By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
If Cooper Kabela had his way he would have been playing football deep into the month of November and all the way through the Class 1A playoffs.
Instead Kabela swapped his cleats for basketballs shoes in October.
For the first time during Kabela’s varsity career West Branch wasn’t playing football in November this season after an opening-round playoff loss to Regina.
Kabela, who moved from tight end to quarterback midway through the football season, put his rare break between the end of football season and the start of basketball season to good use.
The senior forward took a little time to rest up and then got into the gym to prepare for his final season prep basketball season.
That early worked has shown up so far.
Kabela averaged 26.5 points on 66 percent shooting in his first two games this season helping West Branch get off to a 1-1 start.
“In past years it’s taken a couple of weeks to get into it,” Kabela said. “This year I had those couple weeks at the beginning of the season to get back into the basketball rhythm and get my jump shot going and I think that has helped.”
Kabela scored 21 points in a season-opening win over Wilton and poured in 32 in a 70-56 loss to Monticello last week.
The senior forward has now scored in double figures in 24 straight games dating back to last season.
“I think he’s decided this is my senior year and I want to go out with a bang,” Burger said. “One of the best things that he’s been doing here lately is just showing great leadership. In the locker room, on the court, after the court he’s being a great leader.”
A three-year starter and four-year letter winner, Kabela was named to the River Valley Conference Elite team last year.
This season Kabela has taken his game to another level.
He spent the offseason and the time between sports working on his jump shot and the hard work has paid off so far.
“Last year I was more of an inside player so I tried to make myself harder to guard by developing a better jump shot,” Kabela said. “I worked hard on that.”
An improved jump shot has made the 6-foot-4 Kabela a difficult matchup when he steps away from the hoop.
Kabela was 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the win over Monticello and has three assists this season.
“We want him to face the basket as much as he can,” Burger said. “He is a great guy with his back to the basket but he is also pretty darn good when he faces the basket. He has just done everything he has needed to do to make himself a great player.”
Kabela was almost unstoppable against the Panthers last Friday.
He had 19 of his game-high 32 points in the opening half, finished 11-of-17 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds.
“I think he’s the best post in the conference and he’d be good in any league, any class,” Monticello coach Tim Lambert said. “He’s legit.”