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The Gazette KCRG
Posted November 14, 2012
Transition game hits the Metro

Cedar Rapids Kennedy girls basketball coach Tony Vis gives instructions during practice Tuesday. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Call it the Year of the Turnover. And it has nothing to do with sloppy ball-handling.

Girls’ basketball in the Metro has undergone a drastic facelift since the balls got put away last February. Three new faces, in fact:

* At Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Jason Edwards succeeds Larry Niemeyer, who retired in March after 34 years at the school — and 52 overall.

* Dennis Roloff was not retained at Cedar Rapids Kennedy after 21 years. Tony Vis is now in charge.

* Corby Laube will juggle his athletics-director duties with coaching at Marion.

Mysteries abound in the Metro, and each team has legitimate reason for optimism.

Who will be the best team in town? Could be anybody.

“There doesn’t seem to be a dominant team,” said Jefferson’s Taylor Jacobson. “I really don’t know.

“I hope it’s us.”

Cedar Rapids Jefferson girls basketball coach Jason Edwards watches as the team runs a drill Tuesday. Edwards succeeds Larry Niemeyer, who retired after 34 years at Jefferson. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

Kennedy and Jefferson both went through high-energy practices Monday. Vis paused for a moment from a brief interview session.

“I need to go demo a drill,” he said, then made and received two passes before making a layup, then took a deep pass from one of his players for another basket.

He wiped his brow and caught his breath. The interview continued.

VIS ACCEPTED the job in May, but not until he had the blessing of his wife and three daughters — the oldest two of which will contribute to the varsity squad — to make the move from Harlan.

“Brianna (a senior) and Mariah (a junior) will help with our depth,” he said.

The top newcomer, though, is Morgan Martin, a 6-foot-1 junior post who moved from Quincy, Ill.

“My mom was seeking employment, and we chose Kennedy because it’s academically strong,” said Martin, an all-stater at Quincy Notre Dame. “And I played with some of these girls for Team Iowa (an AAU team).

Martin said that Vis “is hard on us, and that’s a good thing. He’s very aggressive, and he’s focused on defense.”

Kennedy was 13-10 last year, one of 14 winning seasons in the last 15 years under Roloff, who is now the coach at Mount Vernon.

Both Vis and Martin envision more.

“I want this to become one of the elite programs in Iowa,” Vis said. “Year in and year out, I want Kennedy to be a tough out (in tournament play). We have the resources available to make it happen.”

Martin said, “I want to win a state championship.”

JEFFERSON IS coming off back-to-back losing seasons, but the J-Hawks are healthy after a 2011-12 campaign in which three starters (Jacobson, Rachel Broghammer and Kaitlyn Davidson) missed significant time with injuries.

They’re all seniors now.

Edwards was an assistant at Cedar Rapids Washington under Frank Howell for eight seasons.

“He’s very energetic. You can tell he loves what he’s doing,” Jacobson said. “You can feel passion in the gym.”

Edwards is bringing some new concepts (“You teach what you know,” he said), but he’s not in a rush to make folks on the west side forget the Niemeyer era. The first day of practice, Edwards called on Karen Schulte Daubs — who led Jefferson to the 1993 state championship — to speak with the team.

“Coach Niemeyer established a strong tradition here, and we want to build on that,” Edwards said. “We want to stay connected to the past, but build for the future.

“This has been a whirlwind, but it’s been a good whirlwind. The kids are listening and working hard. I think we can compete.”

Corby Laube

 THE MARION position opened when Brian O’Donnell stepped down after two years to become the principal at St. Pius X Elementary School in Cedar Rapids.

Laube had been the varsity boys’ coach for nine years before stepping down to assume the AD job. Laube thought, and principal Greg Semler agreed, that he could manage double duty in the winter.

“It’s been longer days and longer hours, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Laube said.

“Any time there’s a new coach and a new system, there are so many things that you need to work on and have implemented. But the kids are picking everything up fast, maybe faster than I expected.”

Marion (15-9 last year) figures to have a strong team, but the Indians will be tested in a strong Wamac Conference West Division, which features strong teams in Benton Community, Williamsburg and Center Point-Urbana.

“Our division is going to be strong, and our non-conference schedule is going to be really tough,” Laube said. “The ability to win close games, that will be key.”

Morgan Martin (top center) grabs a rebound over teammates during practice at Cedar Rapids Kennedy on Tuesday. Martin moved to Cedar Rapids over the summer; she was an all-stater last year at Quincy (Ill.) Notre Dame. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

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