CHOUTEAU, OK —
In 1963, Chouteau's boys rode three crucial “C's” to a state basketball championship: Christ, concentration and candy.
“Christ is the foundation for anything in your life, so that was the foundation for our ball club,” then-head coach Nelson “Doc” Devers explained.
“Concentration is about doing what you're supposed to do,” Devers continued. “Going out there and not thinking about what you're going to do on the weekend or anything else, but being focused on the basketball game.”
And the candy?
“We played a real rough brand of basketball. Not dirty, but rough. In scrimmage one day, we got a little bit too rough,” Devers said. “We all respected one another, and I wanted to keep things from getting out of hand. We needed to save that rough stuff for the games. So the next day I said, 'Let's all go to the dressing room,' and I handed out a Hershey's to everybody.”
The players were confused.
“I said 'Have you ever seen somebody angry eating a Hershey's candy bar?'”
After that, there was no more dissent in the locker room.
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Any discussion of Chouteau's basketball tradition begins with Doc Devers and his squads in the early '60s, but current CHS coach Travis Wheeler's boys play a pretty high caliber of hoops.
This year's state tournament Chouteau squad was led by several seniors, including guard Jason Couch.
“He's one of the best players I've seen around here in years,” Devers said. “He's got quickness, and he's really very humble. He's got skills, he can see passing lanes and get it in there. Just an all-around great player.”
While all of that is definitely true, it's possible that Devers might be a little biased.
“I'll proudly claim him as my nephew,” Devers said with a laugh.
Yes, there's plenty of Chouteau basketball blood running through Couch's veins — sometimes so much so that a little spills out. During an area playoff game Feb. 23 against Kiefer, Couch was cut above the eye. Blood streamed down, but Couch, ever the competitor, had it patched up and stayed in the game. Chouteau prevailed, 43-40, and Couch wore a bandage above his right eye for the rest of the postseason like a badge of honor.
Playing through pain seems to be a trademark of Wildcats who make it deep in the playoffs. Dwain White, who was a top threat on Devers' state championship squad, rolled his ankle (walking up his front porch, not driving for a layup) before the state tournament began, but played in all three games and led the team in scoring in the most important game of his high school career.
There was no way White was going to be denied his opportunity to play on the state tournament stage. “We wrapped it up tight and he played through. He was a tough kid,” Devers said.
He's one of many tough kids that have worn a Wildcat uniform.