Riverside basketball player Kevin Kuntz learned last year that talent alone doesn’t win games.
The third-year starter and his veteran teammates are attempting to remedy the situation with togetherness and hard work.
Last year, although the Rams finished fourth in the Northeast A League, they were only 9-12 during the season and were eliminated in the first round of league playoffs.
This year the team has discovered that to succeed Riverside’s game must be more than Keith Cook and Kuntz, who averaged 14.0 and 12.8 points, respectively, last season.
“I felt we really underachieved last year,” said Kuntz. “Ability-wise we had the best team in league but never proved it to anybody.”
Part of the reason, he admits, was the fact that he was worried about outscoring Cook. This year that rivalry is behind them.
“We’re a lot more mature, a lot tighter,” Kuntz said of this year’s team, which includes a half-dozen returnees. “If I don’t score, it’s no big deal. I’ll help the team by rebounding or passing.”
Cook still runs the point, and Kuntz still likes the thought of shooting from outside, but the 6-foot4 post player has learned he is more valuable in the post if Riverside is to prosper.
“It’s nice shooting threes, and I can still do that, but not as much,” said Kuntz. “Coach (Brent) Monroe thinks I can dominate the league inside, and so do I.”
A spring and summer spent playing with various athletes in several tournaments taught him that there is more to the game than getting points.
Kuntz and Cook attended a Superstar Camp at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It featured 400 of the country’s better basketball players.
“I found out what it was like to play against the big boys,” he said. “It was humbling.”
He realized the importance of fulltime hustle, rebounding and chasing loose balls.
“Most of all it taught me how to get stronger,” said Kuntz. “I lifted a lot of weights this fall.”
The Rams have defeated two Frontier League foes in preseason and have won four of six Northeast A League games to already nearly equal last year’s record.
Kuntz and Cook are still getting their points, this year, averaging 16.0 and 15.3 points respectively. They are scarcely the whole show, however, with fellow posts Kasey Ahrens and Joe Gannon scoring in double figuresas as well.
All four have scored more than 20 points in a game, with Kuntz’s high of 28 coming against Colville.
League losses have come to two other challengers, Medical Lake, which lost for the first time last weekend, and Freeman, which lost Saturday a night after beating the Rams.
“We didn’t play well. It was probably our worst game all year,” said Kuntz of the loss to Medical Lake..
“We didn’t run our offense, the defense broke down, and worst of all we didn’t rebound.”
All those problems are things that Riverside must remedy if the team is to finish higher than fourth in the Northeast A.
“We want a league title for Mr. Monroe. He’s done a lot for us,” said Kuntz.
“I could score zero points and if we go to state, I’d be as happy as ever.”