CEDAR RAPIDS — After catching an inadvertent elbow to the mouth in a scrum on the Johnson Hall basketball floor Saturday night, Kirkwood Community College’s Kaylon Williams laid prone for almost 30 seconds before rising to go to the bench for bandaging.
“He told me when he was on the floor that he’d be back in the game,” said Eagles Coach Doug Wagemester.
Three minutes after the incident, in which one of Williams’ teeth was pushed through his upper lip, he checked back into the game with a bandage above the lip and played the final 4:34 of Kirkwood’s 67-52 win over North Iowa Area Community College.
“The guy is walking wounded,” Wagemester said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a player play through injuries like he has. He’s had an ankle, a ligament in the finger of his shooting hand … that thing tonight, some kids wouldn’t have come back in.”
The Cedar Rapids Kennedy grad had nine points, eight assists and seven rebounds in his 29 minutes, then headed to a hospital for stitches inside and outside his mouth. So he couldn’t stick around after the game to respond to a question he can’t answer, anyway. Namely, where the sophomore will play ball for his final two college seasons.
How about Iowa, which certainly needs point guard depth?
Hawkeye coaches have attended at least a couple of Kirkwood games, but the staff is looking at other junior college players in the Midwest. One is 6-2 Kurt Alexander of Iowa Central, who scored 43 points against Kirkwood in Fort Dodge on Feb. 3. The two teams will meet again Wednesday night at Kirkwood.
Todd Lickliter passed on Williams two years ago. Williams eventually chose Evansville over Southern Mississippi. He started the season’s last 26 games for a team that had its first winning season since 2000, and led the Missouri Valley Conference in assists. He made a half-court buzzer-beater to give Evansville a win at Drake last year.
But he didn’t like being seven hours away from home, so he left school before the second semester’s end and returned to Cedar Rapids.
Though he wants to play for Iowa, Williams may have to go several hours from home again to resume a Division I career.
“A handful of schools are bird-dogging him,” Wagemester said. Kent State, a postseason perennial that
clinched its 11th 20-win season in the last 12 years with its victory over Western Carolina Saturday, is among them.
Speaking of 20 win-seasons, Kirkwood (20-7) locked up its 12th in as many seasons with Wagemester as its coach. His record there is 324-82.
Wagemester has sent players to all four D-I schools in Iowa as well as several other major-college programs. One made quite a splash on ESPN2 Friday night.
Six-foot senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh made five 3-pointers and poured in 23 points — all in the second half — of Northern Iowa’s 71-62 win over Old Dominion in Cedar Falls. Two years ago, he played at Kirkwood. Four years ago, it was Iowa City West High.
“Bergie (West Coach Steve Bergman) and I went up for that game,” Wagemester said. “We were laughing in the second half. We’d both seen him do that before.
“It makes me smile. I feel fortunate to have had him here and experienced his approach to the game, his approach as a teammate, and his approach to winning. He’s done all the right things, and it’s paying off for him. I’m tickled pink for the kid, and for UNI in trusting him.”
Now, can Williams be an asset to a D-I team somewhere the next two years?
“Absolutely,” said Wagemester. “Kaylon’s had to score the ball more for us than he probably would at the next level. I think he’s at his best when he’s defending, and when he’s pushing the ball.
“He wants to run the team, he knows where the ball needs to be for the most part, and if someone has a hot hand, he’ll find them. And he’s never backed away from physical play.”
A tooth through the lip didn’t stop Williams Saturday, which should say something to some big-school coach.