Thursday, May 3, 2012

KCKCC basketball stars sign with rival MIAA schools


Foes in high school, Kansas City Kansas Community College basketball standouts Zach Bush and Kalvin Balque are about to renew their rivalry.

Bush, a 6-6 forward, signed a letter of intent Wednesday with Central Missouri in Warrensville; Balque, a 6-4 forward, signed with Missouri Western in St. Joseph. Both universities are members of the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), an NCAA Division II conference.

“His team beat us pretty bad in high school so this is my chance to get revenge,” said Bush, a graduate of Grant High School in Alexandria, La., while Balque played at rival Peabody in Alexandria.

Ironically, it was an invitation from the Peabody coach that got Bush to KCKCC. Blue Devil assistant coach Bill Sloan was on a recruiting trip to Peabody and Peabody Coach Charles Smith invited Bush to join Peabody’s players for a post-season workout. The recruiting trip proved a bonanza for KCKCC. In addition to Balque and Bush, the Blue Devils also landed point guard Brandon Morris who has signed to play next year at the University of Houston. In their two seasons, the Blue Devils were 44-19, the best two-year span in history.

Bush led the Blue Devils in rebounding this past season with a 7.0 average while scoring 11.3 points a game and shooting a crisp 55.4 percent from the field while Balque averaged 11.6 points and 4.0 rebounds/ He also shot 48.4 percent from the field despite missing six games in mid-season with a broken finger.

Balque said Missouri Western’s fast-paced style of play was a big factor in taking Missouri Western’s offer over others. “I got to play with the team and really liked its style,” he said. “The facilities are nice and I liked the coaches a lot.”

“Kalvin really improved from his freshman to sophomore season and became very valuable to us because of his versatility that enabled him to fill two or three different roles for us,” said KCKCC head coach Jon Oler. “Athletic and strong, he improved both his outside shooting and rebounding. I’m really happy he’s going to continue at a good level.”

Balque, who averaged 4.6 points and 2.4 as a reserve as a freshman, is expected to play either the shooting guard or small forward positions.

Bush, who also had several choices including Newman and Southern University, said Central Missouri started recruiting him in mid-season. “I liked the facilities and coaches and the way they approached me,” he said.

Bush blocked 56 shots this season, the second most in KCKCC history behind Walter Hubain’s 65 back in 1992-93. He also had 38 blocks as a freshman and his 84 career blocks are also second on the all-time list. Given his choice, score a basket or block a shot, Bush doesn’t hesitate. “Block a shot,” he says

“Zach has always been a good shot blocker,” said Oler. “This year he also improved his play around the basket and his passing (43 assists) and led us in rebounding. He’s going to be a great recruit for Central Missouri.”

Despite being raised in the warm Louisiana climate, both Blue Devil standouts decided to stay in cold weather country where both of their basketball careers blossomed at KCKCC. “I’ve really enjoyed being up here and want to thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity to continue to play basketball,” said Balque. Bush concurred. “It was the only chance I had to keep playing.”


PHOTO: While teammates at Kansas City Kansas Community College the last two years, Zach Bush (seated left) and Kalvin Balque will become MIAA rivals after Bush signed Wednesday with Central Missouri and Balque with Missouri Southern. Witnessing the signings were KCKCC assistant coach Bill Sloan (left) and head coach Jon Oler. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)