116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Kyle Lamaak has a relationship with his college basketball coach familiar to many parents.
'He drives me nuts in practice, but I love him to death,” Mount Mercy Coach Paul Gavin said of Lamaak, a 6-foot-4 junior post player and former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep.
'I almost have that father-son relationship with him,” Lamaak said of Gavin. 'I've known him for almost seven years now. He just wants to get the best out of you. If I don't give my full effort, he'll get on me a little bit. Most of the time he's not too mad at me.”
Not too mad at all. Gavin welcomed Lamaak into the Mount Mercy fold this season despite a nearly three year absence from the game.
'I went to school at UNI for a few years, but something was missing,” Lamaak said. 'I knew it was basketball. I love playing basketball.”
Being familiar with Gavin and the Mount Mercy program, where former Kennedy teammates Jake Misener and Ben Struss were on the team, Lamaak reached out.
'I called up Coach Gavin and I asked him if he'd give me a shot to play and he did,” Lamaak said. 'I'm glad for the opportunity and I'm glad he let me come here.”
Gavin is glad to have Lamaak. After averaging 5.5 points the first 13 games of the season, Lamaak found his groove on the court. He averaged 14.2 points over the final 17 games, 20.7 in three games against archrival William Penn.
Lamaak, who started only once in 30 games, came off the bench and recorded his second double-double of the season with 20 points and a season-high 11 rebounds in his last game, a 93-76 win over William Penn in the Midwest Collegiate Conference championship.
'He's been great the second half of the year. He's really been a difference-maker,” Gavin said.
A difference-maker who helped put Mount Mercy (26-4) into the NAIA Division II national tournament. The Mustangs are seeded ninth and open play in the 32-team, single-elimination tournament tonight against unseeded Cal Maritime (19-9) at Point Lookout, Mo. The game tips off at 9:15 p.m. and will be streamed live at www.cofo.edu/naia/webcast.aspx.
Lamaak said reaching the national tournament was the 'ultimate goal” after winning regular-season and tournament titles in the Midwest Collegiate Conference.
'I knew we had a talented group of guys,” he said. 'I knew if we put our mind to it we could accomplish a lot of things. I think we can do well at nationals, if we play as a team and keep that chemistry going, like we have all year.”
Mount Mercy is making its third appearance in the tourney, all under Gavin, who is 360-324 in 22 seasons coaching the Mustangs.
Mount Mercy is 1-2 in three national tournament games. The Mustangs won an opening round game in 1996, but lost in the second round. They lost their opening round game two years ago.
Mount Mercy is in the same bracket with top-seeded Indiana Wesleyan (31-2). The teams would play in the quarterfinals, if both win their first two games.
The tournament opened Wednesday and runs through March 17 at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks.