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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2008

Local men make winning Capital basketball games a picnic

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Capital University men's basketball coach Damon Goodwin describes the process of assembling a basketball team with an unusual analogy.

"Putting a team together is like [holding] a picnic," Goodwin said. "If everybody brings green beans to the picnic, it's not going to be any fun."

Goodwin's point is simple: just as picnic-goers must provide a variety of foods for a good meal, basketball teams need players who fill different roles to come together for success.

When it comes to putting together a team, Goodwin certainly knows what he's talking about: this year the Crusaders are ranked eighth in the country in Division III according to D3Hoops.com and have an 18-3 overall record and a 13-1 mark that's good for first in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

And to take Goodwin's analogy a step further, the 14-year coach of the Crusaders has found a variety of choice treats in northwest Ohio.

Three key performers - senior posts Steve Kyser and Ben Gunn as well as junior forward Quintin Mitchell - all hail from the region. Kyser is a Sylvania native who graduated from Southview, Gunn is a Wauseon product, and Mitchell is a Toledo native who played at Libbey.

Kyser is a 6-foot, 5-inch senior who leads the Crusaders in scoring and rebounding with averages of 13.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Goodwin said Kyser has come a long way from the player who saw just nine minutes of action in two games as a freshman.

"In [Kyser's] freshman year he wasn't productive," Goodwin said. "If you would have asked me after his freshman year, I thought he might not make it."

But the Southview grad used an off-season conditioning program to come back leaner and stronger.

"[Kyser] made his body into a college athlete's body," Goodwin said. "He worked hard in the off-season, and when he came back for his sophomore year he looked like a changed person."

Kyser averaged 11 points per game as a sophomore, raising that mark up to 13.2 points per contest last year. And what makes his 13.9 points per game average this year more impressive is that he gets a little more than 23 minutes on the floor during a typical 40-minute contest.

"He's a consistent scorer who gives other team's match-up problems," Goodwin said of Kyser. "He's an effective 3-point shooter, and he can get on the low block and be a good player on the low block."

The 6-foot, 8-inch Gunn also starts for Capital, and Goodwin said his value goes well beyond his average of 3.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

"He does the dirty work for us," Goodwin said. "He's the best screener we have, and he's our best defensive player in the post. He's a presence no one else in our league has."

Last season Gunn set a school record with 75 blocked shots, and this season he already has 49 blocks in just 21 games, which he accumulates in just under 15 minutes per game.

Gunn's average of 2.33 blocks per game is tops in the OAC.

"[Ben is] long and he has great anticipation," Goodwin said. "While he may block 50 shots, he probably alters another 150."

Mitchell transferred to Capital after spending one semester at Ohio State. The 6-foot, 6-inch junior comes off the bench for the Crusaders and averages 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

"He's part of our low-post rotation and part of our high-post rotation," Goodwin said of Mitchell. "He's such a tremendous athlete who's both long and strong. He gives us some things that lots of other programs just don't have.

"He can get to the basket and can get offensive rebounds, and he's especially important when you need a quick post guy who can attack the basket."

Mitchell also has an attribute all Capital players must have: unselfishness. The Crusaders don't have a single player who averages 30 minutes per game and they have 10 players who are on the court for at least 10 - not to mention an 11th player who averages 9.4 minutes per game.

"We have a lot of unselfish kids," Goodwin said.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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