Doors that were never opened for Branson grad Tate Unruh might have a welcome sign on them for his younger brother, Thatch.
“Teams that passed on Tate probably aren’t going to pass on Thatch,” College of the Ozarks coach Steve Shepherd said, presumably referring to local NCAA D-I and D-II programs that never recruited Tate, now averaging 9.5 points a game as a sophomore at Northern Colorado.
The start to Thatch Unruh’s Branson career tipped off basically a year later than Tate’s record-setting Pirates career. But Thatch’s junior season was very comparable to Tate’s.
The Pirates hope the comparisons continue and their careers follow a similar path through Thatch’s senior season.
“Tate is on a weight program now and has gotten bigger and taller and Thatch is going to get taller and fill out more, too,” Pirates forward A.J. Wiebe said. “It’s going to be fun to see Thatch develop and get better.”
Thatch’s growth spurt came a year earlier than Tate’s. Thatch grew six inches between his sophomore and junior years, setting up his team-high scoring average of 14 points a game this season. Tate grew at about the same rate between his junior and senior years.
Thatch is also ahead of Tate in regard to the quickness on his shot-release. He had no choice but to get his shot off quicker, with the Pirates not having any other consistent scorer. All along, he maintained exceptional accuracy from 3-point land.
“That took a lot of reps,” Unruh said. “You want to shoot it as quickly as you can, but still have good form, get your feet set and shoulders square. Being small and slow like I am, that’s something I had to work on.”
“What made Tate so good is he had a strong supporting cast around him,” coach Randy Bishop said. “Tate had a lot of freedom. As our role players develop, I think that will help Thatch get more shots. Teams won’t be able to focus on him as much. This year, he was their focus every game.”