Conor Klusendorf is not your prototypical power forward.
Standing just about 6-foot-4, Klusendorf looks more like a high jumper than he does a guy mixing it up in the paint and doing basketball’s dirty work.
But that is exactly what Klusendorf has done this season as his game has grown from the perimeter to around and above the rim for the Lawrence University men’s basketball team.
“Plenty of times I’m going up against guys who outweigh me or are bigger, but if I can use my length and my athleticism, that levels the playing field,” said Klusendorf, a senior from Chicago.
Klusendorf is third on the team in scoring at 11.2 points per game, but he ranks third in the Midwest Conference in field goal percentage at 60.9 percent. Klusendorf is taking more shots in the paint as he has seen his role expand closer to the basket.
“Conor thought of himself as a wing player coming in (to Lawrence), but his athletic ability is crazy for a Division III player. He can make up for stuff because of his athletic ability,” Lawrence coach Joel DePagter said. “With him playing in the post, he uses his quickness, and it makes other teams have to match up to us instead of the other way around.”
Klusendorf has turned up his production level since the Vikings returned from Christmas break. In his last four games, Klusendorf is averaging 13.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest. He attributes the improvement in his game to his work exclusively with the post players this season.
“I put up a nice little baby hook in practice, and from there it’s just really clicked,” Klusendorf said. “I know I can get ball in the post and be a threat down there.”
DePagter said he thinks of former Lawrence star Jon Mays, an all-conference selection in 2010-11, when he sees Klusendorf.
“I think you can draw some parallels with Jon Mays,” DePagter said. “Conor has put himself into a position where he went from being a role player to an all-conference player. Kids develop here and get better.”
Fans of the Vikings were used to Klusendorf turning in spectacular plays during his first three seasons at Lawrence. With tremendous leaping ability, Klusendorf was throwing down dunks on a regular basis.
“If it’s a steal and breakaway, I know I’m going up to dunk it,” Klusendorf said. “If it’s in the lane and it’s the Red Sea and totally opens up, then I know I can dunk it.”
“Our end-of-the-season banquet DVD wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without Conor Klusendorf in it,” DePagter said with a smile. “We’ve labeled him the human highlight reel.”
Klusendorf has worked hard to get to the point where he can rise up and make the crowd at Alexander Gymnasium gasp at another stunning dunk.
“The summer of my sophomore year (in high school) was the first year I dunked it. That was when I really started working on my legs and working out a lot. That really helped me out a lot,” Klusendorf said. “If you don’t work on it and don’t maintain it, you’re going to lose it. It’s not genetic. I’ve watched some of my Dad’s games (Dave Klusendorf was a standout at Loyola of Chicago in the mid-1980s) and he could probably dunk it. I wish I could say it was natural ability, but it’s taken a lot of hard work.”
Klusendorf isn’t just getting it done on the offensive end, he also has been a force on defense. Already Lawrence’s career blocks leader with 106, Klusendorf ranks fourth in the league at 1.4 per game. He also is sixth in the conference at 1.6 steals per game.
“The leaping ability has opened the door to get blocks. So much of it is timing and technique,” Klusendorf said. “It’s really nice because sometimes you see a guy going and see his eyes locked on the rim and he doesn’t see it coming. Especially at home, the reaction is just great. The crowd goes nuts.”
Klusendorf’s exuberance has been duly noted by the head coach, who has seen him take on new challenges with gusto.
“He’s kind of an Energizer bunny. If he doesn’t get in foul trouble, he can play 40 minutes,” DePagter said. “He’s done a great job. You couldn’t ask for anything more when he’s guarding 6-8 guys who have a hundred pounds on him. We have guys who are one-dimensional, but he has more than one dimension and that will make him tough to replace.”
Different year, same result
Junior guard Chris Siebert has made 17 of his last 18 free throws for a stellar 94.4 percent.
Siebert is up to 84.1 percent from the foul line this season, but he has a ways to go to break Jack Ehren’s school record of 90.9 percent set back in 1981-82. It was around this same time last season that Siebert hit 44 consecutive free throws.
Freshman Logan Lemirande is near the top of the national statistics in NCAA Division III hockey.
The forward from Janesville is second in scoring by rookies at 1.27 points per game. He trails only Adrian College’s Shaquille Merasty, who is at 1.47. Lemirande also ranks fourth in the nation at 1.00 assists per game. Paul Rodrigues of Oswego State is first at 1.17.
Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.