By AUSTIN COLBERT
If Hadley Gillum did anything by leading the Plainville High School boys' basketball team to the Class 2A state title game in Manhattan earlier this month, it was putting the Cardinals' hometown on the map for the rest of the state to see.
"Our first-round game, after we won that one, some of the reporters were going, 'Where's Plainville at?' " Gillum said. "People hardly even knew where we were from."
Even though Plainville fell 71-58 to St. John-Hudson in the championship game, when it was all said and done, the small town in western Kansas and its superstar senior were no longer part of the great unknown.
Especially after the 6-foot-4 Gillum averaged 17 points, 14 rebounds and 5.3 blocks in three games at state, which included wins over Meade (46-41) and Pittsburg-St. Marys Colgan (45-41).
Arguably his best game came against Meade in the first round, when Gillum finished with 20 points, 24 rebounds and seven blocks, essentially carrying the team into the state semifinals on his own.
"He carried us and I had kids that were nervous and had never played on that stage before and he just kind of put them on his back. He's a leader and we just kind of rode him for that whole first-round game," Plainville coach Chris Drees said.
"It was nice just to be able to lean on him and we've done that sometimes throughout the season where we just had to get buckets and had to get stops and he'd be easy to look to do that."
Gillum's dominance on the court is nothing new to anyone in northwest Kansas and it shouldn't be much of a surprise to know The Hays Daily News has named him the 2013-14 Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Gillum averaged 21 points and 14.5 rebounds per game for the Cardinals this season, including a career-best 39 points in an 83-65 win over Hill City on Dec. 20. He guided Plainville to a 23-3 record and the school's first state title game.
It was only the third trip to the state tournament in Plainville history, the other two coming in 1984 and 1994.
For Gillum, a long time Kansas State fan, the best part about this year was getting to play the state tournament in Bramlage Coliseum with K-State coach Bruce Weber and freshman guard Marcus Foster in attendance.
"Very exciting. It's one of the greatest experiences I've ever had in my life, honestly," he said. "After we won our first game people were kind of laughing at us. We had acted like we just won the state championship. But we were out there having the time of our lives. The bench went crazy every time we would score something. It was very fun."
Now Drees, who just finished his first season as the Plainville head coach, will have to figure out a way to move on without Gillum, who was the heart and soul of the Cardinals all season and a talent that doesn't come along but a few times in a coach's career.
"He is definitely the type of player you build a team around. He allowed us to do things defensively that other teams couldn't do," Drees said. "He's obviously the best offensive player I've ever coached in terms of a head coach. He can do it all. He is going to be tough to replace."
Gillum is now looking toward his college basketball career, which should gain some clarity in the coming months.
He holds numerous offers and decided to wait until basketball season had ended before looking too much into what lay on the table.
"Right now I've still kind of got everything open. I haven't turned anybody down," Gillum said. "I've got a couple of visits here coming up. I'm going to take them and just see where it goes and hopefully make my decision fairly soon."