By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
For the second time in as many nights during last month’s Wheat Capital Tournament at Chisholm, Alva boys basketball coach Paul Duncan watched his team rally from fourth-quarter deficits to force overtime.
In both games, Cade Pfleider, the Goldbugs’ 17-year-old forward, scored all of his points after halftime, leading Alva late to wins in both and its first Wheat Capital title since 2006.
After the second game, a come-from-behind effort against Blackwell that Pfleider capped with a game-high four points in overtime, Duncan shared a peculiar thought about the Goldbug forward.
“That dude, he just makes plays,” he said. “He’s our least-skilled basketball player, and it’s just all about effort, and effort, and effort, and he just makes big plays. That’s Cade.”
Wait, least skilled?
“I have not heard that before,” Pfleider said with a chuckle, the same way he punctuates most of his sentences. “It’s true. I’d say it’s true.”
Friday, before Alva’s 67-57 win at Chisholm’s Paul J. Outhier Field House, Duncan clarified.
“He never has a bad day,” Alva’s second-year head coach said. “He always has a smile on his face. He’s an extremely good football player, he’s a really good baseball player, and (basketball) is probably his least skilled area. But he’s having some individual success along with our team success because he just plays hard, he’s strong, and he’s really, really intelligent.”
Aside from a thick beard, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior doesn’t stand out in shootaround among the 18-2 Goldbugs, stocked as they are with sharpshooters and ballhandlers.
Instead, Pfleider is a bull, and the four-foot area around a basketball goal is his china shop.
“He’s a man,” said senior teammate Riley Duncan, who at 6-foot-3 often lines up against Pfleider in practice. “There’s no other way to say it. He’s going to get every rebound that he’s even close to, because he’s bigger, stronger than everyone else. If someone is bigger or stronger, he’s going to outwork them.”
His size hasn’t always been there. Pfleider weighed just 180 pounds as a freshman, the season before Duncan was hired to coach the Goldbugs, but still was a regular in the rotation.
“When I watched film, I knew he was athletic,” Duncan said. “He was a little skinnier when he was a freshman, but he has a competitive spirit that you can’t give. It’s just in there. Every rebound, he thinks it’s his, every time we shoot it, he thinks it’s a miss, and he’s going to get it. He just has a drive to go rebound, and make big plays late in games that you can’t teach … He drives us silently by just making plays.”
“Whenever I was in grade school, I used to be one of the smallest ones,” said Pfleider, who averaged 7.2 points and 8.5 rebounds a game as a sophomore, which have ticked up to 11 and 9 this season. “I was one of the more physical ones, though. They still had me down low.”
Pfleider found his second passion in seventh grade, when he started working on an Alva farm. Teammates, coaches and opponents alike recognize his strength, but Pfleider hasn’t paid any mind to his bench press since summer, his primary weight training work coming when stacking hay bales, diving tractors, working cattle and other activities in the exercise regimen of the traditionally “country strong.”
“He guards their best post, and it’s hard to score on him because he’s so strong,” Duncan said. “He controls the game from 4 to 6 feet (from the basket). It’s pretty amazing, actually, how much impact he can have and not get out (beyond the paint).”
After his senior year, Pfleider, a middle linebacker and tight end in fall and a first baseman in the spring, hopes to play collegiately on either a football field or a baseball diamond and major in agriculture, though he’s not sure where.
In Friday’s win, Pfleider’s physicality backfired. Battling with Chisholm’s Reid Weber, Pfleider was whistled for his fourth foul less than a minute into the second quarter, relegating him to the bench until the final frame.
With Pfleider out, Weber feasted, scoring a season-high 25 points on everything from deep threes to fadeaway turnaround jumpers to keep the teams deadlocked going into the fourth.
Pfleider’s stat line in the first three quarters, most of which he didn’t play: zero points on zero-for-two shooting, and no rebounds.
When he returned, Pfleider scored all four of his points in the fourth quarter, adding two rebounds and two steals during a 13-0 Alva run that was the difference.
Weber was held scoreless in the fourth.
“He’s a big, strong guy,” Weber said of Pfleider. “That’s definitely a factor. He’s a good ball player, that’s for sure. Really physical down low, and he’s hard to set up against.”
“He’s a great leader in that he’s so coachable,” Duncan said. “He doesn’t get down or up. If he gets a bad call against him in a game, he just hands the ball to the official and jogs to the other end. He doesn’t make a face or (anything). He just plays.”