklahoma next season.
Cierra Smith, Sr., Grandview
Cierra led the Bulldogs to a 20-7 record while averaging 22.4 points, 6 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 2.2 assists. She has played a vital role in the transformation of their program. She has committed to play at the University of Central Missouri next season.
S'Mya Nichols, Jr., Shawnee Mission West
S'Mya averaged 16.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.2 assists while leading the Vikings to a 18-5 record and a Class 6A sub-state championship before losing to Derby in the quarterfinals. Just a junior, she has received over 20 Power Five offers and has narrowed her list down to KU, MU, UCLA, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Kennedy Townsend, Sr., Park Hill
Kennedy is a two-time DiRenna finalist. She averaged 21.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.3 assists for the Lady Trojans this season. She has committed to playing at Creighton University next season.
Male Finalists (listed in alphabetical order)
Kyan Evans, Jr., Staley
Kyan has averaged 16.4 points, 5.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 steals in leading the Falcons (26-4) to a conference championship, district title, and a berth in the Class 6 final four on March 17/18. Just a junior, he is being recruited by several DI programs including Missouri, Iowa State and UMKC.
Ikenna Ezeogu, Sr., Blue Springs
Ikenna led the Wildcats to a record of 24-6 and a Class 6 district championship before losing to Staley in the quarterfinals. He averaged 23 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.2 steals this season. Also an outstanding football player, he has committed to play for Iowa State University next season.
Aidan Shaw, Sr., Blue Valley
Aidan averaged 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.4 assists this season for the Tigers. He has committed to play at the University of Missouri next season. He also has been selected to participate in the High School Slam Dunk contest in New Orleans (host city of the 2022 Final Four) which will air on CBS on April 3.
Damare Smith, Sr., Shawnee Mission Northwest
Damare led the Cougars to record of 18-5 and a Class 6A sub-state championship before losing to BV Northwest in the quarterfinals. He averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals this season. He has been named All-Sunflower League three seasons. He is being recruited by schools at both the Div I and Div II levels including Northern Colorado, Mount Saint Mary and Washburn.
Bennett Stirtz, Sr., Liberty
Bennett is a two-time DiRenna finalist. He averaged 18.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.5 steals this season in leading the Blue Jays to a record of 25-3 and a Suburban Gold conference championship. In the 2020-21 season, he led them to a second place finish in the Class 6 state championship. He is being recruited by schools at both the Div I and Division II level including Air Force, Wichita State, UMKC and Northwest Missouri State.