Returning core, crop of promising newcomers lead Royal mens team
By Harry Lipsiea
In his second season as head coach at Lake Region State College basketball coach, Joe Kittell thinks his team has what it takes to do something pretty special.
"We are really optimistic and excited about the season," Kittell commented. "There's plenty of work to do, but I am confident that we have the group in place to have an extremely successful year."
After a successful 2013-2014 campaign in which the Royals finished with a 19-12 record, the Lake Region State College squad will have a different look for the upcoming season.
For anyone glancing at a 2014-2015 roster, they will notice that there will be little bit of old and a little bit of new on the floor for the squad this season.
“We have a good balance of returners to go along with an exciting group of freshman,” Kittell commented. “I think we have an exciting mix of players that will be fun to watch.”
Lake Region State College returns a nice core of sophomore contributors from last year’s squad. The Royals welcome back two of their top three scorers from a season ago. Diallo Powell, 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds, and Patrick Thomas, 11.5 points and 6.7 rebounds, return to give Lake Region State College experience. They are joined by part-time starter Kharie Kirkland, 6.1 points and 2.7 rebounds, and key reserve Tyler Moore, 2.5 points and 1.6 assists.
"Those are four guys that have been through the grind and know exactly what to expect," Kittell commented. "Not only do they bring experience, but they also are terrific leaders to our younger players."
Powell, a 6-foot-3 forward from St. Paul, Minn., had some huge games for the Royals in his freshman season. Kittell looks for Powell to even more consistent in his season year at Lake Region State College.
“I thought Diallo had a strong freshman season, but I expect him to take it to another level this season,” Kittell stated. “He put a lot of time in the offseason to become a more consistent player for us and it shows.”
Thomas, a native of Adelaide, Australia, also had a nice inagural for the Royals. The 6-foot-3 sophomore brings in size and strength at the guard spot for Lake Region State College.
“Pat is a big, physical guard who has a great motor,” Kittell commented. “I expect his scoring to improve this season for us.”
Kharie Kirkland, a 6-foot-2 guard from St. Paul, Minn., started late in the season for the Royals.
“Kharie is a tremendous passer with a high basketball IQ,” Kittell commented. “We are looking for him to bring a competitive edge to the floor. If he plays within himself and handles the ball well, he will be a big key to success for us.”
Tyler Moore, is a 6-foot-1 guard from Chicago, Ill., who played a key role off the bench last season.
“We look for Tyler to come off the bench and be a lockdown defender,” Kittell commented. “He just brings so much energy to the floor for us. I expect him to be a playmaker off the bench. That’s a role he has accepted and will flourish in.”
The fifth and final sophomore on the roster is transfer player Adante Jones. He is a 6-foot-6 forward who transferred from McCook Community College.
"We are excited about the size, energy and rebounding he brings to the table," the coach stated. “He is a great kid who plays with tremendous energy. I feel like he is going to continue to grow the more looks he can get.”
A group of talented freshman will also be seeing playing time for the Royals this season.
Ryan Clark, a 6-8 center from Adelaide, Australia, brings size and technique to the inside, Kittell stated.
“I ecpect Ryan to be a double-double guy,” he said commented. “Ryan has had several tremendous scrimmages for us. He scores and rebounds very well for us by using sound fundamentals.”
Fellow Adelaide, Australia native, Tom Kubank is expected to provide energy for the Royals. He is a 6-foot-6 forward.
“Nothing but upside with that kid,” Kittell stated. “Tom is long, lean, fast and a good jumper. He does so many things so well, Tom just needs to keep working on his game and developing.”
AJ Nywesh is a 6-foot-2 guard from Austin, Minn., who was a member of the state runner-up team.
“AJ was arguably the best shooter in the state last season,” Kittell commented. “He has a tremendous feel for the game and how to score. We feel he is going to be a lightning bug for us off the bench.”
Caerino Gurley is a 6-foot-4 post player from Minneapolis, Minn., who will bring a rebounding presence for the Royals.
“Caerino is a middle linebacker playing basketball,” Kittell commented. “He is a phyical player who wants you to play physical. He loves playing with contact. Caerino will provide a lot of rebounding for us with his strength inside.”
The team is rounded out by freshman players Spencer Halvorson, Hunter Cichos, Dawson Peterson, Kaharri Carter, and Michael Murray.
"We were able to bring in a very talented freshman class," Kittell stated. "The size, depth and rebounding we were able to address are going to be key this season."
On the bench this season, Kittell will be joined by Jared Marshall. A Colo., native, Marshall spent the last two years on the University of Mary mens basketball coaching staff.
"I am very excited to have Coach Marshall on board," Kittell said. "He brings tons of energy to the bench and is an extremely passionate recruiter."
The Royals are looking forward to kick off the regular season Nov. 1 with the Spirit Lake Shootout at the Devils Lake Sports Center.
"I know the players are looking forward to get out and play in front of their home crowd," the coach added.
The team plays at the Sports Center Saturday at 7 p.m.