BURNS – The move from Class 2A to 3A last year was a shock to the system for all Burns athletes.

“We learned pretty quickly that just because we were decent in 2A, it didn’t mean we were going to be any good in 3A,” Broncs senior Wyatt Ebben said. “It made everyone in all of our sports work a lot harder. We became better athletes through that, and it showed during football season.”

Burns went 7-3 on the gridiron this fall. That is its first winning record since 2013. It advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since winning the 2008 state championship.

Ebben didn’t play football with the Broncs, but was part of the Cheyenne South tennis team’s No. 1 doubles tandem. He still took the lessons learned during Burns’ first season in 3A to heart, and worked to get better.

“Defense was probably the biggest thing I had to get better at,” he said. “I was pretty good off-ball, but I was pretty poor on-ball. A lot of times, I was out of position and ended up fouling the guy I was defending.

“I would just reach out as he went by me, or get caught trying to go up and block a shot. I had to get a lot better.”

Ebben spent the off-season doing circuit training, doing agility and reflex drills, and working out in Burns’ weight room. He isn’t having as much trouble staying in front of his man. His maximum bench press and squat totals also increased 30 pounds.

“I used to be able to jump up and just grab the rim,” Ebben said. “Now, I can go up and hold onto it.”

Those efforts have made him a noticeably different defender, first-year Broncs coach Kurtis Suloff said.

“He has been one of our leaders on defense. He has improved a ton,” said Suloff, who spent the past three seasons as an assistant with the Burns girls. “He is always talking on that end of the court, letting guys know where they’re at and if they have help.

“He is almost always in the right position. I have seen a huge improvement in his quickness, his anticipation and everything else.”

Ebben averaged 6.3 points per game as a junior, and knew he also needed to get better on the offensive end.

“That might have needed more work than my defense,” Ebben said with a chuckle.

Suloff’s free-flowing offense and up-tempo style of play better match Ebben’s style of play, he said.

“The new system we’re running is easier for me,” he said. “I like to play fast, get up and down the court, and take the open shot as soon as it is there without having to set a lot of screens or running a lot of plays. This system is easier on me.”

Suloff agrees that Ebben’s skills mesh with the offense.

“Guys are going to be playing freely, and (Ebben) is going to get a lot more open looks,” the coach said. “He has to find the open spot, then we have to find him and let him knock down the shots.”

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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