This offseason, Kyler Kinnamon really just had one goal in mind — work harder.
Watch him on the court or ask Fort Hays State University head coach Mark Johnson about his junior point guard and working harder might not seem like it’s possible for Kinnamon, a McPherson High School product and the Tigers’ starting point guard in his third year.
Already arguably the hardest working player each time he steps on the court, that’s exactly what Kinnamon wanted to do though.
“I’ve just been coming to practice every day prepared to work and get better,” the junior said. “Hopefully, the results have been showing a little bit on the offensive end.”
That’s the only area Johnson, the Tigers’ 17th-year head coach wanted to see some improvement out of his floor general, and it shows.
In the Tigers’ 7-3 start, Kinnamon’s scoring average is up nearly two points, his assist average is up to 5.1 per contest and already he has 22 steals.
“Kyler brings an element of toughness — every single game,” Johnson said. “He’s the one guy that does the best at getting the other guys shots.”
That part of his game never was lacking, but Johnson said the addition of a scoring threat has helped improve his game.
“He’s starting to get more confident in his ability to shoot an open 3, finish at the rim and all that stuff,” Johnson said. “He’s big for us right now.”
While his career high of 15 points came earlier this year, the junior is sitting right where Johnson would like him to be.
“It feels like he’s doing more things to help others score,” Johnson said.
Plus, he’s averaging 7.5 points per night, giving a consistent supplement to likes of senior Hadley Gillum (18.2 average) and junior Brady Werth (11.1).
“Definitely getting a lot more comfortable in the role,” Kinnamon said. “Just good to see progression through the season.”
Having the likes of Gillum putting up the big numbers he has early has helped. But, Johnson admits it’s going to take more than two putting up the numbers every night to make a run in the MIAA, where the Tigers have started 3-1 after a big road win at Emporia State last Saturday.
FHSU is in non-conference action against Kansas Wesleyan in a 4 p.m. tip Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“Our backcourt has to get more comfortable and more confident,” Johnson said.
That’s what the Tigers’ focus has been this week in practice getting everyone more comfortable in their roles on this team. The 7-3 start, including the road win at Emporia should help achieve that, despite a difficult loss at Washburn just three days earlier.
“That was huge for us,” Kinnamon said of FHSU’s 69-58 win against the Hornets. “We emphasize road trips as more of an opportunity. We want to get both but if we get one of them, that’s progress in the league.”
Johnson called it a “character win” for his club, which had a big lead, lost it, then stepped back up to finish things on the road.
“That’s the kind of team we have and the kind of guys we have,” Johnson said. “You have that 13-point lead and watch it disappear. A lot of teams fall apart from that moment.”
FHSU will have three non-conference games during the holiday break before resuming MIAA play with a Jan. 4 road date at Central Missouri.