McALESTER — Though they still have a sub-.500 record, the 2013-14 McAlester Buffaloes are playing a far more exciting style of basketball than they did last year. They’ve already won six games, the same number as they won all of last season, and they’re ranked 20th in Class 5A as of Thursday morning.
McAlester senior center Michael Stizza said the Buffs set the tone for their new season when they beat Hugo 41-40 on Opening Night on Dec. 3.
“It was the first game for Coach (Chris) Zike as the head coach, and I felt like everybody was on the same page with each other,” Stizza said Tuesday. “We all really just wanted to win the game for him.”
Though born in Arlington, Texas, Stizza said he was adopted at birth and has lived his entire life in McAlester. He grew up in McAlester Public Schools, and he said he began playing basketball as an 8-year-old at the Boys and Girls Club.
“I used to wear glasses when I was little, and I got hit in the eye with the ball,” Stizza said. “Somebody threw a pass, and my eye caught it.”
The experience didn’t scare him off basketball. Stizza played for Puterbaugh, McAlester’s freshmen team and then the junior varsity as a sophomore before taking his junior year off to focus on his grades.
Stizza finally made the varsity as a senior this season.
Always a center, Stizza described his offensive responsibilities as “scoring the ball as often as possible, and if you can’t score, you kick it out.” As a defender, Stizza said, “If they have their head down, I like to get over, set my feet and try to get a charge. But other than that, it’s just trying to make sure I’m in position to not let the other post get the ball.”