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Big man from small town

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    KILDARE
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Kyle Kildare seized his moment for the Howard Payne University men’s basketball team.

Howard Payne head men’s basketball coach Troy Drummond said the Iola High School graduate responded to an opportunity to start, then started the next three too.

“He’s definitely stepped up,” Drummond said. “We’ve been real proud of him.”

At 6-foot-7, the tallest on the squad, Kildare was one of five to play in the first 11 games (1-10) and started four. In his first start, he had a career-high 13 rebounds. Two games later he had 11 rebounds.

“Knowing the right position and knowing how to block out to get the rebounds,” the sophomore center said about his production under the boards.

He said his rebounding and defending have improved the most since his freshman season, when he had 12 rebounds and five points in 12 games.

His size has made it difficult for opponents’ offenses to work against him, for Kildare disrupts attacks. “He does a good job of altering shots,” Drummond said. “He works hard. He plays hard.”

Kildare entered the weekend averaging four points and scored at least six points in five games. His 47.4 field goal percentage in 38 attempts was the best among the Yellow Jackets with a similar number of shots.

He had a career-high nine points in his first start. He scored eight in the third game, converting three of four field-goal attempts and two of four free-throw tries.

Though Kildare said the offensive scheme “gives us the opportunity to score more,” he added, “I’m not really looking to score.”

The coach sees offensive potential, however, because Kildare is a smart shooter. “We’d like to have him be a lot more aggressive offensively,” he said. “He’s looking for his shot. He doesn’t force it.”

“Once he gets confidence in himself, I think he’ll really flourish,” he said.

Send updates about area athletes to Barbara Boxleitner at jdanddoc@gmail.com .