FAYETTE — Upper Iowa men’s basketball coach Brooks McKowen knows a little about small towns in Iowa.
The former Wapsie Valley standout — the 2003 Mr. Iowa Basketball — grew up in Fairbank before moving on to the University of Northern Iowa.
He also knows something about fit.
“A lot of high-character kids from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois,” said McKowen, in his eighth season in Fayette. “We’re here in a small town which means you need the right kind of kid.”
McKowen has found that fit more times than not at UIU and three of this year’s players have something else in common — parents.
Connor, Lucas and Max Duax are three of Bob and Katie’s five boys. Former Hempstead players from Dubuque, all three are on the 2020-21 Peacocks roster, although Connor is sitting out this season after transferring from Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
The 6-foot-5 Connor is the second oldest of the five boys — born over a 6 1/2-year span. Lucas, the middle of the five Duax boys, is 6-3 and a redshirt sophomore. The 6-2 Max, the fourth born, is a true sophomore and the baby of the Fayette trio.
He’s also the daredevil of the family.
“He’s not reckless,” Lucas said. “But he likes to try new things.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Lucas is the leader of the Duax clan, starting all six games this season for the Peacocks (2-4) and averaging 15.7 points and a team-high 4.8 rebounds per game. Max has played in all six games and averages 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds.
“They are just a good family and good people to be around,” said McKowen, whose team travels to Wayne, Neb., Friday for a pair of games against Wayne State. “They bring a ton of versatility to our team and that’s why we brought them in.”
The Duax parents stressed the importance of being a good person and a good teammate to all five of their sons. Robert, the oldest of the bunch, finished his four-year career with Wisconsin-Platteville in 2018-19. Michael, a high school senior, is headed to Northern Iowa in the fall.
“I think that’s one of the things that I’m most proud of,” Bob said, “Are they kids that people want to play with? Not getting hung up on how many points or all of the stats. Just go out and have fun together and hopefully things fall into place for some wins.”
Katie Duax also has seen the time and effort her kids have put into their passion.
“We realize how fortunate they are to (play together) and they have worked hard to put themselves into that position,” she said. “They have kind of grown up playing together as a team. They are comfortable with each other and they learned how to play together. I think that has helped them get to where they are now.”
Now McKowen just needs to find a way to blend the chemistry the Duax brothers have with the rest of the team as the Peacocks prepare for a run at the conference championship and, they hope, a berth in the regional playoffs.
“They are all extremely unselfish, as well,” McKowen said. “It’s a fun team to play on when you have that same goal, same mindset and that same passion to make everyone else around you better.”
And, of course, similar backgrounds. Joe Smoldt of Reinbeck leads the Peacocks at 16 points per game and former North Linn prep standout Jake Hilmer, another Mr. Iowa Basketball, and Mason City’s Jareese Williams are third on the team at 15.5.