La PORTE — For Grant Ott-Large, playing with Drake Gunn on La Porte's team was a gigantic benefit last season.
Unfortunately for Ott-Large, the highly talented and super athletic Gunn graduated and continued his basketball career at Eastern Arizona College, a junior college, with aspirations of earning a Division I scholarship.
Despite Gunn's departure, the fellow forward Ott-Large is relishing the opportunity to be the stalwart in the interior on both ends of the floor this campaign for the Slicers.
“Mason Schroeder and Grant Gresham have kind of helped me with that,” Ott-Large said. “I feel like if I can take over what Drake's presence was a little bit that will be helpful, because I'm not going to be as good as Drake was, not right now. He's kind of like a role model for me. I look up to him, for what he did.”
Third-year La Porte coach Kyle Benge has witnessed firsthand Ott-Large's development and is eager to see his growth on the court in meaningful games.
“I'm really excited to see the jump he's going to make from his freshman to sophomore year,” Benge said. “Obviously, losing Drake, our leading scorer from last year, is going to be a big loss. But we'll be able to get more touches on the outside. We'll be able to get more touches on the inside. He's such an unselfish basketball player. People will be able to see that more this year because he'll draw a lot of those double teams that Drake drew. He's a great passer. He's going to get guys open shots. We're looking for him to make that jump defensively.”
Benge added last year when Ott-Large was a freshman, it was challenging for him to face players who were three years older. He said now with playing football and gaining that confidence physically, Ott-Large will hopefully be able to guard some of the better post players on the opposition and take pride defensively just like he takes pride offensively.
After playing a full year with Gunn on the varsity, Ott-Large primarily learned from him to block out the criticism.
“Not worrying about what anyone says,” Ott-Large added. “Don't worry about the haters. Just keep playing.”
To prepare for this campaign, he decided to come out for the Slicers' football team. So he joined the football squad in early August after his AAU basketball season was over. Ott-Large was a wide receiver for La Porte and came into his own in the last few games.
"I'm glad I played," he said. "It helped me with my physicalness but also mentally."
Ott-Large again played AAU ball in the summer with the Eric Gordon All-Stars, current Houston Rockets' and former Indiana University star's team and played on the Adidas Circuit, and traveled all over the country, including California and Alabama, and got exposure with numerous college coaches.
"Playing AAU really helps," he said. "It's kind of like the varsity tempo. The pace really helped me get ready for this."
In addition to his basketball exploits, Ott-Large thrives in the classroom as well. He carries a flawless 4.0 grade point average and is currently enrolled in an Advanced Placement class, AP English.
“I know I want to get an athletic scholarship, I want to try and pursue that,” Ott-Large said. “But also grades are very important. My mom always says, even when I was in middle school, 'If you get a 'B', you can't play.' I just like doing well in the classroom and also doing well on the court or field. And just keeping the 4.0 as long as I can.”
He's involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), 4-H, PSI, and Interdirect Club, too.
In regards to his future following high school, Ott-Large certainly wants to play college basketball. He added he would like to maybe play with his older brother, Garrott Ott-Large, who's a senior shooting guard for La Porte.
This season, though, Grant's coach doesn't doubt he will be able to handle more of the interior responsibility for the team after Gunn graduated.
“That's just another year of experience,” Benge said. “Especially as a freshman, averaging 10 points a game. Any time we threw the ball into the post, we kind of knew it was going to be two points. This year, we might throw it into him and he's going to have to read it a little bit more. They might double him. He might have to kick the ball out and get posted up even more. With his game, he's going to be able to score inside, he's going to be able to score outside. He's a good 3-point shooter.”
At the same time, Benge mentioned that Grant's selfless nature and passing ability are his best attributes as a player, adding he might be the team's best passer and he's got a lot of guard skills.
While those qualities are pivotal, he also understands the importance of team unity in order to have a productive campaign.
“We just need to stay together,” Grant said. “I feel like this year we have a brotherhood. We mesh well together. If we stay together all season and play team basketball, we can make a lot of noise in the DAC and the whole year.”
As a freshman last season, Grant started every varsity game. Not only is he looking to do that again this year, but he's also striving to make more of an impact, and hopefully, guide La Porte deep into the postseason.
“I've grown up watching Gage (Ott) and Riley (Ott),” Grant said. “They've won sectionals and got to the regional. This is the season I want to go far. Obviously, I want to go far the next couple of seasons, but this is the season I want to take advantage of and go far. Take each moment one by one.”