After barely being left off the All-Ozarks basketball team last season, and having a legitimate claim to consideration as a sophomore, Nixa’s Austin Ruder left no doubt this year.
Ruder battled his own injuries — and overcame those of his teammates — to lead Nixa High School to another sparkling season on the court this winter, and finally gets his due from the News-Leader.
Ruder is among five players chosen by the newspaper for the American Family Insurance All-Ozarks first team, a traditional spring honor.
The Missouri State University-bound guard is joined on the team by fellow seniors Chris Ward of Kickapoo and Erik Durham of Parkview. Juniors Cody Geiger of Republic and Chris Kendrix of Willard also were selected.
“It’s a great group of basketball players and just athletes in general. All of them dominated the game this year and helped their team win,” said Ruder, the highest vote-getter from area coaches.
Votes were tabulated and the final All-Ozarks selections were made by the News-Leader sports staff.
Ruder said he was just trying to lead the Eagles to as many wins as possible.
“I just pretty much play, and whatever comes my way at the end of the year, that’s great,” Ruder said. “It’s just really all about winning.”
In Ruder’s four seasons, the Eagles were 100-16. He helped coach Jay Osborne’s program to three consecutive Central Ozark Conference titles.
Nixa went 12 seasons without placing a player on the All-Ozarks team after Zach Towe was named to the squad in 1999 after winning the state championship. Now, Ruder is the third selection in two seasons, joining Kameron Bundy and Jalen Norman, a selection last year.
Ward is Kickapoo’s 13th selection since 2000, by far the area’s most in that span. It’s also the second consecutive year in which coach Dick Rippee landed a player on the team, as his son, Ryan, made it last season after setting the school’s all-time scoring mark.
Durham is only Parkview’s third All-Ozarks selection since the turn of the century, joining Jermaine Johnson in 2000 and Korry Tillery in 2011.
Geiger is Republic’s first All-Ozarks selection since 2000 after helping the Tigers to their first state title since 1963.
Another big season is also expected of Kendrix, who should be the No. 1 player to watch in gyms across the Ozarks next winter. He’s Willard’s seventh All-Ozarks selection since 2000, joining Tim Huskisson (2011), Alex Henderson (2007 and ’06), Jonathan Huskisson (’05), Tyler Ryerson (’04) and Matt Dyal (’02).