By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — With his mother working at Tannehill School, Eli Boyle spent many afternoons of his childhood hanging out at school.
It didn’t take long for Boyle to find his way to the basketball gym.
“I would just stay after school and shoot,” Boyle said Friday.
“I was in the gym every day when I was little. I was in the gym every single day.”
Born in Elk City, Boyle moved to McAlester before starting kindergarten. The youngest of four siblings, Boyle said basketball has always been a family activity, and he often went to watch his siblings play for the Buffs.
“I have two brothers and one sister,” Boyle said. “We were always competitive about something.
“I already had three siblings that had already went through (McAlester) basketball, so I knew I was going to play.”
Boyle said he started playing competitive ball for Tannehill in the fourth grade. Boyle helped the Braves reach the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools state tournament during his seventh-grade year, then moved up to McAlester High School two years later.
“At Tannehill, I was a post most of my years, because I was the biggest kid,” Boyle said.
“It was a big jump, I’ll tell you that. It was a little school to a huge school, but it was definitely worth it. I’m really proud that my parents put me here in McAlester.”
As a Buff, Boyle found himself playing with true centers, allowing him to transition from post to power forward. He made the varsity as a sophomore, then became a starter as a junior.
The 2012-13 Buffs started slow and never really found their rhythm. As a senior captain this year, Boyle has helped the Buffs start out 3-3, with none of the losses being by more than 6 points.
“I really think we have a chance at State,” Boyle said.
“I’ve had a lot of good memories with these guys. I don’t think a McAlester basketball team has ever had this much chemistry as a team, because we’re all friends. I get along with every single person on the team.”
This new season has also provided Boyle one of his best memories as a Buffalo. In the team’s season-opener against Hugo, Boyle scored his team’s final 9 points, giving the Buffs a 1-point win.
After the game, the student section of Bob Brumley Gymnasium stormed the court to celebrate.
“Most of the student section’s my friends,” Boyle said. “I told them that they should come because it’s going to be fun watching us this year. They all came and supported us, and it was great. I loved all of them being there.”
Boyle credited his team’s better start this year to new coach Chris Zike.
“He definitely pushes us harder,” Boyle said of Zike. “I cannot complain about Coach (Jerry) McCormick, because he was a great coach. He was one of my most favorite coaches, and I’m not going to say anything bad about him. But Coach Zike really pushed us hard in the offseason.”
Boyle’s devotion to basketball doesn’t end in the gym. He said he likes watching college football, particularly Oklahoma State University and sophomore guard Marcus Smart.
“They talk about his intensity, how well his intensity shows on the court, and how (strong) he is as a leader,” Boyle said of Smart. As captain, Boyle said he’s tried to emulate Smart’s attitude and approach.
Though he might root for OSU, Boyle said he’s more likely to attend the University of Oklahoma next year. His older brother Calvin already goes to OU, Boyle said, and Boyle plans to major in petroleum engineering.
“My dad’s always been in the oil fields, so that’s one thing,” Boyle said. “And the other thing is, it’s I think like the No. 1 high-paying job out of college.”
When he’s not playing or watching basketball, Boyle said he plays Ultimate Frisbee, hunts and fishes. He said that after college he’d like to live somewhere with easy access to the outdoors.
“I like small towns,” Boyle said. “I like McAlester.”
Boyle is also a member of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in McAlester. He said he attends church regularly and in the past has helped do reenactments of the Stations of the Cross.
“I know a lot of people that go to McAlester that do it with me,” Boyle said. “I like doing it. It makes me feel better inside.”
Boyle’s last year of high school basketball has already reached its Christmas break. To make this last season a memorable one, Boyle’s ready to spend as much time as he has to in the gym.
Fortunately for Boyle, that’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.