Prep Basketball

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Caleb Schlaak emerges into Metro's top basketball scorer

Cougars open substate play Monday against Cedar Rapids Washington

Kennedy's Caleb Schlaak (23) looks to shoot while guarded by Prairie's Jonathan Mullins (14) during the second quarter o
Kennedy's Caleb Schlaak (23) looks to shoot while guarded by Prairie's Jonathan Mullins (14) during the second quarter of their game at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Metro’s regular-season scoring champion in boys’ basketball finished fourth last season. On his own team.

There’s no denying the growth in Caleb Schlaak’s game. It’s in the numbers.

The 6-foot-7 junior goes into Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Class 4A substate opener Monday night against Cedar Rapids Washington having increased his points-per-game average by exactly 10 points.

That’s 17.9 compared to 7.9 last season. His field-goal percentage got exponentially better, too, from 44 percent last season to 52 this season.

The kid is a player, with another season left to go.

“He has matured an extreme amount the past 12 months, I’d say more the last three months, on and off the basketball court,” said Kennedy Coach Jon McKowen. “He’s really becoming a good leader for some of our newer players on the varsity. He’s taking care of his own business on and off the court. It has just been really fun to watch him grow and mature.”

Schlaak got called up to the varsity for a bit as a freshman, then worked his way into Kennedy’s starting lineup down the stretch as a sophomore. With the Cougars losing their top three scorers to graduation and/or prep school, what was expected of Schlaak changed this season, and that was an adjustment.

“I started off a little shaky, just getting used to the role of what I have compared to last year,” he said. "But I’ve definitely started to improve as the season has gone forth, stepping into my scorer’s role.”

“He’s a very fluid player,” McKowen said. “He’s versatile in that he can play inside and outside. He can shoot it, he can drive it. He can score around the hoop, has great feet and great hands. I would say it’s kind of a European style. You watch kids grow up and become more of a face-up player around the hoop, (with) pivots and ball fakes. They are very, very fundamental on all sides, whether it’s inside or outside. It’s fun to watch.”

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Schlaak’s parents both were college athletes. His dad, Kyle, played Division II college hoops at Winona State in Minnesota, where his mom, Lisa, played volleyball.

McKowen said D-II is where Schlaak’s future appears to be right now, though Division I schools know his name. A strong spring and summer would get him more noticed.

But right now it’s about the postseason. Kennedy takes a 13-8 record into it, placed in a tough substate with top-five teams from Waterloo West and North Scott.

“We’re playing our best basketball right now, as usual under Coach McKowen,” Schlaak said.

Substate play in 3A and 4A gets underway Monday night. Tuesday night (weather permitting) features Class 2A district finals and 1A semifinals.

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

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