CHEYENNE – Cade Burns grew up playing on the same traveling basketball team as Cheyenne Central seniors Lawson Lovering and Brady and Brock Storebo.

That Cheyenne Rebels team won its fair share of hardware, but went its separate ways during junior high. Burns’ family lived in the Cheyenne South triad at the time, so he went to Johnson Junior High and then South. The majority of his Rebels teammates flowed into McCormick Junior High followed by Central.

The group reunited in the summer of 2019 when Burns switched schools after his family moved into the Central triad. The 6-foot-7 Burns struggled to find his place within the Indians’ roster. Not only were they loaded with hardwood talent, Burns battled injuries.

He averaged just 3.4 points and 3.1 rebounds across 14 games as Central finished 20-3 and missed out on the Class 4A state tournament. Burns averaged 7.5 points and five rebounds as a sophomore at South.

He got off to a slow start again this season, but has gained traction late to help the Indians win the East Region’s No. 1 seed at the state tournament. The Indians (18-3) face Rock Springs (4-17) in the opening round at 1:30 p.m. today at the Wyoming Center (formerly Casper Events Center).

Burns enters the tournament averaging seven points and four boards per contest. Both averages are fourth on Central’s roster.

“It’s been a steady slope upwards,” Burns said. “I started the season averaging two or three points per game, but I slowly got more comfortable with myself and my role on this team.

“I need to score, but I also need to get assists to my teammates and do whatever I can to help us win. I had played with a lot of these guys since third grade, but it took us time to develop the same chemistry we had back then. It took time, but it finally clicked.”

Six of Burns’ eight double-digit scoring efforts this winter have come in the Indians’ past eight games. He had a season-best 18 points during Central’s Feb. 18 win at South.

Indians coach Tagg Lain said it was apparent Burns was putting too much pressure on himself earlier this season, and that it was adversely impacting his performance. Burns eventually relaxed, made the most of his playing time and worked himself into the starting lineup.

Burns has become a force on the defensive end, altering shots and passes with his length and corralling rebounds. However, he also shines in the open court.

“What he’s been able to do in the second part of this season is play at the level of his talent,” Central coach Tagg Lain said. “His is a long, athletic kid who can finish around the rim. He is very aggressive going to the hole and confident at the finish.

“The other thing he does at a high level is handle the ball under pressure. Even though he is 6-7, he is athletic and quick, handles the ball great and gives us a whole different dimension as a ball handler.”

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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