Small College Sports

Ethan Steinbronn goes from Maynard to Native American college, with a couple of stops in between

Six-foot-11 sophomore center seeks eventual NCAA Division I college hoops home

Kirkwood Community College’s Doug Wilson (33) puts up a shot over the hand of Little Priest Tribal College’s Ethan Steinbronn (2) during the first half of their basketball game at Johnson Hall in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Kirkwood Community College’s Doug Wilson (33) puts up a shot over the hand of Little Priest Tribal College’s Ethan Steinbronn (2) during the first half of their basketball game at Johnson Hall in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — He got whistled for an off-the-ball foul for pushing an opposing player in the second half Wednesday night, didn’t particularly care for it, didn’t say much of anything to the referee but was given a technical anyway that fouled him out of the game.

A double whammy for Ethan Steinbronn.

“Bad body language,” he said. “That’s on me. It can’t happen. My fault.”

Just another bump in the road for the former West Central prep, who has encountered a few of them on a wayward college basketball journey that has him playing for a school of which you’ve probably never heard. Little Priest Tribal College is located in Winnebago, Neb., about 20 miles from Sioux City.

It was chartered by the Winnebago Native American Tribe in 1996 and has a NJCAA Division II program. The Warriors lost to Kirkwood at Johnson Hall, 89-58.

“Small,” Steinbronn said, when asked about the Little Priest community. “But it’s not bad, I’m kind of used to it, being from West Central. It’s been tougher on some of the bigger-city kids. It keeps you out of trouble, basically only books and basketball. Not a whole lot of social life there.”

The 6-foot-11, 270-pound sophomore began his career at NCAA Division II Upper Iowa in the 2015-16 season, but left that school and attended Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge last fall. He broke his foot in preseason practice and never played, deciding to head back home to Maynard last winter and rehabilitate physically.

Steinbronn then received a phone call last May from Kyle Cooper. He’s Little Priest’s head coach and had recruited him while an assistant at North Iowa Area Community College.

“The main reason I ended up out there was Coach Cooper,” Steinbronn said. “I went out there for a visit, and he told me ‘Hey, I want to build around you.’ I knew he had a lot of connections to where I need to be at the next level. I just felt it was the right fit. It has been working out pretty well. Obviously, tonight was not a good representation of that, but it has worked out well.”

Steinbronn came into Wednesday’s game averaging 16 points and eight rebounds a game and shooting 56 percent from the field. He didn’t fare well here, with eight points, five rebounds and a couple of blocked shots.

His size is very intriguing, and he has the ability to float out and hit the 3-pointer. Nicholls State is Steinbronn’s only Division I offer thus far, though he has had contact with several other D-I schools, and that’s his expectation.

There are plans to attend a couple of showcases for Juco players after Little Priest’s season ends, and he hopes to have another and final college basketball home by April or May.

“I think this journey has been good for me,” he said. “I grew up in a small town, obviously, and I think this has helped me grow mentally. I don’t think I was ready for this level of basketball ... I don’t think I was ready for that coming out of high school. Going through a lot of adversity, injuries and transfers, has helped me.”

Little Priest is 11-11, after finishing last season 2-24. Kirkwood, ranked 11th nationally, is 13-4 and has won six in a row.

Carlo Marble had 19 points for the Eagles, one of four players in double figures.

“We’re feeling pretty good about some things,” Kirkwood Coach Bryan Petersen said. “Obviously there are some things we want to get better at, like any coach is probably going to say. But we are trending in the right direction, for sure.”

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

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