116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Kirkwood’s men’s basketball team hosts North Iowa Area Community College on Thursday night in the middle of a key three-game stretch.
After defeating Ellsworth (13-8, 4-4) on Tuesday, 72-65, a victory over newly-ranked No. 20 NIACC (12-4, 3-2) would put first place in the ICCAC on the line when No. 7 Iowa Western (13-3, 4-1) visits Johnson Hall on Saturday.
“This is a big week for us in our standings,” said Eagles head coach Tim Sandquist. “We’re all competing for seeding and we’re just trying to find some more consistency.”
With two guards lost to season-ending injuries, No. 15 Kirkwood has relied on an even distribution of scoring between seven players averaging 7.4 to 12.1 points per game.
One of those contributors is true sophomore/COVID-freshman Caleb Delzell, who also is averaging nearly four rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in his second season with Kirkwood.
Delzell grew up around basketball. His mother, Stacey, played in high school and his father, Chad, made it to the college level, playing for Mount St. Clare in Clinton.
Delzell, who won’t turn 20 until the end of July, is young for his grade, which made his growth spurt at 14 come just before his sophomore year at Camanche.
That summer he grew from 6-foot to 6-5.
“It was rough to be honest. All of the growing pains and getting used to my body,” Delzell said. “It’s helping me now because I grew up playing guard, being smaller, and then had my big growth spurt. It’s been a fun journey.”
The tall teen doesn’t want the journey to end after this season, but isn’t certain yet if he will remain at Kirkwood or transfer to a four-year program with three years of eligibility remaining.
In the meantime, Delzell and the Eagles are focused on extending their current three-game winning streak to five by the end of the weekend. There are seven more regular-season contests before the Region XI tournament takes place Feb. 26-27 in Mason City.
“Conference champs first, then region champs,” Delzell said. “Then we’ll make it Danville, Ill., and do some work out there.”
If the Eagles are going to make noise nationally, Sandquist believes second-year players like Delzell are going to lead them there.
“I need to lead by example,” Delzell said. “I’m not always the loudest guy, but the biggest thing is showing guys what they need to do.”
No. 15 Kirkwood and No. 7 Iowa Western have been joined by Iowa Lakes (No. 18) and NIACC (No. 20) in the latest NJCAA D-II rankings.
Des Moines Area Community College also received votes.
The Upper Iowa men (16-2, 10-2) travel north for a two-game weekend set, beginning at Northern State (S.D) (12-8, 6-6) Friday at 7:30 p.m., followed by a trip to Minnesota State-Moorhead with tipoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.