Xavier Basketball Continues Strong Start

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS - It surely was the quickest halftime talk of Ryan Luehrsmann's brief varsity coaching career. It might go down as one of the quickest in basketball history.

That's some exaggeration. But no sooner had Cedar Rapids Xavier's players left the Ron Thillen Gymnasium floor after the second quarter last night than they were right back out there shooting around for the second half.

Honestly, what do you say to your guys when they are playing so well and you know they've got the game virtually wrapped?

"He pretty much just said to focus on the defensive end still and keep up the intensity," Xavier's Adam McDermott said, following a 71-48 evaporation of Ottumwa. "Don't let up."

It was a terrific overall performance for a 3-0 club that could have been ripe for a letdown, coming off that huge win three days earlier against defending Class 3A state champion Waverly-Shell Rock.

"This group is pretty mature," Luehrsmann said. "They just want to try and go out and play the game the right way, no matter what the score is. I think good teams do that."

This appears to be a good team, one ranked by The Gazette/Iowa Prep Sports at No. 2 in 3A. It has some size (6-foot-8 center Matt Nelson), some shooters (McDermott) and some solid ballhandlers. Xavier sprinted to a 18-2 lead after a quarter and shot 58 percent through three quarters.

McDermott finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, both game highs. The 6-foot-3 junior has drastically improved his game from a season ago, when he was primarily a guy who stood in the corners and looked to launch 3-pointers.

"I'd say summer basketball, playing AAU, really helped me," said McDermott, who is averaging 19 points and eight boards in his team's first three games. "Just getting into the gym more. I'm trying to be more of a leader this year. I don't think I'm as shy, like I was when I was younger. I think I'm stronger going to the hole, stronger on the dribble. Last year, I was just looking to shoot the 3."

"Adam was at almost all of our offseason workouts really just trying to work on his game," Luehrsmann said. "You can see that he's got a higher level of confidence this year, and we need him to continue to play like that."

Wing player Calvin Winker, who also started as a sophomore last season, added 11 points and seven rebounds. Xavier outrebounded its smaller opponent by a telltale 43-24 margin.

Ottumwa (0-2) was led by 6-6 junior Carter Burns, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. Luehrsmann called him one of the more talented players his team would face this season.

It's a team that has dropped from 4A, by the way.

"I think we have a better chance in 3A," McDermott said. "We're not that big of a school, but we hope to do big things at the end of March."

"When it gets to that time of the year, it's still going to be a bear," Luehrsmann said. "It's going to be hard to get (to the state tournament). That's why we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves."

Just keep working and getting better.

"The guys have done a really good job of making every practice count," Luehrsmann said. "That's kind of a theme this year. We're not really worried about wins or losses. We're just worried about getting as good as we can get, improve as much as we can day in and day out. Be realistic about how we approach things and know that if we take care of our business, hopefully we can have a good year."
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