McALESTER — De’Angelo Rhone has taken the classic path through McAlester’s basketball program. He started playing for the Jr. Buffs at Puterbaugh Middle School, moved up to the freshman squad at McAlester High School, spent his sophomore year on the junior varsity and split his junior year between playing JV ball and acting as a reserve on the varsity.
Now a senior, Rhone has finally gotten a chance to shine, starting multiple games and playing significant minutes at center.
“The biggest thing is this year, from the first two to this year, how much more competitive he is,” Buffs coach Chris Zike said of Rhone on Friday.
“He can do a lot of things, guard, rebound. He’s really bought into battling with (opponents).”
Rhone said he’s always lived in McAlester and has grown up in McAlester’s public school system. His basketball career began long before junior high, he said, when as a boy he played for his father’s team at the Boys and Girls Club.
“I had like this little basketball goal at my house, and I used to just shoot on it when I was little,” Rhone said.
Rhone said he still spends most of his free time either with his Buffs teammates or practicing by himself at his house, though now uses a bigger basket. He added that he has high hopes for this Buffs team, which has started 3-3 and not lost a game by more than 6 points all season.
As one of the Buffs’ starting centers, Rhone’s been a major part of the Buffs success this year. The Buffs have started much faster than they did last year, when they started 0-6, and Rhone credited that to new coach Zike.
“He doesn’t take a lot of credit for it, but he’s the main reason,” Rhone said of Zike. “He makes us work and get better every day. You can’t show up every day not wanting to work.”