The Pryor Times

November 23, 2013

Brand-new feel for Chouteau in 2013-14

Chuck Porter
Sports Editor

CHOUTEAU, OK — The Chouteau boys basketball team made some school history in 2012-13.

The program produced an All-State player in senior guard Jason Couch, an All-Region player in guard Jordon Shive and reached the state semifinals for the first time since the school's only state championship in 1963.

So what do the Wildcats do for an encore?

"I can realistically see this group being an area tournament team," Head coach Travis Wheeler said. "It just depends. If we mature physically, and hit that growth spurt as the season goes on, we could be a team that's knocking on the door again."

Wheeler will have to replace three starters — and the heart of the team — in Couch, Shive and Matt Bendure that led Chouteau to a 20-10 record last year.

"We're going to be really young. We're going to have some growing pains early," Wheeler said. "They're talented kids, they just don't have any experience. I think over the year, we could put it together and make a run at the playoffs. It's a solid group."

Emeory Phillips is the lone returning senior from last year's squad, though Wheeler adds two more seniors in Austin Hershberger and Mikel Ford. Phillips, who provided spot minutes at the post off the bench, will fill the same role this season.

Junior Arlis Alsip, a 3-point threat, will return to bolster the explosive Wildcat perimeter game. Junior Isaac Carter, a 6-foot-3 returning starter, will help fill the interior void left by exiting senior big men Bendure and Travis Brannon.

Expected to contribute off the bat are freshman Champ Bridges and Locust Grove transfer Trenton Pierce.

"He came over around Christmas last year," Wheeler said of Pierce, a junior. "He's a good player for us. He's a strong guard, has a tough mentality. He has a knack for basketball. He's good at creating for our shooters. He's going to be a good help."

If the Wildcats round into form late in the season, as they did in 2012-13, this could be a dangerous unit.

"Some of the younger guards are some of the more talented players I've ever had, they just haven't played a whole lot," Wheeler said.

After a disappointing campaign last year, the Chouteau Ladycats will regroup under first-year head coach Don Cochran.

Cochran comes to Chouteau after stints as an assistant and interim head girls coach at Heavener and a run as the head boys and girls coach at Braggs.

"My background is I'm a defensive football coach, and that's the way I approach it with my basketball girls," Cochran said. "If you can't play defense, you're not going to play for me."

Cochran said he will try to implement a responsible style of play to take care of the ball and get good shots. "You can't always [run the floor] and win in high school, in my opinion," he said. "You're not going to out-athlete everybody."

Cochran will start three juniors — point guard Paige Chupp, forward Karlee Alberty and shooting guard Alexis Cantu — to begin the year. Forward Shelby Snodgrass and sophomore wing Allison Grossman will fill out the starting five.

Cochran also expects Elizabeth Bond, Dayla Vance and Victoria Espinoza to get meaningful minutes off the bench.

"I love these kids. They're the best bunch of kids I've been around in a while. Boys and girls included," Cochran said. "I've really been impressed with the schools. They try to do the right things. The superintendent (Kenny Mason) is doing a great job, we got the bond passed to get a new high school. There are a lot of things going Chouteau's way right now."

Chouteau opens its season at Okay Saturday before a 10-day layoff. The 'Cats and Ladycats will play in two tournaments this season: Dec. 9-14 in the Adair Invitational Tournament and Jan. 6-11 in the Locust Grove Invitational Tournament. The schedule includes home-and-home series with Chelsea, Nowata, Adair, Caney Valley and Kansas.