By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater High School boys basketball coach Michael Davis takes pride in knowing that his team is one of the toughest on the court.
The Pioneers showed their toughness in their first scrimmages of the season against Star Spencer and defending Class 6A champion Tulsa Union, dropping only one of the five quarters Stillwater played.
“Going up against the No. 1 team in 6A and a top 5 team in 5A and winning those games, that was huge for us,” Stillwater junior Carson Teel said. “Mentally and physically we played tough. These guys are coming from the inner city like downtown Oklahoma City and downtown Tulsa, and they were tough. But if you stick with them and show them you’re tough, they’ll back off.”
At times the Pioneers showed their youth with some unforced turnovers. Other times, Stillwater looked every bit as much as a state title contender as possible — even without Tyler Holcomb, who transferred over the summer.
“We have potential to be a pretty good team,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “We obviously still have a long way to go, but I think our guys showed toughness and some of the things we have been working on in practice. It’s always good to see some of those things that we’re working on in practice pay off. We’re happy about that.
“I didn’t think we’d be as good as we were offensively, but we were pretty solid. We had a few turnovers here and there, but I liked the way we got after it and the way we competed. That’s what I was looking for more than anything. I wanted to see how hard we were going to compete.”
With the absence of Holcomb and Jon Littell — who is concentrating more on his baseball career — players like senior Rico Thompson and Teel have stepped into those starring roles.
“Rico has taken a big jump,” Davis said. “He’s got a chance to go play at the next level. He wants to do that and he’s surround himself with a bunch of good character guys that want the same things he wants.”
“It hurt losing Tyler, our leading scorer,” Thompson said. “He was a good shooter and gave us a good presence in the paint. And Jon Littell is one of the best athletes Stillwater has ever seen. But we got a couple of young guys who are starting to step up for us like freshman Jordan Brown. We expect him to get a lot of minutes.”
There is plenty of youth on this year’s Stillwater team. The result has been that most of the so-called experts have dropped the Pioneers in the preseason polls.
As the young squad continues to practice and prepare for its season opener against Tulsa NOAH on Nov. 29, Union and Star Spencer can attest that no one should sleep on Stillwater this year.
“We just have to keep on getting better and keep improving,” Thompson said. “I want to push myself more in practice. I want to be the best player on the court when I step on it — I want to be the best player in the gym.”
“I think the sky is the limit for these guys,” Davis said. “(Getting to state) really has been on our minds all summer, but we take it one day at a time and try to move on from there. We try to get things done the right way — worry about today and learn from yesterday.”