---- — OTTUMWA — At this point in the season, the Ottumwa boys' basketball team's main focus is on continued improvement.
"I think we started off OK," first-year coach Kevin Kanaskie said about his team's first six games. "We need to keep applying what we learned in practice during the game."
The Bulldogs' record sits at 1-5 going into its game tonight against a winless Des Moines East team in CIML Metro Conference action. Yet, despite the Bulldogs' subpar record, Kanaskie said he's been pleased with the unselfishness his team has displayed on the court in both practices and games.
"I think we've done a really good job sharing the ball," he said. "I don't think we care who scores as long as the team does."
Carter Burns has once again assumed the role of Ottumwa's most potent threat on offense as well as being its most effective rebounder. Burns, who averages 21 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, is a chronic headache for opposing defenses because of the quadruple threat he poses: He can handle the ball, step out and drill 3-pointers, score with his back to the basket and drive the lane depending on what action would be most optimal for his team.
The pinnacle of Burns' season thus far came when he scored a season-high 35 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in a 74-64 loss to Des Moines Lincoln in the Bulldogs' league opener.
"I'm definitely pleased with Carter's play," Kanaskie said, "but, like everyone else, he's got things he needs to work on."
Brok Hopwood comes into tonight's game riding a tidal wave of momentum after he tossed in a season-high 25 points and and drilled seven 3-pointers in the Bulldogs' 69-66 triumph over Indianola. Hopwood, who averages almost 11 points a game, is defined by his trademark intensity, which he perpetually wears on his face throughout the course of a game.
"Brok's been unreal at practice the last few weeks," Kanaskie said. "He brings an element of toughness to the team. He really rebounds and is really physical."
Ottumwa's athletic junior point guard Andrew Altfillisch is Ottumwa's best distributor, catalyzing the Bulldog offense with a team-high 19 assists overall — 10 more than his nearest teammate. Altfillisch, however, is more than just a guy with acute passing skills; he also has a knack for weaving his way through the teeth of defenses and scoring on slick drives to the basket.
"Four weeks ago, he [Altfillisch] really became a team leader four us who is willing to do anything to help the team win," Kanaskie said.
Senior Curtis Schneckloth started his season on a terrific note against Ankeny, scoring a season-high 13 points and corralling rebounds. In addition, Sam Moreland, the Bulldogs' undersized guard who makes up for his lack of mass with an abundance of hard work and a high basketball IQ, put together a nice 10-point effort against Cedar Rapids Xavier.
"We can always play harder and rebound the ball more," Kanaskie said. "It takes an entire team effort to rebound the ball."
Ottumwa (1-5, 1-1) plays at 7:45 p.m. tonight at Des Moines East.
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