Cyclones learning, growing without practice time

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald
Ottawa High School junior guard Andrew White pulls up for a jumper against Paola. The Cyclones rolled to a 57-45 win over rival Paola.

An experienced team many times can get by without practice time.

The young and inexperienced Ottawa High School boys basketball team is learning by playing games. The Cyclones have hardly hit the practice floor for two weeks and put together two winning performances to close the pre-holiday portion of the schedule.

Ottawa took out Paola, 57-45, Friday in Paola. Earlier this week, Ottawa rocked Atchison.

“I am seeing what we are capable of doing,” Ottawa coach Cliff McCullough said. “For this ragtag bunch of young kids — sophomores playing that never even touched the varsity floor before —I am so proud of they played. They played hard and executed.”

The players learned through watching film and listening to the coaches throughout December.

“(They) have faced seven days off, one practice and game,” McCullough said. “We had a JV tournament, so we had seven kids at Wednesday’s practice. We finally got a full practice, but it was a practice before a game on Thursday. We have had two good practices in two weeks. They have faced more adversity in these two weeks than most teams have faced in two seasons. They are growing and learning. What I saw was we could really be a good team.

“We are so young and youthful. It is hard with the mental reps. That learning curve is so steep with these guys. Some were thrown into the fire.”

The pandemic and an injury to senior starter Jose Richards, gave opportunities for inexperienced players to play key roles.

“Chase Bloomer had to start for us,” McCullough said. “Andrew White gave us huge minutes. Zion Wooden and Aldan Michel came in and did what they needed to do. They are gaining so much knowledge and experience.”

The coaches also are learning what each player can do at the varsity level.

“I got a feeling what this team is capable of doing,” McCullough said. I am understanding they can play. All of this is going to pay huge dividends down the road. We need some gym time. We are not going to get a whole lot. We get four days when we get back.”