Triton men finding a rhythm
Just six games into this season, Hall of Fame head coach Dennis Pilcher knows his Iowa Central men’s basketball team remains a work in progress.
After compiling an 18-14 overall record last winter, including 7-7 in the ICCAC, the Tritons must fill the glaring void left by six of their top seven scorers and rebounders.
Iowa Central makes its home debut on Monday, taking on the Simpson JV squad at 6 p.m. inside Hodges Fieldhouse.
“We’re 3-3 right now, and we’re still just kind of putting all the pieces together,” said Pilcher, who ranks sixth among active NJCAA coaches and 12th all-time nationally with 767 career victories. “We don’t always know when to shoot, dribble or pass, so we’re trying to develop some more consistency.
“It’s been a learning process, but down the road by the first of January, I think we could be a pretty darn good basketball team.”
Point guard Jesse Jones, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, will be a focal point on each end of the floor for Iowa Central, which lost nearly 80 percent of both its offensive production (1,715 of 2,148 points) and rebounding output (743 of 908 boards) from the 2012-13 campaign.
Jones accumulated 336 points, 127 rebounds and team-highs in assists (144) and steals (63) in 29 games as a freshman en route to earning a spot on the all-region XI second squad.
“Jesse and (Elmhurst transfer) Winston (Yergler) both do a pretty decent job from a leadership standpoint, but it’s always difficult to replace the type of experience we lost,” said Pilcher. “We basically have a four-guard offense, which we’re struggling to understand and run quickly.
“We’re not real big or quick, and we just need to keep improving as the season goes on.”
Guards Malik Brooks and Puot Kudhot, who combined for 164 assists, 97 points, 71 steals and 38 rebounds last season, are the only other returning players for the Tritons. Following a one-year absence, Javonte Young is also back on the roster.
Former Midland University player Dylan Travis, Rainy River transfer Josh Pierre, Jasmin Biberovikj and Ky Kramer (Cedar Rapids Jefferson) are among the newcomers being counted on to make a significant impact.
Gone from last season are second team all-region XI performers Rhys Elliot and David Andersen.
So far this year, the Tritons have prevailed over Parkland (77-64), ABCD Prep (89-50) and County Upper Academy (113-33). Iowa Central’s setbacks came against 14th-ranked (NJCAA Div. II) Central Community College (95-58), Northeast Nebraska (86-81) and John Wood (90-80).
In 2012-13, Iowa Central dropped seven games by six points or less and went 5-3 in overtime contests, including four straight to end the year.
Defending Region XI champion and No. 6 Iowa Lakes (26-8 overall, 11-3 in the league a year ago) and 16th-ranked Kirkwood (19-13, 10-6) look to be the top contenders for the ICCAC title.
Assisting Pilcher are Chad Helle and Nathan West.
“I still enjoy the challenge of developing teams,” said Pilcher, who is entering his 35th year at the helm and 46th season overall. “I like to teach and want to see kids become better basketball players.”
Under Pilcher’s direction, the Tritons qualified for the NJCAA national tournament in both 1990-2012. Since 1991, Pilcher has sent 65 players to four-year programs and 10 to NCAA Div. I schools.