Iowa Central men back on the court
Chad Helle waited for his time to takeover as the head coach of the Iowa Central men’s basketball program.
So asking Helle to wait just a few weeks longer to begin his second season at the helm was no problem.
The Tritons open the 2021 campaign Wednesday inside Hodges Fieldhouse against ICCAC rival North Iowa Area. The start was delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has swept through the country.
“For us, we still practiced in the fall, had scrimmages and went about our regular business in terms of basketball,” Helle said. “We still got the feel of the game with competition against outside teams. Sure, it was a little bit different, but from my perspective, the time flew by.
“Now here we are (on the cusp of playing) and we’re ready to go.”
Helle will lean on three returning players and a sophomore transfer to help ease the transition of a roster dominated by freshmen. Ayris Abdelnassar, Javonte Keck and Cham Deng are all back along with Uzo Dibiamaka.
“Those sophomores are the leaders and the guys the freshmen look up to,” Helle said. “They are leading by example and making sure to help the newcomers with understanding what we are trying to accomplish here.”
Keck earned all-region honors a year ago as a freshman, averaging just under 10 points per game with 152 rebounds, 24 blocks, 23 assists and 19 steals. Abdelnassar posted nearly seven points with 93 rebounds, 87 assists and 31 steals with Deng, a Storm Lake graduate, adding 91 points, 45 boards, 23 steals and 10 assists.
“Javonte just understands the game of basketball so much better now,” Helle said. “I really can’t say enough about the improvements he has made. Ayris has so much more confidence in himself and Cham is the unquestioned heart and soul of the team. All of the players listen to him and follow his example.”
Helping fill the rest of the rotation out will be the likes of PJ Ngambi, Jordan Majeed and Jaxon Smith, who helped lead Ankeny to a Class 4A state championship last winter.
“PJ is a really good point guard who Coach Pilcher, the person I trust the most, says plays a lot like (former Iowa Central All-American and player of the year) Tray Croft. He’s not as explosive of a scorer as Tray, but he can do a lot of the other things.
“Jordan has really elevated himself in practice with his play and Jaxon is a kid that we got late in the recruiting. He knows how to win and does everything we ask of him.”
The Iowa Central varsity reserve roster includes former Webster City standout Carter Neuroth and Bishop Garrigan prep Marcus Plathe.
IOWA CENTRAL MEN’S BASKETBALL
Ayris Abdelnassar, Kansas City; Javonte Keck, Sioux City; Cham Deng, Storm Lake; Uzo Dibiamaka, Australia.
PJ Ngambi, Omaha; Zavian Ricks, Cincinnati; Jordan Majeed, Beloit, Wis.; Cornell Richardson, Brooklyn Park, Minn.; Jaxon Smith, Ankeny; Irakoze Gilbert, Houston; Jett Pinneo, Rising City, Neb.; Jayden Stephens, Alpharetta, Ga.; Mahad Faisel, Chaska, Minn.; Jayson Brooks, Akron, Oh.
Jan. 20 – NIACC; 23 – Iowa Western; 27 – at Ellsworth; 30 – at Southwestern.
Feb. 3 – DMACC; 6 – at Marshalltown; 10 – Northeast; 13 – at Indian Hills; 17 – at NIACC; 20 – Marshalltown; 23 – at Iowa Western; 27 – at Kirkwood.
March 3 – Iowa Lakes; 6 – at Southeastern; 10 – Ellsworth; 13 – Southwestern; 17 – at Northeast; 20 – Indian Hills; 24 – at Iowa Lakes; 27 – Southeastern; 31 – at DMACC.
April 3 – Kirkwood.