Ever since I became a sports journalist – a career I have embraced during the last 10 years – I’ve always come across exceedingly special athletes.
No matter where I’ve been, whether it’s Northern Ireland, Tennessee or Alaska, there are always a handful of special players who are better, faster and, overall, the top players on a team in any given sport.
It turns out to be the luck of the Sidney Red Raiders boys’ basketball squad that Cutter O’Connell and Tyler Wintholz are those guys.
Whether you are watching their actions under the basket on the defensive side of the ball, or studying their outlandish offensive scheming as the top scorers for Sidney, O’Connell and Wintholz are men among boys when it comes to the game of basketball.
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with O’Connell and Wintholz after their Cabela’s tournament win. It was during that discussion that the pair – who have been playing together since they were in elementary school – told me they want to play NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 basketball.
Oh, yeah… and they want to play together in that rarified air of college ball, if possible.
O’Connell and Wintholz are two of the best basketball players in western Nebraska and are the heartbeat of the Red Raiders squad. Over the course of the first few games of the 2015-16 season, the pair has been the driving force behind a 10-0 start to the season.
That said, what coach in their right mind, at the D1 or D2 level, wouldn’t want either (or both) of these guys on the roster?
Not only are they remarkable basketball players, which is kind of necessary at that level, but they are also good students. They both sport GPAs above 3.0 and, according to every person I have ever talked to in Sidney, are also fine, respectable young men.
And the most telling part about these two, on the court, is the fact that they mentor the younger Red Raider cagers to be excellent and extend the heartbeat of the team beyond the Class of 2016’s graduation ceremony.
Yes, that will be a sad day for Sidney to watch these two go off to college, but think about it... maybe, just maybe, the good works they are putting in now will result in some O’Connell and Wintholz clones Sidney can brag on in years to come.
I know if I was a head coach in the NCAA that I would want to recruit these two.
And if Sidney is lucky, in a few years, we might even get to see this dynamic duo play as starters on some evening in March.