The Lady Tigers are with new coaches this season: Clay Stephens and Logan Burgess. This will be Coach Stephens’ 28th year coaching girls’ basketball. He enjoys the journey of each season. Burgess is a first year teacher and coach. “She is a great asset for our team. She was an excellent player in high school and college,” commented Stephens. “Although we have not worked together before, we share a lot of basketball philosophy. I am really glad she is here with us.”
The Lady Tigers have had an up and down scrimmage season. Inconsistent shooting has been a problem, but the coaches believe that will get better as the season progresses. “Effort and defense have been good but will need to get better,” said Stephens. The team has a good core of returning players from last year. “Some of them have different roles than they have had before, but for the most part they have adapted well to a new system.” Players are excited to get started with games that count. “Basketball season is a grind, lots of ups and downs. Come playoff time, we will be a tough out.”
The Tigers will have a completely new team this year as they lost 10 seniors over the last 2 years, 7 after last year. Most would be uneasy about this, but Coach Daniel Brimmer sees it as a positive challenge for his staff and team. The good news is the whole Tulsa 7 Conference seems to be graduating several senior-heavy teams. The Tigers are adding a 9th-grade conference runner up championship team. “These guys will push for a lot of playing time from the beginning. They have put in a ton of work and have been a part of winning teams for several years, but now it is their turn to take the next step,” said Brimmer.
The team will return only one starter from last year, Sophomore Kyler Kauk. “We are going to call his number a lot this year and need him to take that next step this year to be a scorer. He has all the tools to do it,” commented Brimmer.
Seniors that will help this year are Jake Hiatt, who has a big frame that will man the middle. Justin Keeler will help on both sides of the court for the team. “He’s a strong kid with guard skills. He was really playing well for us mid-year last year before an injury shut him down for the remainder of the year.” Senior Kaidyn Ready is new to the team. “Ready can help, he brings a ton of energy and grit that every coach loves to have,” said Brimmer. “Shain Childress is an above average defender that will help push our guys every single day.”
Juniors Carter Harlan, Evan Carroll, Caden MacArthur, and Connor Richmond each bring different effects to the team, whether it be ball handling, toughness, or shooting. “These guys have come a long way and I am excited to see what they can do when games start.”
As mentioned, the sophomore class will play a lot early and often. “Led by Kauk, Shain Hamilton brings an offensive game that fits our system really well; he has a knack for scoring. Christian Buerker is an inside out player with guard skills that can shoot it. He will step into a scoring role early this year. Hunter Sizemore has probably made the biggest strides from the end of 9th-grade year to now. He can be a calming force at times for us. Ty Edens brings some shooting to this group; we look for big things out of him as the years go on. Justice Rhody brings some height and shooting that can help as well.”
The Tigers have a good freshmen team that has already started games and has improved rapidly. “Dylan Baker has size and skills that can help right away. Josh McEntire has size and shooting ability. Brody Ward is a solid Point Guard. Julius Garrett, Chandler Taylor, Quentin Wills, Cian Hine bring some strength and rebounding that is always needed.”
Coach Brimmer looks forward to the year. “Many will think Rebuild and there will be some ups and downs, but we like to think Reload. Cleveland is a basketball town and our kids know what it takes to win. Winning isn’t easy, there are a large amount of sacrifices that it takes to win and I think these guys are willing to do what it takes.”
Cleveland hosts the 2019 Blue Sky Bank Cleveland Invitational Thursday through Saturday. The Ladies play Thursday at 4 p.m. against Stillwater and the Tigers at 5:30 p.m. against Cushing.