The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

December 3, 2013

Kings 'most excited' for the new season

CLINTON — Although the River Kings will make their home debut tonight when they host Cedar Rapids Jefferson, the hype behind this 2013-14 season is already in full swing.

Three weeks ago, with senior wing-man Jalen Jones signing his letter of intent to play NCAA Division-I basketball for the University of Nebraska-Omaha, neither he nor head coach Nick Lawrence could suppress their excitement for what the River Kings plan to dole out this winter. For Jones — who is on the verge of becoming the first 1,000 point scorer in school history — that culminates in a run at the state basketball tournament in March.

“We’re hoping to have a really great season,” he said on Nov. 14, moments after committing to college. “We’re going to try our best to make it to state. It’s my last year and we want to end on a good note.”

Said Lawrence: “I think the sky’s the limit for us. This is the most excited we’ve been coming into the season for a long time.”

After averaging 19.0 points per game last year, Jones is the leading scorer returning in the Mississippi Athletic Conference by a considerable margin. He’ll be joined by 6-foot, 8-inch junior Brady Ernst, who led the MAC in rebounds with 9.9 per game and averaged 11 points a game. Factor in Clinton’s third and fourth top scorers from a season ago — Derrick Howard with 7.9 and Jon Cady with 4.5 — and it’s easy to see why the River Kings are aiming for more than topping last year’s 7-15 record.

“We’ve got a lot of solid players to really build around,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got a lot of solid role players, and that builds excitement for our program.”

Despite Jones’ height and range (he’s 6-foot-7 with the versatility to guard all five positions on defense), Lawrence slated him as the team’s point guard last winter. While Clinton benefited at times from allowing Jones to create off the dribble, he said younger ball-handlers have come into the fold, allowing Jones to move into comfort zone on offense.

“This year we’ll be able to slide him back to his more natural wing position,” Lawrence said. “We’ve had some kids develop which allows us to slide him back.”

Following Jones’ signing day, Lawrence added Jones has emerged as Clinton’s leader during practices. He said a “transition” took place once the senior realized he was going to play D-I basketball, a verbal commitment Jones made after the team’s summer league play.

“Shortly after we got done playing, Jalen texted me and said ‘Hey, I’ve decided I’m going to commit to Nebraska Omaha,’ “ Lawrence said. “And from that point on, everything from the way he carried himself, his whole demeanor changed as though a weight has been lifted.”

Removing that pressure clears way for the team’s objective, Jones said.

“I can focus solely on the basketball season, nothing else,” he said, adding the River Kings have logged a lot of minutes as a group in the off season to improve.

Up first is the J-Hawks, who also return their top scorer in point guard Jacob Olson. Like the Kings, Jefferson returns with experience — nine seniors of 13 players on the roster.

To Lawrence, though, success for Clinton will depend more on what the River Kings do internally.

“Right now the biggest challenge for us is how much we’re going to commit to coming together as a team,” he said. “Anybody will tell you the trademark of really good teams is how well they bond and are unified towards the same goal.”

According to Jones, that chemistry has also been set in motion.

“We’re very prepared,” he said. “We just want to get out and run as fast as we can and keep pushing the ball to score a lot of points.”

Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. at the W.J. Yourd Gym. It’s the start of a five-game home stretch for Clinton, which also hosts the River King Classic (Friday and Saturday), Dubuque Senior (Dec. 10) and North Scott (Dec. 13) over the first two weeks of the season.

Starting at home, Lawrence said the River Kings are sure to take in that long-built hype from the get-go.

“The excitement from our guys and the community heading into this season has really been a huge boost,” he said.

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • 7-24-14 1B-Photo, Choice 2 Cinderella run ends DUBUQUE — The playoff run was fun while it lasted. Dubuque Hempstead, the No. 1-ranked baseball team in Class 4A entering Wednesday, ended Clinton’s chances at back-to-back appearances in the state tournament in Des Moines. The Mustangs knocked out t

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bears bring high hopes to '14 camp BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery understands expectations are soaring. He’s not backing away from them, either.The Bears are aiming high, hoping to return to the NFL playoffs after missing out for the sixth time in se

    July 24, 2014

  • LUMBERKINGS Barbosa uses past as motivation CLINTON — Clinton LumberKings outfielder Aaron Barbosa is just like one of the guys, but his path to Clinton is unlike the others.Barbosa was undrafted after playing his college baseball at Northeastern University, but he had a chance to display his

    July 24, 2014

  • 7-24-14 1B-Photo, LumberKings pitcher Homestand starts with a victory CLINTON — Eddie Campbell allowed one run in his sixth quality start of the year Wednesday as Clinton opened a six-game homestand against the best two teams from the Midwest League’s Eastern Division with a 4-2 win against West Michigan at Ashford Uni

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sky edges Fever ROSEMONT, Ill. — Sylvia Fowles knew she had to step up for her struggling team. Her teammates have said they need her, and her coach has challenged her.Fowles responded with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots to lead the Chicago Sky to a 6

    July 23, 2014

  • Sharp increase in teen use NEW YORK — Experimentation with human growth hormones by America’s teens more than doubled in the past year, as more young people looked to drugs to boost their athletic performance and improve their looks, according to a new, large-scale national su

    July 23, 2014

  • 7-23-14 3B-Photo, Clinton baseball Kings feel re-energized (with VIDEOS & PHOTO ALBUM)

    CLINTON -- There’s nothing like a postseason run to get the juices flowing again and jumpstart a baseball season that at times was trying.The atmosphere around the Clinton High School program is upbeat these days. One game away from a second consecut

    July 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Best of the East enters town today CLINTON — After seeing some new scenery in the eastern portion of the Midwest League, the Clinton LumberKings are back home to welcome the top two teams from the opposite division — the West Michigan Whitecaps, who have won on average six out of ever

    July 23, 2014

  • Paterno's son sues Penn State over dismissal STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A son of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has sued the university over his dismissal from its coaching staff two years ago, saying he has been unfairly linked to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.Former

    July 23, 2014

  • 7-23-14 1B-Photo, Cubs Rizzo homers twice CHICAGO — If it was a sneak preview of the future at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, then Chicago Cubs fans can’t wait for the sequel.Twenty-four-year-old Anthony Rizzo hit two home runs and 24-year-old Kyle Hendricks pitched seven innings for his fi

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

High School Sports