For three incoming freshmen, an introduction to college basketball means speed.
Ryan Burland had to learn to play fast for the up-tempo Kickapoo Chiefs. The 6-foot-6 forward is one of five seniors from Coach Dick Rippee’s class of 2015 to land with a college team.
Burland felt a jolt of speed playing alongside his future College of the Ozarks teammates in the Mercy College/Pro-Am League at the Courts.
“It’s tough. It’s tough, it’s a lot more physical and a lot more fast,” Burland said.
Burland went through three tryouts to make a Bobcats team that also includes Ozark’s Heath Carmichael in the freshman class.
“We’ve got seven freshmen coming in, so it’s kind of a new team. I didn’t really get to meet everybody at the tryouts, but the returning players I did,”
Burland is meeting teammates on the fly as he progresses through the summer league season. He hopes to find playing a role with College of the Ozarks as he did during Kickapoo’s recent 24-5 campaign.
“We had a good chemistry there, everybody moves on though,” Burland said.
All-state guard Kelsie Cleeton is also headed to Point Lookout in the fall to play at College of the Ozarks. She came off the bench to play point guard for a team of Bobcats Wednesday at the Courts in a game against Evangel players. The News-Leader Best of Southwest Missouri Preps 2015 Female Athlete of the Year winner noted the pace of play and a new level of physicality.
“The speed is way faster than in high school,” Cleeton said. “Some girls are bigger and stronger.”
Cleeton got to know some of her new teammates by helping out with youth basketball camps on campus.
Cleeton scored 22.8 points per game and surpassed 2,000 points in her high school career.
Strafford’s Grant Boswell has been spending plenty of time on the Drury University campus this summer with classes, morning workouts and open gym sessions.
Boswell, who scored 16.4 points per game and shot 85.6 percent from the free throw line as a high school senior, reported a lack of rookie hazing on the Drury Panthers.
“I just have to take the balls to and from open gym and that’s about it, right now anyway,” Boswell said.
While coach Mike Wilson’s Strafford teams are notorious for playing at breakneck speeds, Boswell struggled to keep up with his Drury teammates in the college/pro-am league.
“The pace is just so much faster. I had to adjust to it a little bit. The first couple of games I did not play well at all,” Boswell said, then added that his veteran teammates were quick to offer advice. “They were kind of helping me out and getting me through. It’s like starting all over again.”
At 6-foot-3, Boswell can be tough to spot amongst his larger teammates.
“Everyone is so much bigger,” Boswell said. “I was a bigger guard in high school, I was one of the bigger ones on the court. I’m just an average-sized guard now.”
Two weeks remain in the Mercy College/Pro-Am season. Games take place Wednesday evenings at the Courts and begin at 3:10 p.m.