Giving back: Topekans Weems, Wilhoite coming home to headline unique camp

Rick Peterson


Last summer Highland Park grads Kyle Weems and Mike Wilhoite were back in Topeka to be inducted into the Topeka Shawnee County Sports Hall of Fame.

On July 7 the local sports icons will return home to host the Darting Basketball Academy Youth Foundation's Big Kev's Community Give Back Dual Basketball/Football Camp at Shawnee Heights.

Weems was the Missouri Valley Player of the Year before putting together a long and continuing pro basketball career overseas while Wilhoite played seven years in the NFL with the 49ers and Seahawks, including a Super Bowl appearance, and is currently the linebackers coach for the Chargers. 

KyleWeems2 1Former Highland Park and Missouri State basketball star Kyle Weems will be back in Topeka on July 7 to host a combo basketball/football camp with close friend and current NFL coach Mike Wilhoite. [Twitter]

MichaelWilhoite3 1Former NFL linebacker and current Chargers assistant coach Mike Wilhoite will host a combo football/basketball camp with Kyle Weems on July 7 at Shawnee Heights. [Niner Noise]

Darting camp

Weems said it was only a matter of time until the close friends did a camp together in the town they love while honoring the memory of Kyle's late father, Kevin, a former Washburn basketball player who had a big influence on both Kyle and Mike's careers.

"It was kind of the best of both worlds,'' Weems said. "I've been talking with Kerry (Darting) for a while now, just about a basketball (camp) and I know that Mike has already done his own camp up at Washburn some years back. My dad, one thing that he always made sure to voice to us is that he thought it would be great if we could do a camp sometime in the future for the city of Topeka.

"Our schedules kind of butted heads for a little bit between his active playing days, my playing days still going on and then obviously the pandemic kind of slowed some things down, but it also got our minds flowing a little bit so I'm excited to finally be able to do this. We're getting to do it together, we're getting to do it with Kerry, who we're really close with, and obviously with coach (Ken) Darting and for the city of Topeka in honor of my dad, so it's a beautiful thing.''

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Canady, Newkirk named Topeka Shawnee County Athletes of the Year

Rick Peterson


Former Topeka High star NiJaree Canady and Hayden product Tanner Newkirk were named the Topeka Shawnee County Athletes of the Year Wednesday night in ceremonies at Washburn University.

Canady has helped lead Topeka High to back-to-back Class 6A state softball championships, the first two state softball titles in school history, while being named the Gatorade Kansas Softball Player of the Year both seasons.

Canady has earned All-City, All-Centennial League and All-State softball honors all three of her high school seasons and also earned All-State honors and played in three state tournaments in basketball, scoring more than 1,000 points, before bypassing her senior season to concentrate on softball.

"Nija is the true definition of a student-athlete,'' Topeka High softball coach Shane Miles said. "Any kid who can further their education at Stanford University is doing something right in the classroom and on the field. When Nija chose Stanford she was not looking at the next four years, but the next 40 years.''

Newkirk, who won three Class 4A track championships as a senior distance runner at Hayden and four titles overall, was selected as the Topeka Shawnee County Spring Male Athlete of the Year Wednesday night at Washburn University.

NiJareeCanadyregional2 1Former Topeka High star NiJaree Canady, who led the Trojans to back-to-back Class 6A state softball titles, was named the Topeka Shawnee County Overall Female Athlete of the Year Wednesday night. [File photo/TSN]

NewkirkFridayFormer Hayden star Tanner Newkirk, the Topeka Shawnee County Male Athlete of the Year, won four individual Class 4A state titles in his high school career, including three wins in the 2022 state track meet at Wichita. [File photo/TSN]

Newkirk capped his high school track and field career with a record-setting perormance in the 2022 Kansas state track meet at Wichita State's Cessna Stadium, winning three events and setting two Class 4A state meet records.

Newkirk won the 3,200 meters in 8:58.88, No. 5 all-time in Kansas, won the 1,600 in 4:12.25 and the 800 in 1:55.0.

The Hayden star added a fourth state medal in the 4 x 800 relay, helping the Wildcats finish fifth in that event.

Newkirk was a four-time state medalist in 4A cross country, with a state title and three top-three finishes.

"Tanner Newkirk is a one of a kind athlete,'' Hayden track and cross country coach DeJuan Gardenhire said. "What makes Tanner so special is his ability to want to get better.''

Newkirk will run track and cross country at the University of Kansas.