TOLEDO — At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Cumberland junior Brennyn Cutts is an imposing figure.
But Cutts, a forward for the Pirates basketball team, does more than play inside. In fact, most of the time he plays outside.
"Anytime you have a big kid that can shoot, it is a plus," Cumberland coach Justin Roedl said. "It can really create some mismatches. I would love to see him use his size more inside, but when you shoot the ball as well as he does it's hard to fault a kid for hanging around the three-point line. He opens up things for everyone else because ho one wants to leave him open from the perimeter."
Cutts helped Cumberland win the inaugural Lincoln Prairie Conference Tournament last week at Arcola. He has helped the junior-laden team go from 8-12 to 12-13 overall. In that tournament, Cutts started the scoring in overtime in the 59-55 win over second-seeded Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond and in the 63-61 victory over fifth seeded Villa Grove/Heritage.
"It felt good to get off to a good start in the overtime," said Cutts, who has verbally committed to play baseball at Indiana State. "It gave us a little bit of energy."
During the tournament, which Cumberland — the No. 6 seed — began with a 56-53 win over third-seeded Arcola. Cutts averaged 15.7 points, 5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and a blocked shot. He made all four free throws and shot 46 percent from the field (16-of-35), including 11-of-26 (.423) from beyond the three-point line.
"I think a lot of people look at us and see we must be an average team," Cutts said. "Winning it showed what we are really made of."
Cumberland will play host to Blue Ridge Friday in a LPC game.
Roedl said when asked what improvements Cutts has made since last year: "His leadership has improved the most. I think he realized that the other kids feed off him and that when he works hard and has a good attitude the team will follow."
Cutts, who began playing basketball before he started playing on a team in the fourth grade, said he didn't start shooting three-pointers until the eighth grade.
"I started making them consistently and from then on I shot three-pointers," said Cutts, an honor roll student.
Over the summer Cutts worked on his shooting and a little ball-handling as he played against his brothers Blayke, a 2016 grad who also played baseball and basketball, and Bryson, a 2018 grad, who played baseball.
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"Blayke gives me tips to work on something," said Cutts, who hit .459 for the Pirates baseball team that went 21-3. "My teammates also help me out. They tell me what I am doing wrong and coach Roedl tells me also. My dad (David Cutts) has helped throughout my career."
Cutts has been a varsity player since his freshman year, when the Pirates won the Little Okaw Valley Conference Tournament.
"He has been able to shoot the ball ever since I have known him," Roedl said. "That is something I have rarely talked to him about because he has always been such a great shooter. If he missed two to three shots, look out because he is probably going to hit the next three or four."
For the season, Cutts, the son of Rachel Cutts, is second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game. He is third on the team in rebounds at 4.3, third in assists at 2.0 and second in blocked shots at 0.3. He is 58-of-154 (38 percent) from three-point range, which leads the team.
"The biggest change from last year to this year is that he handles the ball a little more and is our primary inbounder on inbounds plays," Roedl said. "His leadership role also changed. In the past he has been a quite passive, go-with-the-flow kid. Now he speaks up and helps with keeping the team together."
Cutts is one of five juniors on the team, but since he played varsity before the rest of his classmates, it took him awhile to get used to playing with them again.
"We played together in middle school and now I am used to playing with them again," Cutts said. "My goal is to get better every game as a team. We don't want to throw away the last part of the season. We will improve and next year we will be even better."
Cutts has improved in assists from 1.4 to 2.0 this season.
"Honestly, I would rather make a nice pass than make a nice shot," said Cutts, who averaged 6 2 points and 0.9 assists per game as a freshman and 13.7 points last season. "Making an assist makes me feel better as a teammate and as a player. It feels good to help someone improve and get better."
Against Casey-Westfield on Dec. 10 in a 64-48 loss, Cutts was 6-of-10 from three--point ranged and had 24 points.
"That is when he got himself going," Roedl said. "Then last week he hit big shot after big shot throughout the conference tournament."
As far as defense, Roedl said, "We try and get him on a big, but it doesn't always work out that way and he gets stuck on a smaller, quicker player. He is a very capable defender and a great rebounder when he wants to be. When he is on and playing with confidence, he is such a great player at both ends of the floor. He can score a ton of points and open up the floor for everyone else and he can also control the boards. He has such an influence on the team and helps keep us positive and playing with energy."
Mike Monahan's memorable stories from 2019
Check out JG-TC reporter Mike Monahan's most memorable stories from the last year.
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Contact Mike Monahan at (217)-238-6854. Follow him on Twitter: @monahanmikejgtc