Pages for the history books
When Lanie Page was in seventh grade, she realized she didn't quite belong.
"I was bored," Lanie said. "[School] wasn't challenging me.
"At first, it was a running joke with my dad that I should just skip ahead. But he started reading about it and found out I actually could."
Lanie, a 6-foot-2 junior guard at Wamego (Kan.) and the No. 19 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class, eventually took a series of tests and bypassed the eighth grade.
But as smart as Lanie is, she may not even be the most advanced student-athlete in her bedroom.
The other candidate for that distinction is her sister Kaylee Page, a 6-2 senior guard for Wamego who has a 4.09 GPA and has committed to play basketball at the University of Nebraska.
Kaylee Page, 17, was the Kansas-Sports.com Player of the Year last season, when she averaged 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.3 blocks, 3.1 assists, 1.8 steals a game. She is the No. 42 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2014 class.
Lanie, 15, who has yet to commit to a college, was the Kansas-Sports Sophomore of the Year and made the 10-player all-state first team. She averaged 16 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.9 assists and 3.4 steals a game.
Together with father and coach Jim Page, the sisters led Wamego (25-1) to the Class 4A state title. It was the first time Wamego had qualified for state since 1984 and the first time any Wamego girls' team had won a state title.
Their school has just 400 students, yet more than 500 members of the small community (population 4,500) lined Main Street late that night to welcome the team home. Fans held signs, and businesses chalked their windows with congratulatory messages. The girls even received a police escort.
"It felt like we were on top of the world," Kaylee said. "All of the people we had grown up with had come out to celebrate us."
Offense plus defense
The girls are part of a true basketball family.
Jim Page, a Kansas native, was a 6-3 wing who played one year at Johnson County Community College in Kansas before transferring to Division II Pittsburg State.
According to Jim, that's when he was hit by a drunken driver while walking on campus in the middle of the day.
"The car drug me 185 feet," Jim said. "I broke my pelvis and my sternum, and I was hospitalized three months. Because of that, I lost my scholarship."
After he recovered, Jim decided to follow his lifelong dream and try out for the powerhouse University of Kansas team, which at the time (1984-85) featured Larry Brown as the head coach, John Calipari as an assistant and Danny Manning as the star freshman. Jim made the team as a walk-on but blew out his knee before the season started, ending his basketball career.
After Kansas, Jim decided to attend Emporia State so he could get his teaching certificate and become a coach. That's where he met his wife, Wendy, a 5-11 forward on the Division II Hornets.
"She was a defensive specialist who didn't care if she scored," Jim said. "I was the exact opposite. If I scored 23 and my opponent scored 22, that was a good defensive game for me."
The couple has three children, including James, a 6-6 freshman playing for Division III Grinnell College in Iowa. In 2001, the family built a backyard basketball court complete with lights, a 3-point line and a lane. The family spent countless hours on that court, although not so much anymore.
"Mom can still shoot," Kaylee said. "But she doesn't play one-on-one anymore because I block her shot every time."
Kaylee's work ethic is the stuff of legend. She practices so hard she can barely walk the next day. She takes so many shots her arm hurts.
But where she really stands out is in her love for the weight room. Ever since her sophomore year, she has taken to lifting with the guys on the football team.
Wamego football coach Dale Burkholder, who once coached legendary running back Barry Sanders at Wichita North, said Kaylee craves anything she can do to improve.
"She's not afraid to grab that bar, and that sets her apart from other girl athletes," Burkholder said. "She's this tall, skinny girl, and she's in there doing power cleans like a guy. When she lifts, people stop and watch her."
Rikki Alderson, a teammate on last season's championship squad, said she was not surprised when Kaylee started lifting with football players.
"The football players think the world of her," said Alderson, now a student at Kansas State. "They know she's going somewhere with her career. All our boys are dedicated, but she gives them a run for their money."
Lanie may not have Kaylee's dedication to the weight room -- at least not yet -- but that hasn't stopped schools such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State from offering her a scholarship.
They've seen Lanie bring the ball up, dribble behind her back and drill 3-pointers and came away impressed.
Lanie, who is interested in studying physical therapy or criminology, had liked Stanford before deciding it was too far away. She is open to joining Kaylee at Nebraska.
"Being away from her would be hard because we're very close," said Lanie, who hopes to decide on a college by the start of next summer. "But I will do what's best for me."
Before she decides, however, Wamego will try for an encore.
In last season's 60-53 state final win over 2012 champion McPherson, Kaylee had 22 points and Lanie scored 20. They did this against a McPherson team led by Katelyn Loecker, now a 6-foot freshman at Oklahoma State. Kaylee and Lanie scored all 25 of Wamego's first-half points.
"They were like the whole team," Alderson said. "We all know we could not have done any of this without the Pages. We all thanked them for being on our team and for pushing us.
"It was an honor to play with them."