A season away from the basketball court was something Dan Cutkomp knew he needed, but the absence took its toll.|
Storming the court at Wharton Field House last December after Alleman's 41-40 win over Moline was the first indication.
"I kept getting chills up and down my spine," said Cutkomp, then an Alleman junior. "I wished I was part of it."
Needing a year away from the game to focus on baseball, Cutkomp understood there would be moments that provided pain. Each one of them reminded him how much he missed basketball.
When his baseball future became solidified after signing with John A. Logan College, the basketball door flew open again.Actually, Cutkomp knew he would restart his career that night at Wharton Field House when the Pioneers snapped a 25-game Western Big 6 Conference losing streak.
"I wanted to be out there. I wish I would have played," Cutkomp said. "That's made me want to come out and work harder this year."
So far, Cutkomp has made an impact.
The sample size is small, but he has averaged a team-leading 13.7 points in three games this season.
"He's a strong, heady player with no fear," Alleman coach Pat Rangel said. "I've seen him play since he was a seventh-grader. From that standpoint, I knew what I was getting."
Rangel, though, did not know he was getting a scorer.Nearly 40 percent of the Pioneers' points this season are from Cutkomp.
"I didn't have that high of expectations," Rangel said.
On the other end, this is no shock.
"I prepared myself as best as I could," Cutkomp said.
Between a stint with the Rock Island Post 200 baseball team and a fourth-place finish in the Class 2A state golf meet, he worked on refining his basketball skills. Cutkomp played pick-up games and took countless shots to make sure he was ready when the season started.Each time he took the court in preparation, there was no looking back.
Three games at the Geneseo Thanksgiving Tournament reaffirmed Cutkomp's thinking.In the opener against Chicago Raby, he scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The next day, he tallied 20 points.
"Fun," Cutkomp said of the start. "It was good to get back in the swing of things."
Those in the Alleman camp saw a player making up for lost time.
"He took over a game from a leadership role and from an active role when we needed it," Rangel said. "That's being a senior and knowing the situation. Without having to say anything or do anything, he took charge."
Off the court, Cutkomp is making a mark.
Asked if the Pioneers can depend on Cutkomp each night, Rangel tells a quick story. Earlier that day, he opened the Don Morris Gym doors so Cutkomp could get a quick shootaround before school. Moments after Cutkomp completed a two and a half hour practice, he trudged to the weight room for another workout.
"He's that dedicated," Rangel said. "In order to be a factor and a leader, he's got to set an example. He's setting an example."
All that started a year ago while sitting in the stands.
Absence made Cutkomp determined not to have any regrets.
"When they got those wins and had such a good year," Cutkomp said, "I kept thinking about being out there."
The Pioneers are thankful he did.
Metro boys' basketball writer Daniel Makarewicz can be reached at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @danmak57
Big 6 boys' standings
School W-L Conf.
Rock Island 4-0 0-0
Quincy 2-1 0-0
Galesburg 3-2 0-0
Moline 3-2 0-0
Alleman 1-2 0-0
UTHS 1-4 0-0
Tonight's games (all 7:30)
Galesburg at Moline
Quincy at UTHS
Rock Island at Alleman (Carver Center)
Cordova, IL Details
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