Men's basketball notebook: "Young" Kirkwood off to 5-2 start

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CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s a young team. In junior college basketball, it’s always a young team.

But these Kirkwood Eagles are young by JUCO standards. There are only four sophomores on the roster, and one of those hasn’t played a game, yet, because of a broken wrist.

That’s young.

“Losing a few more games than we should ever lose, losing hair, losing sleep,” kidded Kirkwood Coach Bryan Petersen. “There’s been a lot of that going on.”

Not losing too many games, though. That doesn’t happen at one of Division II’s best programs.

The Eagles, national champs in 2016, go into a Thanksgiving break with a 5-2 record after disposing of Black Hawk (Ill.), 94-69, Tuesday night at Johnson Hall. Kirkwood was 14th in the NJCAA D-II preseason national poll.

“Just consistency, I guess. Then, overall, just competing,” Petersen said, when asked the early focus for his team. “Those have probably been our two areas. I know those are pretty broad areas. There are obviously some specific areas we can get better at, but there are a lot of those, so we’re focusing on just being consistent every day. Every day, how are you at practice? How are you in every possession? We’ll have a lot of moments where we’ll have a freshman or one of our newer players make two really good plays in a row, then follow it up on the next possession with a really, really bad play.”

Kirkwood’s top two scorers thus far are Des Moines Hoover grads. Sophomore Chris King is at 18.4 points per game, freshman forward-center Doug Wilson at 13.3 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Sophomore Carlo Marble, son of the late Iowa legend Roy Marble, averages 10.4 points per game.

“Chris King, obviously, has gotten off to a very good start for us, and, for the most part, been pretty consistent with his play in games over the last couple of weeks,” Petersen said. “A lot of stuff has been on Chris. He has had to shoulder a lot of load in a lot of different aspects.

“Doug, being a new kid, has done a nice job. He’s got to do a lot for us. He needs to play and needs to play well for us to win games. He has gotten off to a really good start for a freshman.”

Kirkwood’s next game is Wednesday, Nov. 29, at home against Marshalltown.

How other area colleges are doing

Coe is 1-2 after a tough 73-71 loss Tuesday night to Westminster (Mo.). Sophomore guard Tommy Hook (Mount Vernon) leads the Kohawks in scoring at 11.0 points per game.

Luther is 2-1 and being led by the three-headed scoring monster of James Kappus (15.3 ppg), Jared Nicolaisen (14.0) and Rahul Bagga (13.7). Kappus is a sophomore guard from Tennessee Colony, Texas, Nicolaisen a junior guard from New Hampton and Bagga a freshman forward from Anaheim, Calif.

Upper Iowa goes into Thanksgiving thankful for a 6-2 record. Senior guard Carson Parker (Dike-New Hartford) leads the team in scoring (16.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg). Joe Smoldt, the 2017 Mr. Basketball (Gladbrook-Reinbeck), is averaging 11.6 points per game.

Mount Mercy has won three of four to even its record at 4-4. Scoring has been balanced with four players averaging between 11.4 and 10.9 points per game: Mike Evans, Jake Anderson, Mohamed Albagami and Mychael Brawner-Henley.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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