By ANDY HEINTZ Courier Sports Writer
---- — OTTUMWA — He’s a guard in a big man’s body.
That’s how Ottumwa basketball coach Kevin Kanaskie describes Carter Burns and that’s why opposing defenses have had such a devil of a time figuring out how to properly guard him. Indeed, Ottumwa’s 6-foot-6 junior standout is a thorny riddle few defenses have been able to crack.
Right now, Burns averages 21 points and 10 rebounds a game. And, if it wasn’t for foul trouble, who knows what Burns’ average would be. Fans got a peek at his seemingly limitless upside when he unleashed an offensive barrage against Des Moines Lincoln earlier this season, pouring in a season-high 35 points and pulling down 13 boards.
Burns presents a quadruple threat to defenses: He can handle the ball, drive to the hoop, score with his back to the basket and step out and hit a 3-pointer when the situation warrants. Given his multifaceted skills, the best way to try to neutralize Burns is open for debate and argument. And, no matter what one’s position on the topic, one thing is crystal clear: Ottumwa’s big man is a force to be reckoned with.
“He’s a matchup problem,” Kanaskie said, “To be able to post-up and shoot the 3-pointer.”
Burns skills, however, didn’t materialize overnight: He’s earned his just desserts.
“He has a tremendous work ethic,” Kanaskie said. “It’s no secret why he’s a good player. He put in the individual time working on his shot and his body.
“I shot a lot of threes and worked on finishing around the basket,” Burns said about the work he put in during the offseason.
Aside from his exemplary offensive skills, Burns said he’s also becoming a more effective leader this season. While he tried to be vocal last season, Ottumwa’s star big man admitted that his approach didn’t always induce the desired effect.
“I feel like I’m doing that a lot better this year,” he said.
“He’s really taken a leadership role on the team,” Kanaskie added. “He kind of leads our guys. How he goes is kind of how the team goes.”
Burns laid out what he considers to be the blueprint Ottumwa needs to follow to be successful for the rest of its season.
“We have to get more stops and play as a team on offense and defense and everyone will have to play their role on the team,” Burns said.
The junior star’s goal this season is to help his team advance to the state tournament. He said the Bulldogs will get an extra boost when Nic Young, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Illinois, becomes eligible to play in mid-January. The transfer rule requires players to sit out 90 days before they’re eligible to play for their new team.
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