The road to success in high school basketball comes with many bumps and bruises along the way. Kyle Prunty remembers every one of them.
The fact that many of them came just two seasons ago when the Wadsworth center used to bang around with 2012 Gazette MVP Josh Kipfer in practice shows just how far Prunty has come in a little over 24 months.
A 6-foot-3 backup center to Kipfer as a sophomore, Prunty was the third-leading scorer on a senior-laden team, averaging 4.0 points per game in a season where he started five games. He earned his stripes in practice against Kipfer, who went on to be an honorable mention All-Ohio selection that year and now plays for the College of Wooster.
“I can tell you after practices I’d come home battered and bruised from getting beat around by big Josh Kipfer,” Prunty said. “I had a couple bruises here and there, but it made me so much better.
“I remember coming home the one time and my lip was all busted up because he kept swinging his elbows and I kept coming back for more. I wanted to be like him and be in his position. I knew he was that good of a ballplayer and I wanted to go after that person. I learned what I can and can’t do from watching him in the post.”
Fast forward two seasons and Prunty isn’t hanging around in Kipfer’s shadow. At 6-6, he’s hard to miss on the court. After the game, the box score shows just how important Prunty is to the Grizzlies.
As a junior, he averaged 15.0 points per game and pulled down 11.3 rebounds and was named first-team All-Gazette and third team all-district. This season, he’s averaging 15.9 points and 8.8 rebounds.
“The big difference between him now and two years ago is his strength,” Grizzlies coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said. “He’s matured a lot in that aspect. I think Josh had a lot to do with what kind of post player Josh is nowadays.
“Back then, those two would go at it and Josh was able to make him much tougher inside with his back to the basket. He was able to teach him the things that made him successful. I knew he would be good just because of how competitive he was. Back as a sophomore, his footwork wasn’t near as good as it is now. I didn’t imagine him to be as strong as a post player as he is today.”
As a senior, Prunty is the man in the middle that has led the team in rebounds 10 of its 13 games and has been the leading scorer in eight of those games.
He’s had double-digit rebounding efforts in four of those contests and tied a career-high in rebounds in a game with 20 during a 65-47 win over Nordonia on Dec. 13.
Against Buckeye last week, Prunty scored 32 — the second time he’s scored 30 or more this season. The total against the Bucks was one off his Jan. 4, 2013 game against Highland, which was the other time he had 20 boards.
“I would say he’s definitely a primary focus when other teams are coming in to play us,” Schmeltzer said. “He’s just so strong. He’s able to score at the rim. He helps us at the offensive glass and he’s a great defensive rebounder.”
As for that next step, Prunty has schools like Baldwin Wallace, Findlay, Notre Dame College, Wittenberg, Mount Union and Shepard University (W. Va.) after him.
Those schools will have to wait as the senior wants to finish his senior season before finally making a college choice.
What hasn’t waited is his game much to the delight of Schmeltzer.
“Because Kyle lacks size, he’s not getting as many looks as he should be,” Schmeltzer said. “But when it comes down to it some of these colleges that are looking at him, they see he plays bigger than he is. He’s going to be a good fit. He’ll be a successful college player. There is no limit with him.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.