Cardinals hope to build on young talent
As the Cardinals' season came to an end last week, some players began looking to the future.
Freshman Tyler Cleveland logged some valuable varsity time this year and has worked hard to follow in senior John Powers' footsteps as point guard for the Eudora boys basketball team.
Despite his underclassman status, his teammates viewed him as an equal throughout the season. They took him under their wings and helped when he needed it.
"He's done pretty well coming in and doing what has to be done," Powers said. "However, there have been times he has lapsed and you can tell his inexperience is showing. He's going to be a good player and plays now like a three-year starter."
The 5-foot-8-inch freshman uses his speed to make up for what he lacks in height.
"He's not very big, but he's quick and a good ball handler," Powers said. "He's stepped up and played really well."
He played a quarter or two in most of the junior varsity games, and was backup point guard to Powers in the varsity games. Cleveland averaged about two points per game.
As he has matured as a player, his role on the court has changed.
"On my eighth-grade team, my role was to be the leader," Cleveland said. "I was expected to score more. I averaged about 12 points a game. This year, I just jumped in and played, focusing on keeping the team together."
Cleveland takes his job seriously.
"I've had to work hard to get to where I am," he said. "At times, it gets tough because I find myself not knowing what to do, but the other guys have tried to make it easier for me. I know and feel like it is an honor to be able to play at a higher level."
Cleveland is one of a select group of freshmen chosen by Eshbaugh over the years to play varsity.
"At times, I think, it's a little overwhelming competing with those bigger and faster than he's used to," the coach said. "He had a slower start than I anticipated, but he really improved. Tyler soaks stuff up really well."
Cleveland, who has played basketball since he was 7 years old, said he fell in love with the game at an early age.
He played summer league basketball with many of his varsity teammates, including senior Matt Fisher.
"I've played with Tyler for awhile. So, I took it personally to help him get to the varsity level," Fisher said. "He still has a lot to learn down the road, though. I try to help him out with whatever I can. I don't consider him a freshman on the court. I like playing with him."
Powers feels confident that Cleveland will be a contender for his position next year.
"He most definitely will have a shot at the point guard starting position," Powers said. "We've played good teams and had the pressure put on us by good teams. And he's handled it, which puts him in the flow."
Before that happens, Eshbaugh said, Cleveland will have to prove he is the best player for the job. Whatever happens, Eshbaugh expects Cleveland to be an essential part of his team.
"I think that good things will happen for him," the coach said. "Tyler should be a good player here for four years."