His numbers were so gaudy they required a second look. John Konchar was making high school basketball in the Chicago area look like child’s play, averaging 28.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.2 steals a game. Per. Game!
Yet, college basketball coaches in the Midwest -- and really around the country -- weren’t that impressed. Only Chicago State was showing any interest in the scoring machine at West Chicago High School.
Then Purdue Fort Wayne -- formerly known as Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne -- came calling, and Konchar had decided on his college destination.
“No one really recruited me,” Konchar said. “By the time my recruitment started picking up, I committed to IPFW.”
What the Mastodons got was the new all-time leading scorer at West Chicago High School. Konchar finished his high school career with 1,551 points, breaking the record set by his high school coach, Bill Recchia.
“He wanted me to beat it, so that was pretty special,” Konchar said.
And all Konchar has done at Purdue Fort Wayne is continue to re-write record books. He’s now the Mastodons’ all-time leader in points scored (1,857) and rebounds (1,066). He’s also the program’s second-leading ball thief with 246 steals.
“I like the rebounding (record) more than the scoring,” said Konchar, a 6-foot-5 guard who can continue to add to his career marks with eight regular-season games left before embarking onSummit League Tournament play.
As someone who’s often at a height disadvantage when going to grab rebounds, that begged the question: What makes Konchar such an elite rebounder?
“I can’t remember if my dad taught me this, but when the ball goes up I just stare at it and just know where it’s going,” Konchar said. “But there’s more to it, and I can’t give away my secret.”
At the midway point of conference play, Purdue Fort Wayne is 13-10 overall and sitting in third place in the Summit League with a 5-3 mark.
On tap this week
Wednesday, Jan. 30
South Dakota at Purdue Fort Wayne
Thursday, Jan. 31
North Dakota at Western Illinois
South Dakota State at Oral Roberts
Saturday, Feb. 2
North Dakota State at Western Illinois
Purdue Fort Wayne at Oral Roberts
Sunday, Feb. 3
South Dakota State at Denver
North Dakota at Omaha
Game of the week: North Dakota at Western Illinois, 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN3)
With a week full of lackluster games, the featured game is between two teams who need to win to avoid the league cellar. Only eight of the nine Summit League teams will advance to Sioux Falls for the league tournament, and currently South Dakota, Western Illinois, North Dakota and Denver are all within a game of one another. The loser of this one could find itself in a difficult hole to dig out of, depending on Denver’s prognosis moving forward.
And as always, the recipe is simple for Western Illinois: If C.J. Duff scores 10 or more points in league play, the Leathernecks win. Western Illinois is 3-0 when it happens; 0-5 when he fails to get there. Sometimes it’s all about simplicity.
1. South Dakota State (17-6, 7-1): Mike Daum -- surprise, surprise -- was named the league’s Player of the Week yet again. He’s scored 30 or more points in his last four games, including 30 and 33 in wins over North Dakota State and Omaha, respectively, last week. Daum’s career point total is at 2,803 with eight regular-season games left. It won’t be long before he passes Larry Bird (2,850), Tyler Hansbrough (2,872) and Elvin Hayes (2,884) -- you may have heard of them -- on the all-time scoring list.
2. Omaha (12-9, 6-2): A two-city trip through Fort Wayne and Brookings, South Dakota -- one of the toughest two-city swings to navigate -- yielded one victory for the Mavericks last week. Omaha escaped Fort Wayne with an 85-79 win in overtime, thanks to Zach Jackson (25 points) and Mitch Hahn (23 points). The back half of Omaha’s league schedule lightens up a tad with four home games, three road games (that don’t include South Dakota State) and a neutral-site game in Sioux Falls against South Dakota.
3. Purdue Fort Wayne (13-10, 5-3): The Mastodons are going to fire up from deep. Purdue Fort Wayne is 0-3 when it connects on 32 percent or fewer of its 3s. In wins over North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Oral Roberts and Denver, they were 33 percent or better, including three games that were 43 percent or better from beyond the arc.
4. North Dakota State (10-12, 4-4): Oral Roberts offered the 3-ball to the Bison over the weekend, and North Dakota State made just enough (11-of-30) from deep to beat the Golden Eagles. The Bison even managed to work around a 14-of-24 effort at the foul line, thanks to Vinnie Shahid’s 23 points -- his highest total in a Summit League game this season.
5. Oral Roberts (8-15, 4-4): The Golden Eagles are 4-2 with Emmanuel Nzekwesi on the floor for Summit League games. They’ve even scored an average of 77.2 points with him in the lineup. Without him, ORU has been void of many offensive answers, averaging only 57.5 points in two straight losses. Nzekwesi is expected back Thursday night against South Dakota State.
6. Western Illinois (8-13, 3-5): Kobe Webster continues to be a mostly-unknown commodity, despite providing plenty of offense on a regular basis. The sophomore guard is averaging 16.8 points per game.
7. South Dakota (9-12, 3-5): The good news for the Coyotes is that four home games are left on the docket, including one not far from home in Sioux Falls against Omaha. But if South Dakota doesn’t have any healthy bodies, it could be a long February.
8. North Dakota (8-13, 2-6): Forward Conner Avants was on a tear at one point in league playing, scoring at least 21 points in three of four games. But the Fighting Hawks have lost three straight, and Avants has scored a combined 16 points in two of the games while missing last week’s game against North Dakota State.
9. Denver (7-15, 2-6): Five of the Pioneers final eight conference games are on the road. Not stellar news for team that uses altitude to its advantage.