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Michael Kaufman, a senior guard at Orient-Macksburg High School, won't have to travel far to move into his dorm room next year. Orient-Macksburg High School is only ten miles north of Creston, so local basketball fans will be familiar with his exploits in high school. Kaufman, a 6'0" guard, led the Bulldogs deep into the 1A district tournament this year before bowing out to Guthrie Center. Head Coach Mike Holmes said, "I was really impressed with how Michael sees the floor, can pass off the urgent dribble, and can score in the lane while off balance. I think his set of skills is a good match for the stuff we are running." Assistant Coach Thad Tussey has ties to Orient-Macksburg, as his father, Steve, is the head coach for the Bulldogs.
It took a few years for Southwestern Head Coach Mike Holmes’ southeast Iowa connections to pay off, but the Spartans cashed in for the 2011-12 recruiting cycle by signing two prominent players from the region—Trevor Kayser of Cardinal and Kyle Graves of Davis County. Holmes, who spent six seasons at Ottumwa High School, was familiar with both programs and was no stranger to basketball at either school. Kayser, a 6-foot-6-inch smooth-shooting post player, who can play outside and inside, will be an effective tool in the Spartan’s high-post oriented attack. The 6-foot-2-inch Graves, who as a younger player attended Holmes’ summer camps, is extremely familiar with the systems at Southwestern, and will bring an intelligence and understanding for the schemes that few incoming freshmen have.
“Trevor and Kyle represent the solid work ethic and selflessness indicative in that part of the state,” Holmes said. “They will be excellent teammates for us next year, and will be able to make contributions within their roles. I am really excited about their addition to our program.”
Marcus Littleton of Norwalk has become the first signee for Southwestern’s class of 2011-12. Littleton, a hot-shooting guard, helped lead his team to the Class 3A Final Four this season. He will bring a valid scoring threat to the Spartan’s backcourt, and fundamentally has many skills to execute the complex Spartan offense.
"Marcus was a key guy in our recruiting efforts," Spartan Head Coach Mike Holmes said. "We need someone who can replace our scoring guards and who is ready to make contributions right away." Holmes is confident about his selection in Littleton. "Knowing Chris Larson (Littleton's high-school coach) like I do, I know Marcus will be sound mentally and physically," Holmes explained. "I like Marcus as much as a person as I do a player. This signing immediately makes us better."
Photo (L to R): Sitting – Marcus Littleton, Sr., Marcus' dad; Marcus Littleton, Jr.; Mike Holmes, SWCC head men's basketball coach; Nancy Pattee, Marcus' mom; and Steve Pattee, Marcus' stepdad. Standing – Chris Larson, Norwalk High School head boys basketball coach.
After splitting with Ellsworth during the regular season, the rubber match of the series proved to be a thriller. Tied at half, Southwestern got command of the game in the second half behind torrid shooting and sound defensive play. Nursing an eight-point lead with just under five minutes to play, Southwestern got passive against a tenacious Ellsworth press and saw the lead dwindle. After an offensive rebound on a missed free throw, the Panthers took a late lead. Down 65-64 with 29 seconds to play at 20 seconds on the shot clock, Southwestern made the decision to defend rather than foul. Ellsworth connected on a field goal with 12 second remaining to lead 67-64. Southwestern had two shots at the tie at the end after an Austin Emerson miss was rebounded by Keenan Joiner and kicked back to Emerson for a second try. When the shot hit off the back iron, Southwestern’s season had ended. Head Coach Mike Holmes said, “Our guys executed our plan and we had a tremendous opportunity to win. It hurts more when you feel like you had the game in hand and let it slip away. They are a tremendously talented team and made big plays when they needed them most. I feel our players, once time passes, will reflect and feel like their 14 wins were an accomplishment that symbolizes their competiveness and execution this season.”