By CONOR NICHOLL
Special to The Telegram
HAYS — For three-plus seasons, 10th-year Fort Hays State University men's basketball coach Mark Johnson has provided compliments to Corbin Kuntzsch, a four-year starter from Scott City, known for his even temperament, toughness, intelligence and metronomic consistency. On Thursday, Johnson offered another adjective for the Scott City native.
"When his career is over, we can come back and think, but I would have to think Corbin is one of the best — if not the best — Kansas player to ever play at Fort Hays State," Johnson said. "I am obviously biased to that, but he is a great player."
Kuntzsch further elevated his career in the Fort Hays annals when he crossed the 1,000-point mark on Jan. 5 when the Tigers routed defending conference champion Central Missori, 83-59. Kuntzsch eclipsed the 1,000-point mark on a 3-pointer to open the second half.
Kuntzsch is the first Tiger since Alonzo Goldston (1994-97) to cross 1,000 points in his career and the first Kansas native since Stockton's Mike Miller (1985-89).
Kuntzsch now stands at 1,022 points entering today's game with Pittsburg State University (4 p.m. tipoff at Gross Memorial Coliseum). FHSU is ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division II at 13-2 overall, 7-2 in the MIAA. That ranking was achieved prior to their 82-64 loss on Monday night at Missouri Southern.
Kuntzsch became the 17th Tiger in history to reach 1,000 points and third since 1988. His point total ranks him No. 16 on the all-time FHSU scoring list. Just seven Kansas natives currently have more than 1,000 points, four since 1955. If he continues at his current 10.9 scoring pace, Kuntzsch would bypass Miller, who has 1,158 points (1985-89).
"You always are proud when you hear something like that," Kuntzsch said. "I didn't even know it until one of the other guys said something the other day, 'you only have 30-some points to get to 1,000.' Well, I just want to win games."
Team-wise, Kuntzsch has played in two NCAA tournaments and helped the Tigers to a 75-29 record in his three-plus seasons. Individually, Kuntzsch currently ranks 10th in Tiger history in 3-point field goals made (118) and attempted (287), including his last shot, a game-winning 3-pointer to defeat Northwest Missouri State University on Dec. 18, the final game before holiday break. At his current pace, he has a chance to eclipse Gerard Coops (1996-98) in both categories.
Kuntzsch, a returning second team all-MIAA player, has collected 533 career rebounds and could move into the top-10 (583) in school annals by years' end.
He has played in all 100 games with 80 starts, including 73 in a row since the start of his sophomore season. By the end of his career, he could be the only Kansas native in school history to have more than 1,000 points and rank in the top-10 in rebounds, 3-pointers made and 3-pointers attempted.
"You look at him and I wouldn't say he is the best shooter we have," Johnson said. "He is not the best ballhandler we have. He is not the most athletic guy we have, but at the end of the day, he just has 'it.' I just wish you could put a finger on 'it' and figure out what that is and give it to other people."
Fort Hays recruited Kuntzsch throughout his senior year of high school, a season where Kuntzsch averaged 24.2 points per game for the Beavers. Johnson said he "felt comfortable" the Tigers would sign Kuntzsch, but grew worried at the Class 3A state tournament at Hutchinson.
At state, Kuntzsch played well against Tyrel Reed, now at the University of Kansas. Other colleges closed in on Kuntzsch late, too.
"That's the one thing about recruiting at this level, you want your players to play well enough so you are excited to have them as players, but you don't want them to play too good that they go above you," Johnson said.
Kuntzsch stayed with Fort Hays and immediately showed he could be effective when Johnson had the new recruits come in for a weekend after the 2006-07 season completed.
Because of injuries, Kuntzsch had to start at point guard, an unnatural position, to open his career. He was never rattled and averaged 22 minutes a game as a freshman. Kuntzsch has played at least 31 minutes per game in every season since.
Despite some back trouble this winter, Kuntzsch has scored at least eight points in all but one game and averages 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds a contest.
He can score in multiple ways, including from long range (team-high 46.2 3-point shooting percentage), off the glass (Tiger-best 31 offensive rebounds) or on drives. Many times, Johnson won't call set plays for Kuntzsch. Instead, Kuntzsch will often score in the flow of the offense.
"For our team to have our best success, we need to have our top four guys going out and being as most consistent as they can," Kuntzsch said. "That's what I try to do. If my shot is not working, I'll try to drive it. If my shot is hitting like I was (against Northwest), I am going to keep shooting it. So it is just kind of one of things that you feel as you go through the game."