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2016-2017 preview: Clippers cruise into uncharted territory

CCA coach Brandon Clubb shares a laugh with his players during a practice session Wednesday, Nov. 16, in the high school gym. Clubb brings 12 years of varsity coaching experience to the Clippers and replaces long-time coach Steve Ottoson, who retired at the end of last season. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– Coach Brandon Clubb, in his first year leading the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) varsity boys basketball program, summed up the 2016-2017 season in six words: “It’s going to be an adventure.”
Clubb takes over the program from veteran coach Steve Ottoson, who retired in February after 40 years of coaching with 21 years in the CCA district. Ottoson also retired from teaching physical education (PE) at the end of the school year.
Clubb, a Williamsburg native, has taken that position as well.
“We (wife Molly and three kids from kindergarten to middle school) were looking to get back closer to grandparents and aunts and uncles, and this job came open, and it happened to be exactly what I was doing so it was an easy fit. We thought we’d give it a shot, and it ended up working out,” Clubb said.
While it’s his first season with the Clippers, it will be Clubb’s 13th season overall with a dozen years coaching at North Tama (Traer) in the Iowa Star conference with CAL, Clarksville, Janesville, Tripoli, Dunkerton, Don Bosco, Meskwaki Settlement, Walnut Ridge, GMG, Colo-Nesco and Northeast Hamilton. He brings a career record of 163-117 with the Redhawks, four conference championships and one state tournament appearance into the ever-challenging WaMaC conference. It’s a conference Clubb said possesses a sea of competitors that humble you.
“At the same time, it makes you better knowing every single night out, you’re going to get really, really good basketball,” he said.
Clubb added it’s a challenge he’s ready and willing to accept.
“I think it’s good that we’re in the West Division, because any given year, I think we can be a contender (for a conference championship),” he said. “It’s a meat grinder. It will humble you, and every single night, you’ve got to be ready to play. If you’re not ready to do that, it can get real ugly, real fast.”
Clubb is uncertain how the Clippers will do this season with so little varsity experience in his ranks. Also uncertain were factors such as who would be playing and for how long per game.
“It’s all new,” he said. “We’re all new: me, most of the staff is new, most of the kids that’ll be playing are new to varsity, so it’s really kinda new for everybody.”
He’s fortunate he was able to spend some time working with the guys during the summer and throughout the fall semester in PE classes.
“I’ve definitely seen them, and kind of know what to expect, it’s just how are they going to respond and react to playing WaMaC basketball every night,” he said. “Hopefully we get that answered pretty soon.”
Clubb brings his perspective to the Clippers’ program but is respectful of what Ottoson has built.
“It’s exciting to be a part of that and to continue to build what he’s (Ottoson) built here, but at the same time, taking it in my own direction,” he said.
The Clubb difference will be seen in the Clipper defense.
“We put the emphasis on defense. I think the most successful teams I’ve had have played really good defense.” Defense can sometimes create offense, he pointed out. “We really want to try to pressure, we want to try to trap... that’s ideally how we want to play.”
Clubb also wants to try and up the tempo of the game as well. “We do have some really good athletes here and any basketball player we get out is just an extra bonus,” he said.
The new coach will need every player as the team graduated its entire starting lineup from last season among a crop of 10 seniors: Teonis Whitfield, Cal Miller (14.8 points per game), Jake Neubauer (13.1 ppg), Nolan Navara, Kahler Green (7.9 ppg), Robbie Swails, Aaron Akers (7.7 ppg), Taijon Soukup, Evan Downes (7.6 ppg) and Coltyn Schulte.
The Clippers finished the season at 12-11 and made it as far as the Class 3A District 9 District Final where they faced Cedar Rapids Xavier, at Xavier. The Saints ended the season, and Ottoson’s tenure, 53-42.
Clubb has three seniors who are returning letter winners: 6-3 guard Tate Thomsen (3 ppg), 6-1 guard Drake Mougin and 6-5 center Tyler Hallett (2.6 ppg). Devon Liebe, also a senior, is back as well. Nolan Schwarting, a 6-3 sophomore forward, saw varsity time last season as a freshman and will be expected to contribute this season.
“We might have to measure success a little differently (this season),” Clubb said.
The coach said it comes down to a need for constant improvement.
“We just have to keep improving, and keep being positive,” he said. “I’m excited to be here, I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be fun.”
The adventure starts Tuesday, Nov. 29, as Western Dubuque visits for the season opener with a 7:30 p.m. tip-off for the varsity game.