Posted On: 10/2/18 10:31 PM

A rising player in the 2021 class, Shawnee Mission West guard Sam Derning is hoping to take his game to a new heights this season.

 A 6’2 combo guard, Derning is a dual threat player who brings good versatility to the floor.

He spent the offseason playing up two age groups at the 17U level and says the experience has helped his game grow and prepare him for life at the varsity level.

“At 15 (years old) it was challenging,” Derning said. “I learned new things from the older guys on the team  and learned a lot about the how the game is played at the varsity level and how competitive that can be. As a team, we were undersized all summer and had to play really fast paced especially against bigger teams. 

“Going into my sophomore season I think we’re going to be undersized as well so learning how to play bigger opponents this summer really helped.”

Derning has spent much of the offseason focused on improving his jump shot and tightening up his handle.

“It (jumper) was the part of my game that I was missing to take my game to the next level,” he says. “I also worked on becoming an even better ball handler.”

Derning says his family has had the biggest impact on his basketball career to date, especially his dad. 

“My family is insanely supportive and encouraging so I definitely wouldn’t work as hard as I do without them,” Derning said. “My dad always knows how to push me to make me better and makes sure that i’m improving and working hard every time in the gym or have a ball in my hand.”

A fan of NBA guards Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr., Derning says all three are players he enjoys watching on the professional level and he hopes to take parts of their game and make them his own.

“Damian Lillard’s pull up is something that I want to add to my game along with some of his dribble moves,” Derning says. “Donovan Mitchell’s attacking, finishing and footwork are some things that I’ve been trying to work into my game. And Dennis Smith Jr’s explosiveness is incredible and I really want to replicate that and add to my arsenal.”

Derning says he has heard from Drury University in Springfield, Mo., and hopes a big sophomore season will draw additional college interest.