Summer workouts is an important time to build prep sports teams foundations for the upcoming season.

Ottawa High School boys basketball team uses summers to grow individually and build team chemistry. The Cyclones lost six seniors and return one starter from its state tournament-qualifying team, which makes this year even more important.

Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said this summer is a critical time, but workouts will be shorter than normal because of COVID-19 concerns.

“It is not like years past where we have had experience,” McCullough said. “We were able to take our experience and bring up some younger and inexperienced kids and going out and playing. This summer we are not going to play in a lot of tournaments or games. We will spend more of our time in the gym together.”

It appears team workouts will not begin before July and end in early August. KSHSAA issued rules stating the first two weeks are for conditioning only.

“They want us to condition kids because we have been off so long,” McCullough said. “It is the third week when we actually start playing basketball.”

McCullough’s plan is to find out as much as possible about the younger players and the seniors making the jump from junior varsity to varsity.

“The kids we do have coming back, we need to develop,” he said. “We have high expectations. Because we graduated six seniors that doesn’t (change expectations). It is going to be different. It is such an empty canvas we are dealing with. We are not going to be very complex in what we do. We need to find something we are good at and get great at it with a group like this.

“We need to keep things extremely simple. You may see us do things we have not done a lot in the past.”

The OHS staff is not foreign to the talent. The players have been in the program at least one year.

“That is why we have freshmen, JV and varsity (teams),” McCullough said. “The JV program is there to prepare kids for the next level. Hopefully that jump is not quite as steep as it could be. It is critical for those guys to play and play.”

McCullough is not set on a single philosophy. He changes to match the players’ strengths.

“I don’t just have a program where this is the offense we are going to run and we are going to adapt to it,” he said. “We are going to figure out who we have and what we have and try to tailor our offense and defense to our personnel. That is the best way to do things.

“The game changes so much. You have to figure what you do best and go with it.”

This group’s strength may lie in an up-tempo style, McCullough said.

“We will have a little bit more speed than we have had in the past,” he said. “We might not be as skilled as we were, so let’s make things happen elsewhere. Let’s utilize that speed. We will have decent length with some of our kids. It will be a fun group to mold and paint on the empty canvas.”

The cupboard is not completely bare. Noah McCullough, the coach’s son, has two years of varsity experience. He will anchor the squad along with seniors Brady Beets, Jose Richards and Tucker Baldwin.

McCullough said Beets is ready to be the starting point guard, and Richards and Baldwin can be impact players.

“Brady got some good experience this year,” McCullough said. “There is a ton of potential there. Noah has plenty of experience now. He will have to learn to shoulder a big load until the others come along. Some of those kids will get thrown into the fire real quick.”