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Details of the Edinburgh-Loogootee semistate basketball game played last March are brought up every now and then on the campus of Elmhurst College.
More specifically, in the dorm room of freshman guard Kyle Wuest.
Rooming with former Lions swingman Bryant Ackmerman means constant reminders of Loogootee’s 61-50 victory at raucous Southport Fieldhouse whether Ackerman is saying anything or not.
“He’s a great guy. He doesn’t rub in the semi-state game too much, but every now and then he brings it up if I’m on his nerves about something,” said Wuest, the former Lancers’ standout named the Daily Journal’s 2012 Player of the Year. “I’ve joked about hiding his (Class A state championship) ring. Maybe selling it on eBay.”
Forming a close friendship with the player who most haunted Edinburgh that unseasonably warm Saturday with 25 points is but one of many life adjustments Wuest has experienced at Elmhurst, a Division-III program located 20 miles west of downtown Chicago.
Accustomed to being a starter in high school, the former three-time Mid-Hoosier Conference selection has battled through some minor injuries and settled into the role of the Blue Jays’ trusted sixth man as a freshman.
“In the first four to six weeks of the season there was a definite adjustment period for Kyle. The shot clock and just having to move the ball quicker,” said 17th-year Elmhurst coach Mark Scherer, whose Indiana ties include being an assistant for former Valparaiso University men’s basketball coach Homer Drew from 1992-96. “Then Kyle broke into our rotation and has really become a contributor.
“He’s kind of like our sixth starter right now.”
Wuest’s initial competition at the collegiate level came in the Nov. 15 season-opener at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Playing nine minutes off the bench, Wuest chipped in three points and a rebound in a 68-56 loss.
Among his finest all-around performances to date have been against Westminster (Mo.) on Dec. 5 (nine points, seven boards, one steal, one assist), Ripon on Dec. 28 (five points, six rebounds, six assists), Illinois Wesleyan on Jan. 5 (six points, five rebounds) and, most recently, his eight points and four boards in the rematch with Illinois Wesleyan.
Wuest played 23 minutes in the Blue Jays’ 68-61 victory against Millikan on Jan. 30, scoring six points and dishing five assists; Saturday’s loss against a very good North Central College squad resulted in three points and as many assists.
Elmhurst has struggled this season with a 5-16 record. There are two seniors on Scherer’s roster, with only one of them, 5-foot-11 guard D’Ante Foster, among the team’s top six scorers.
Brighter days lie ahead. Furthermore, Scherer is confident Wuest’s well-balanced game is going to be a major ingredient in future Blue Jays’ successes.
“The thing I really like about Kyle is his maturity and how he looks me in the eye when I’m talking to him,” Scherer said. “I’m not going to say that’s rare, but Kyle’s coachability is really rare in this time. There’s coachable, and there’s Kyle.
“I really enjoy coaching him.”
Issues with a shoulder tweak and a minor ankle injury have forced Wuest to miss three of Elmhurst’s 21 games so far.
Again, it’s part of the adaptation process, the wear and tear of the longer college basketball season. Just last Tuesday the Blue Jays conducted their 60th practice of what will amount to a 25-game regular season.
There is a light at tunnel’s end, not that Wuest is necessarily in a hurry to reach it.
“Being from such a close family and such a close community, I really believe in loyalty. The best part is how awesome all of my teammates are. It’s like we’ve been friends forever. I believe in the team we have and the coaching staff we have,” he said. “I really enjoy it up here. The more I settle in, the more comfortable I feel.”
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