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Evanston's Nibra White applies pressure to Loyola's Kevin Kucera as he drives to the basket. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Loyola boys basketball coach Tom Livatino said junior point guard Kevin Kucera is his kind of guy.
“I’ve said it from the beginning, Kevin is a foxhole guy,” Livatino said. “He’s a tough customer. He’s my kind of guy because he brings his hard hat every day.”
After playing limited varsity minutes as a sophomore last winter, the 6-foot, 160-pound Kucera won the starting point guard job this season.
At one point, it appeared as if the Ramblers would have plenty of scoring options.
But Loyola is without guards Peter Pujals (wrist, see sidebar), Richie Wehman III (foot) and James Clarke (concussion, expected to return soon), which quickly changed the complexion of the team.
In their absence, defense has become even more important because the Ramblers are unable to simply outscore teams. Also, Kucera is being counted on to provide more offense.
Livatino said Kucera’s defense and passing have been strong thus far, as Loyola has gotten out to a 6-1 start. But the Ramblers’ floor general was still trying to assert himself on the offensive end.
That changed on Saturday when Kucera scored 13 points in a 42-35 win at Evanston in a nonconference game.
“It was definitely my best game,” Kucera said. “I thought I finally contributed on the offensive end. That was something I was struggling with. I’ve been pretty consistent on the defensive end, but just really wanted to get us going on offense. They were defending (Loyola sharpshooter Jack Morrissey) well, so somebody had to do it.”
Indeed, Morrissey hit just one of his first 11 shots until canning two important fourth-quarter 3-pointers. Kucera also scored two key baskets during a third-quarter run in which the Ramblers outscored the Wildkits 10-4.
“Kucera was huge,” Morrissey said. “I think it was his best game. He took care of the ball, he attacked the basket. I can’t really say enough about how he stepped up.”
Livatino said Kucera is now firmly established as his point guard, and he said the junior’s role won’t change too much when, and if, Clarke and Wehman return. Although Kucera might find himself getting a little more rest.~.