Courier sports staff
Ottumwa High School boys varsity basketball coach Chris Gravett is stepping down after completing his fifth season as head coach. Gravett will continue to teach at Ottumwa.
Gravett, the father of three children under the age of five, wants to spend more time with his kids.
“I want to be a full-time dad,” said Gravett. “This will allow me to spend more time with my family. I will always be an Ottumwa guy. I want to teach here and I want my kids to grow up here.”
An Ottumwa native, OHS graduate and letter winner, Gravett began his teaching career in 2003 and currently teaches sixth grade math and science at Evans Middle School. He also started coaching basketball and freshman football that year. He became the district’s varsity head coach in 2008.
“I appreciate the time he devoted to our basketball program and value his decision,” said Superintendent Davis Eidahl. “Coach Gravett will continue to have a positive impact in the classroom as a very talented teacher. I’m excited for the time Chris will have loving and growing his family.”
Gravett’s last season as coach of the Bulldogs was a rocky one, as the boys finished just 2-20 overall and 1-11 in the CIML Metro Conference. Ottumwa’s season was dealt a huge blow before the season even started when Faith Pope — the previous season’s leading scorer — left the team to play for Mount Pleasant. The scoring void left by Pope, who led the CIML Metro with 16.6 points a game in his junior campaign with the Bulldogs; was especially palpable during games when Ottumwa’s offense struggled to put the ball in the basket.
Despite their record, Gravett’s team seldom suffered from a lack of effort. The Bulldogs’ team was filled with and ornamented by hard-nosed players who made up for what they lacked in size and speed with toughness and competitive zeal. Gravett’s successor, assuming everyone from this season returns, will be left with a team flush with experience. Of the 15 players who suited up, 12 will return. While Ottumwa will miss the leadership and blue-collar work ethic provided by Austin Walker, Kyle Keck and Charlie Altfillisch, the new coach will have an experienced lot of young talent to work with.
Carter Burns, Ottumwa’s leading scorer this season, still has two more years left with the program. After spending a year in the shadow of Pope and seniors Ben Kramer and Erik Thorgaard as a freshman, Burns became the cornerstone of Ottumwa’s offense. He went from averaging just five points and about three rebounds per game in his freshman year to averaging 15 points and 7.5 boards as a sophomore.
In Ottumwa’s two victories, Burns averaged almost 26 points a game. The sophomore capped off his season by dropping 33 points and drilling six 3-pointers on Cedar Rapids Jefferson in the regional quarterfinals of Class 4A Substate tournament.
Other returning players who saw a lot of minutes this season include Brok Hopwood, Andrew Altfillisch, Chris Peden, Matthew Moreland and Curtis Schneckloth. Hopwood provided Ottumwa with acute passing skills — especially when it came to getting the ball inside — 3-pointers and a fierce competitive spirit this season. Altfillisch specialized in graceful drives down the lane and Peden gave the Bulldogs some solid minutes down in the post. In his freshman year, Moreland got some good experience at point guard and made great strides throughout the year and Schneckloth gave Ottumwa some solid minutes off the bench.
Gravett said his decision to resign had nothing to do with wins and losses, it was all about family.
“I want to spend more time with them [his kids] and watch them grow up,” he said.
Gravett said he will be sure to follow his former team’s progress next season.
“I will probably come to most of the home games and I will probably travel to a few,” he said.