BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Last season, Indiana University Kokomo men’s basketball coach Jace Thompson often talked about the young programs lack of playing experience. With a year under the Cougar programs belt, the experience is building – especially when Thompson grabs key transfers from Bethel College, Ancilla College and Joliet Community College. Last Thursday, it was Bethel transfer Spencer Khrin’s day in the Cougar spotlight.
“It is closer to home and an all-around better situation for me,” said the LaFontaine, Ind., native and 2010 Southwood High School graduate. “My family will be able to come to all of my games and it is going to lead into the IU medical school. For me, it is just an all-around better position to be in.”
The 6-4 Khrin played in a reserve role for the Pilots the last two seasons after starring for a Southwood team that advanced to the Class 2A Final Four his senior season. In the regional final against Guerin Catholic, he scored 38 points and was invited to the Top 60 workouts after averaging 19.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He guided Southwood to 52 wins in his career and left as the program’s third all-time leading scorer (1,249 points) and a three-time All-Three Rivers Conference performer.
Southwood coach John Burrus said, “Spencer Khrin is as good of a combination player I have coached. He is a player that all you have to do is tell him what needs be done and he will do it. He can shoot it, defend, handle and pass. He is a great athlete with tremendous touch. Spencer can do it all. He just needs a place where he feels needed. I believe IU Kokomo will be a good fit for Spencer. He will be a key to raising their level of play as they move into the NAIA.”
Khrin said he will be expected to come to Kokomo and help the less experienced players by being a leader.
“I know I am going to help offensively and defensively as a leader,” said Khrin. “I can play anywhere, and will probably be playing a (guard) position here. I was a set shooter at Bethel, so playing the two will be a nice change.”
He also discussed the opportunity he will have to build a young, hungry program like Kokomo’s.
“Just being the second year, I am real excited about the opportunity to build a legacy.” He said. “With IUK in the NAIA now, they are getting more notice around the area. That was one of the big draws. And (Thompson) was one of the most honest coaches I have ever dealt with. I just really think this will be a good fit.”
And as excited as Khrin is to come to Kokomo, Thompson is equally excited about the prospects of bringing Khrin’s talents to the local program.
“Spencer is a great kid and a bright student in the classroom,” said the second-year coach. “He is going to bring a lot of intensity and focus on the defensive end, but he is also a prolific scorer. When we played them at Bethel this year, he had a couple of moves that were spectacular. So we are looking forward to adding that to our offense. We wanted to add that impact to our program.”
Thompson also talked about the hard work the IUK coaching staff has put in during the off-season, resulting in a solid second-year recruiting class. He said they really wanted to bring in some “impact players” like Khrin.
“We had a couple of players that we wanted to get because they were impact players,” said Thompson. “Khrin was one of them. We are also raising the level of intensity on the floor. We are recruiting good ball players who are not worried about numbers.
“I am happy with our recruiting, and having a 32 game schedule and being in the NAIA now has helped. That is the biggest attraction, going out and playing Top 25 teams and helping to build a legacy here at IUK.”
Thompson broke down the 2012-2013 recruiting class, which are all verbal commitments until they sign on the dotted line with the Cougars.
“We nailed every single need we had – size, strength, all-around ability, and experience. We hit every target and I give my coaches credit for that. We have four freshmen coming: Tyler Talpas of Union (Dugger) High School, John Capps and Ben Constable from Western, and Jalen Tinder from Kokomo.
“Jalen was our first commitment and has already been to open gym with us – he surprises me every day. He has been a huge surprise and has already started earning respect from our players.”
Talpas is a high-scoring guard, averaging 21.8 points per game and is a member of the school’s 1,000 Point Club.
“Joby Renbarger (transferring from Ancilla College) is a 6-7 beast and he is hard to handle,” said Thompson. “He is the type of player who is a matchup problem. He will go inside and outside and will be hard to guard.
“Roemey Northington played at Taylor High School before going to Joliet Community College. He is going to come in and be a great point guard for us.”
The Cougars are scheduled to open the 2012-2013 season on October 30, with a road trip to Judson University in Elgin, Ill. Judson appeared in the NAIA National Tournament in 2008 and 2010, and will provide Coach Thompson and his Cougars with instant analysis of how the off-season preparation went. The rest of the IUK schedule will be released later.