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Fresh from summer camps, Donnelly feels he and Tigers 'a perfect marriage'

OZARK COACH JAYME DONNELLY gives instructions to players during the Tigers' summer camp last week.
OZARK COACH JAYME DONNELLY gives instructions to players during the Tigers' summer camp last week.

As new Ozark basketball coach Jayme Donnelly hosted his first Tigers summer camp last week, sports editor Pat Dailey engaged in an introductory Q’s and A’s session with the former Kickapoo assistant coach:

Q: How are you settling in at Ozark?

Donnelly: The transition has been really good. The people of Ozark have been very welcoming.

The guys have been great. Obviously, there's a lot of learning for us, with new ideas and some new things we're going to do offensively and defensively.

It's been good to get to the summer and get to multiple days of basketball and not just a couple of times a week in the spring. We had a lot of kids show up (for camps). It's a great opportunity to get to know more people in the community and have a great three days of basketball. 

Q: What did you already know about the players you have inherited?

Donnelly: We played them a lot on the varsity and jayvee levels the last several years. So, a lot of the kids I've already known. Even though we didn't have a deep relationship with them, we all already kind of knew each other because of how much we play each other and how close we are in relation to being in the same District.

When I got the job, I knew we'd have a senior-heavy team. We've got nine seniors. Automatically, that makes them a group that's been tested in some big games. That's good in terms of the maturity of the team.

There have been guys who have already stepped into leadership roles. We have a lot of guys who are hungry to go out on top and have a great senior year. 

Q: Did you know immediately when the Ozark job came open that it was a position you were interested in applying for?

Donnelly: There’s a handful of jobs in the area I would always keep a close eye on, if they did come open. Ozark was one of those jobs. Ozark has a lot going for it, with the community itself, the facilities that are available, as well as what is coming back talent-wise. 

I think it's a great fit for me and a great situation. It was a perfect marriage.

Q: What are some things on your priority list early on?

Donnelly: The kids have been super receptive to our coaching and what we're trying to implement this summer. We’re trying to take each day as one step at a time. Some of the best advice I got in coaching was you can't catch every rain drop.

We're trying to focus on a few things to get better at, some foundational things that will be important for us moving forward. 

As we get closer to the season, we can be casting a wider net. Right now, we're trying to focus on building our relationships and building trust. 

Q: Ozark’s seventh graders were undefeated last winter. What have you heard or what have you learned about that promising group?

Donnelly: Working camps, it's been exciting to see a lot of those kids up close and get to know them and see what they can do and how that's going to fit with our scheme moving forward. I was not very familiar with them, being at the high school level at Kickapoo. We're looking forward to seeing what they bring to the table in the next few years. 

Q: With your background as an elite 3-point shooter in high school and college, what kind of relationship did you have at Kickapoo with the Chiefs’ best shooters, such as Brayden and Jackson Shorter, Trae Oetting and Anton Brookshire?

Donnelly: Those are guys who lived in the gym. They were gym rats. I'm very close with (the Shorters), working with them the last seven years. Brayden and I started our relationship when he came in as a freshman. 

I'm still young enough that I can shoot with (the players). It's fun to have shooting competitions with them after practice and we would come in early in the mornings. That's something we started when he was a freshman. We did that all the way through his senior year. 

(Shooting) was something I was pretty good at in high school and college and something I think I can teach kids well. The biggest thing when it comes to shooting, that I don't think a lot of people understand, is the amount of time you spend in the gym. To me, that's what separates a player from being a mediocre shooter to an elite shooter. 

We've got guys who can (shoot) from what I've seen. I'm excited to get them in the gym and that becomes an elite status for them.

Q: With your Dad having been a coach, what kind of impact did he have on you during your formative years?

Donnelly: I was lucky to have a Dad who was a coach and a D-I scout. He laid a foundation for me of what that was going to look like to be a college basketball player and he gave me the best opportunity to play at the next level. 

My Dad has done a little of everything when it comes to coaching. He's always been around it. We got to do a lot of fun things growing up with basketball. He coached at a lot of different levels. Back in his early days, he was a middle school coach and an assistant coach at the high school level. He dropped out of coaching for a while and pursued scouting. He did that for 20-plus years. When I got older, he got back into coaching and coached our summer AAU teams. After I graduated (from high school), he took over the girls program at Linn and coached my younger sister. He ended up going back to coaching boys at (Sedalia) Smith Cotton.

Whenever we'd go to games together when I was a kid, he'd tell me to watch one or two players. So, at an early age I was analyzing the game a little differently than a lot of kids. As I got older, we focused a lot on film and preparation. 

Q: Who are some SWMO coaches you consider close friends?

Donnelly: I'm close with a lot of coaches in the area. There's a huge Evangel coaching tree. Most of the coaches in the area I have somewhat of a relationship with.

Obviously, I'm very close with Mitch (McHenry) over at Kickapoo and also Cale Ramsey at Republic, Korry Tillery over at Strafford. 

With (Nixa coach Brock Blansit) having been the jayvee coach, we've had plenty of opportunities to get to know each other. I respect them a lot and think they have a great program over there.

As people say, basketball is kind of a fraternity. Being in Springfield as long as I have, you naturally grow into those relationships with other coaches around the area.

This is a great area for basketball. That's one of the reasons I've wanted to stay here. There's high caliber coaches and high caliber players.

Q: What is it going to be like moving a seat over from being an assistant coach to a head coach?

Donnelly: It’s a great opportunity. It's something that's always been a goal of mine. I'm looking forward to being my own guy and leading other guys to head coaching roles in their future. 

I want to try my best to lead young men and do the little things that are going to make an impact on their lives. I think for any coach, that's the goal in their mind.

Q: Who are your assistant coaches?

Donnelly: Micah McIntire, who played at Kickapoo and went to Evangel, and Autry Acord, who was a really good player at Parkview and also went to Evangel.