A year ago, Keiffer Putman played an integral part of Sparks’ season. Now, Putman is the engine that makes the Railroaders run.
Averaging a team-high 14.9 points a game (more than double his 7.1 average from last season), the 6-foot tall senior has keyed the Railroaders’ 4-2 start in Division I-A North crossover league contests and a shot at a Mount Rose League title. Should SHS capture the Mount Rose crown, it will be due to more than just the nearly 15 nightly points Putman records.
“In a lot of our games, he is kind of the momentum builder for us,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said of Putman’s role for the Railroaders. “When he gets off to a quick start, we just kind of gravitate along with him. He sets our pace. Right off of that it sets up how we’re going to attack.”
When Putman gets off to a fast start it normally leaves opponents playing catch-up with the SHS hoopsters. While Putman is capable of hurting a team from anywhere on the court, whether bulldozing the lane or finding an open teammate once defenders converge, the outside is where he is the most dangerous. And should Putman get into a groove from beyond the three-point line, it usually spells doom for opposing squads.
“It feels like nothing else,” Putman said of getting hot from 3-point range. “It feels like you did everything you could during the week in practice and now it’s just paying off in the game. Everything just seems to be dropping for you.”
Putman’s flexibility as an offensive threat for Sparks enables the Railroaders to exploit a number of options against opposing defenses.
“He can handle the ball and drive the lane and he’s pretty solid from 20-21 feet. We’ve floated him between the shooting guard and the point guard and it allows us to utilize him in an interesting way. He’s an interesting weapon for us,” Schreiber said. “If a team defends us by denying Keiffer the ball, we’ll put him at point guard. That way he starts with the ball so it’s a little bit harder to deny him when he already has the ball in his hands. He gives us that versatility and that’s huge.”
For Putman, who has played basketball since around the age of five, it is the satisfaction of knowing he helped his team succeed that drives him.
“I just enjoy the energy I get from accomplishing goals and achievements,” he said. “When I make a shot I just get happy because I know I’m helping my team win. You feel that and you just want to keep doing it.”
Putman’s approach to the game often rubs off on his teammates through his leadership.
“He’s a great extension of the coach,” Schreiber said of the senior. “He’s kind of both a vocal and a show-by-example leader. When Keiffer is going, the rest of the team just really gravitates to it. If things are a little slow for us, he’s not shy to tell a kid where to be and when they need to be there.”
With the playoffs just around the corner, the Railroaders will need that leadership, and Putman said he will be ready for that moment.
“I try my best to help the team any way that I can. I just want to get my team to where we need to be both in practice and in games. I just try to motivate everyone in practice and get them going during the games. If I have to be vocal, I’ll be vocal, but I mostly like to lead by example. My goal is for us to compete in the playoffs and compete for state. As a team, obviously I want us to go to state and win it.”