Archive for Thursday, March 23, 2006

Opposites attract

Flamboyant Slater, mellow Kern earn praise from KVL coaches

March 23, 2006

Lansing High seniors Jeff Slater and David Kern may be polar opposites when it comes to personalities, but that was a good thing for the Lansing High boys basketball team this year.

Other coaches throughout the Kaw Valley League certainly thought so, because both players earned All-KVL honors for their efforts on the hardwood. Slater made the all-league team and Kern was an honorable mention selection. Slater's all-KVL selection was the third of his career. The honor was the first for Kern.

"There were times when we needed to get excited and needed to get passionate about playing, and then there were times we needed to focus and clam down and execute," LHS coach Don Allen said.

Slater and Kern gave the Lions the best of both worlds.

Slater was the flamboyant one. The 6-foot-2 forward barreled through the lane with reckless abandon time after time for tough, sometimes off-balance baskets. He pumped fists in the air. He screamed.

"He gets pretty worked up sometimes, but I think having that kind of intensity and desire carries over in a positive way to the rest of the guys," Allen said of Slater's theatrics. "He gets a little bit animated sometimes, but that's just his personality. If somebody makes a big play or he makes a big play, he gets a little bit vocal, a little bit animated and charges us up a little bit. I think that burst of energy is something we're probably going to miss because there's numerous times that we've managed to go on some pretty good runs after a Slater chest-thumping or screaming out there on the floor."

Then there's Kern who in many ways was the anti-Slater. Mellow and focused, Kern rarely showed emotion on the floor, but Allen said the Lions fed off that ice-in-the-veins mentality just as much during tense situations. Instead of getting nervous or losing focus, Kern kept the Lions calm and on task.

"It can be the most tension-filled last couple minutes of a basketball game that you could possibly be in and David Kern was the calmest kid on the floor," Allen said. "That also rubbed off on some of our players, and that's just as big a positive because they see David out there relaxed and he'd calm everybody down."

Slater's contributions - 16.05 points per game and 6.5 rebounds - made him one of the top scorers and rebounders in the league. Slater's 952 career points also makes him Lansing's career leader in scoring according to records going back to 1983.

Kern was recognized less for his scoring - nine points per game - and more for his all-around contributions, Allen said.

"David is probably one of the most versatile basketball players I've had an opportunity to coach," Allen said. "We could put him on the floor at any position at and time during a basketball game, and he was going to get the job done for us. And the thing with David, for the last two years especially, is that it was a known fact that he was going to take the toughest defensive assignment for us. If we needed a big play offensively, it was going to be run through David. We just had so much confidence in his decision-making and his abilities that we put a whole lot on his plate at times. As a coach, those are things you understand you're going to miss. His numbers may not necessarily jump right out at you, but it's all the intangibles."

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