CEDAR RAPIDS — At Coe College, the start of the college basketball season has revealed a bit of a metamorphosis.
Key graduation losses have necessitated a change in direction for both inhabitants of the sparkling second-year Kohawk Arena. While the women’s team is using defense to compensate for the loss of two of the best scorers in the history of the program, the men are incorporating a version of “small ball” to replace departed big man Spencer Williams.
“We’re a little different,” seventh-year Coe men’s coach Bryan Martin said after the Kohawks defeated Westminster College at home, 72-56, on Tuesday night. “I wouldn’t say we’re undersized, but we don’t have that true back-to-the-basket force that we had with Spencer, so we’re spreading the court a little bit more.”
The Coe men (3-2) return significant experience from the team that won just nine games a year ago. Junior guards T.J. Kaufmann and Tommy Hook, a Mount Vernon alumnus, each started more than 20 games last season, while 6-foot-6 senior forward Nolan Timp has averaged a team-high 21.2 points through five games, a pace that would more than double his offensive production from last season.
“I’m trying to play harder, limit the mistakes, play within myself and just run through the offense and the plays that coach calls to the best of my abilities,” Timp said.
The Kohawk men received a boost with the offseason arrival of former Cedar Rapids Xavier all-state selection Adam McDermott, who began his collegiate career at North Dakota, then transferred to Northern Iowa. After playing in eight games last season for the Panthers, the 6-foot-4 guard brought his long-distance shooting, defense and passing skills to Coe.
“I just wanted to go somewhere where I could get a lot of minutes and just get back to enjoying playing basketball again,” said McDermott, who is second on the team with 13.2 points per contest.
Both Coe squads begin American Rivers Conference play on Nov. 28 at Buena Vista. The Coe men were picked by the A-R-C coaches to finish fifth in the preseason poll, while the women were fourth.
The Coe women (2-1) are adjusting to the departure of three immensely productive former area preps in Aleena Hobbs (Cedar Rapids Washington), Jordan Holmes (Cedar Rapids Kennedy) and Jenna Lehman (Iowa City Regina). Hobbs graduated as the Coe career leader in points (1,616) while Lehman was third (1,440).
This year, the Kohawks feature a roster of 16 players, 11 of which are either freshmen or sophomores, and no seniors. Sophomore guard Madeline Wilkins scored 28 points in a season-opening win at rival Cornell, while fellow sophomore Jackie Feldt has averaged 12.7 points through three games.
Five other players average at least five points per contest.
“We’ve been super balanced,” second-year Coe Coach Kayla Waskow said. “It’s wide open in that sense that any night, someone is going to step up and figure it out.”
The defensive effort has been led by sophomore point guard Sydney Schroder, an Iowa City High grad, and junior guard Destiny Smith. The Kohawks allowed just nine combined points in the first quarter of their two wins.
“We’re still kind of finding our way a little bit,” Waskow said. “The last few games, we have been a defensive-minded team. You can tell it leads to our offense, so we’ve been really emphasizing that with this group. Just with the lack of a little bit of experience, keeping us in games on the defensive end.”
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