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Maturity, depth produce optimism for Coach Wallace

Ten seniors fill boys basketball roster

Courtesy Buzzworthy Photos

George McCurdy is one of 10 seniors returning to the Tigers for the 2020-2021 boys basketball season.

It’s almost as if Beau Wallace immediately started feeling guilty for uttering the words he did as he looked ahead to the 2020-2021 basketball season.

“The hardest thing for us is figuring out our rotation,” the Broken Arrow Tiger head boys basketball coach said. “That’s the tough part for us and the good part. We can do a rotation and still bring two or three guys off the bench that could have started for us.”

Of the 15 or so guys who will suit up for the Tiger this season, seven have started at least one varsity game and most multiple games. Ten of the 15 are seniors.

The Tigers return 90 percent of their scoring from a year ago. And, it is balanced. Jaiell Talley’s 9.7 points and 6.9 rebounds lead the way. Tyler Pinder averaged 9.6 points, Ian Golden and Anthony Allen scored 8.2 a game and George McCurdy averaged 7.7.

Like all teams during this time of pandemic, the Tigers have not had nearly as many scrimmages as the coach would like, even though they did host a showcase last Saturday. A pre-Thanksgiving game at Tulsa Edison was canceled because of COVID-related issues with the Eagles. Plus, contact tracing has kept some of Wallace’s key players out of pre-season workouts and games.

“We haven’t had a chance to put those line ups in place right now,” he said.

Fortunately, most of the seniors have been the core of Tiger basketball since they were sophomores. Guys like Golden, McCurdy and Jared Barnes started as sophomores. This team has been matured by the grind of playing in the Frontier Valley Conference. They still hunger for a return to the state tournament, a feat last accomplished when these seniors were freshman.

“Earlier in the preseason, we were talking about rotating out of screens, and I told the guys I wanted to give them the opportunity of when to do it,” Wallace said. “I told them that two years ago we couldn’t do that. One of them said to me ‘Coach, two years ago we could barely get the ball up the floor. We didn’t know what we were doing.’

“To hear them say that made me realize that they understood there was a process and they weren’t as ready as sophomores as they thought they were.”

In the third year of growth, Wallace is convinced his team is ready to play loose and free.

“We’ve taken out sets,” he said. “We, as a staff, started looking at the past four or five people who have won state championships, and the way the game has changed or evolved, we have to let our kids play.

“We’ve got this thing called a ‘go mode’ where we’re trying to score in the first eight seconds of a possession. That’s the biggest thing, we’ve been harping on; letting our kids play more freely. It’s easier to do with seniors and juniors rather than freshmen and sophomores and some juniors.”

Freeing up his senior guard trio of Golden, McCurdy and Pinder to “create offensively” with dribble-drive penetration will result in layups for them, opportunities for shooters on the outside or easy buckets for the guys on the inside.

“I’ve seen a lot of areas where there is an understanding of how we want things done,” Wallace said. “It is about them setting the standard to making sure it gets done. By the time they’re seniors you’re not getting on them as much because they understand what you expect from them.”

The expectation for this group is to reach the state tournament and see what happens once they get there.

Broken Arrow opens the season on the road with games at Union and Sapulpa with the Edmond Memorial sandwiched between before a home date with Edison on Dec. 18.