ESTERVILLE, Iowa - While many who follow sports in the New Ulm area know about 2011 New Ulm Cathedral graduate Kevin Larson's talents on the football and baseball field, it's basketball that he's making news in these days.
Larson is a sophomore point guard at Iowa Lakes Community College in Esterville, Iowa. At 11 a.m. Tuesday, he and his Lakers men's basketball teammates will face Owens Tech in the first round of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Tournament in Danville, Ill.
The Lakers won the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference with a record of 26-6 overall and 11-3 in the conference. They were nationally ranked at one point this year, so the team has had a lot of success throughout the season.
"We won the conference outright and we were as high as seventh in the nation and at the time of the tournament we were 11th in the nation," Larson said. "When you're the top team, you have the target on your back, so it was nice to play all of our games at home. We're pretty tough at home with our good crowd."
As the team's point guard, he's had to make several adjustments at the collegiate level. As soon as he stepped on the court in Esterville, his mindset went from that of a scorer to one who has to be the leader offensively.
"It's a lot different, everyone's very athletic and I had to change my game," Larson said. "I was a scorer at New Ulm Cathedral and when I came here, I'm more of a defensive specialist and I'm the point guard, so I look for other people to score."
His scoring numbers went down from his high school days. In college, playing shut-down defense became something he had to learn. But Larson learned on the fly and he became quite good at it.
"I had that scoring mentality when I was in high school, but when I came here I had to do new things and I kind of embraced the defensive role," Larson said. "It's just as nice stopping someone from scoring as it is when you score a lot of points."
This season, Larson is averaging 3.5 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists and he's shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.
His coach, Troy Larson, was a point guard at Iowa Lakes and he helped the team finish second in the national tournament. The fact that his coach has a point guard's mind has helped Kevin Larson's game too.
"He helped me with everything, really," Kevin Larson said. "From knowing how to handle the players as far as who to get the ball to in certain situations and what the defense is giving us and what play we should run."
Troy Larson said that Kevin has been an asset to the team since he joined last year.
"Kevin is the leader of the team," Troy Larson said via e-mail. "[He's a] Hard-nosed, tough competitor. Does all the little things that we need to have done to win. [He] Always guards the other team's best perimeter player. [I've] Enjoyed coaching him over the last two years and he will be greatly missed in our program."
On Sunday, the Lakers take off on the 10-hour trip from Esterville to Danville. They will practice in Iowa City Sunday, the same place the University of Iowa plays its games. They arrive in Danville and have a banquet on Monday, then play Tuesday morning.
The tournament website can be found at NJCAA.org. All the games will be televised via internet at the NJCAA.org site.
While in high school, Larson was the quarterback for the Greyhounds as they won the state championship his senior year. He's hoping this run creates more memories for him down the road.
"It feels just as good as that," Larson said. "I'm just hoping to build on this and hopefully get to the national championship and try to top that state championship I got in football."