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Battle basketball offers unique opportunity for young players

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | 9:13 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA - Daviante Ostrander got the chance to live a dream. The 14-year-old Battle High School freshman guard grins when he thinks about it.

Ostrander is listed at 5-foot-9 on the Spartans’ roster. That may even be a little generous. Ostrander said that he’s often the smallest guy on the court. But in Battle’s first ever court-warming (basketball Homecoming game) on Tuesday night he made an enormous difference.

Ostrander rattled in 31 points in Battle's 67-72 loss to Tolton in front of the largest crowd to attend a Battle basketball game. Ostrander knows that those 31 points wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for his new school.

When Ostrander was growing up, he dreamed of playing in Kewpie purple, not in Battle blue. But when he learned he would be heading west down Interstate 70 for high school, he was still excited.

When Battle opened its doors in the fall of 2013, it also opened up opportunities for young athletes. Ostrander almost certainly would not have started for Hickman's varsity team as a freshman, and he would not have had a 30-point night in the Kewpie’s court-warming game.

Battle basketball coach John Burns recognizes the opportunity that the school has presented to many of Columbia's high school athletes.

“(Hickman) has a pretty talented team this year,” Burns said. “He wouldn’t have gotten to play as much over there.”

Ostrander knows it, too. He said he knew he would play more here, which is why he was happy to be a Spartan.

The Spartans are 4-16 in their first year as a varsity program, and Ostrander said there have been some very frustrating moments this season. Yet despite a difficult first year, he’s grateful for the experience.

Burns says the season has not been as bad as some of the players think.

“Part of success is failing. You don’t get it at your first try,” Burns said. “Learning is a frustrating experience.”

His coach said Ostrander has a lot to learn on the court, but that he's a good listener, is very observant and has a bright basketball future.

“He’s learning to be a little more aggressive,” Burns said, grinning. “He doesn’t understand how hard it is to play at this level, and he doesn’t understand how good he can become.”

Burns and Ostrander will be together for a while. It’s not often that a freshman plays a vital role on a varsity team for all four years of his high school career.

Many of the younger Spartans are in the same situation as Ostrander this year. Burns doesn’t start any juniors or seniors on his varsity team.

The coach knows, however, that he is in a rare but promising situation.

“I’m thrilled to death,” he said. “They’re getting better every day.”


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