Robert Phinisee is thinking one step ahead.
McCutcheon boys basketball coach Rick Peckinpaugh said that’s what separates Phinisee from players with similar athletic ability.
“That’s what I like about him and he is just a sophomore. He has suggestions like this play might work or we can play this defense,” Peckinpaugh said. “When you’ve got the IQ to go with (his athleticism), that’s what makes a special player.”
Peckinpaugh is not alone in his thinking.
Phinisee’s play last summer caught the eye of college coaches and earned a scholarship offer from Indiana coach Tom Crean.
“My recruitment really blew up after one of my last games in late July,” Phinisee said. “It was surprising kind of. I put that to the side and don’t think about it.”
Phinisee’s focus is on helping McCutcheon win basketball games.
That doesn’t necessarily mean scoring, though he can do that, too. Phinisee scored 14 in the first half of the Mavericks’ season-opening win over Western.
“Rob is more of a team player first and not worried about himself. He knows that will come for him,” senior forward Darnell Butler said.
Last season, Phinisee was nurtured along, playing alongside older brother Charles, now a senior, and Tre’Shon Heard, now playing at Ancilla College.
Phinisee said his freshman season taught him to stay poised and play with confidence.
Now he’s ready to accept a leadership role despite his sophomore status on a team of upperclassmen.
He already sounds the part.
“I go out there and try to not do too much,” he said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of you when you don’t have just one designated guy that scores all the points.”
It takes the pressure off the coaches, too, having a much improved Phinisee running the offense.
“When you’ve got a really good point guard, that makes a whole lot of things easier,” Peckinpaugh said. “He is such a heady, smart kid. He can get people in the right places. He can hit the right man. He’s got great anticipation on defense with long arms. He can finish at the rim and shoot the 3. He’s just a complete ball player.”
Coach: Rick Peckinpaugh (427-262 in 31st season, 489-325 in 37th year overall)
2014-15 results: 22-5 (7-2 North Central Conference), lost to Carmel 60-44 in regional semifinal.
Best J&C Hoops Classic finish: First (2005, 2012-14)
Key returnees: Darnell Butler, sr.; Charles Phinisee, sr.; Haden Deaton, jr.; Robert Phinisee, so.
Others to watch: Marshall Bares, sr.; LeVon Thompson, sr.; Billy Loft, sr.; Gavin Dunbar, jr.; Tyson Scheumann, jr.; Parker Bares, jr.; Jayden Elliott, jr.; Eddy Collins, jr.
Outlook: Coming off 22 wins and a sectional championship and with four starters back, expectations are high for the Mavericks. McCutcheon is deep and athletic with a strong group of outside shooters and a headstrong point guard.