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Lopers rebound after abrupt coach change

Freshman+DAundre+Samuels+sidesteps+a+Chadron+State+defender+during+the+Lopers+113-101+win+over+the+Eagles.+Photo+by+Shelby+Berglund+%2F+Antelope+Staff
Freshman D’Aundre Samuels sidesteps a Chadron State defender during the Lopers’ 113-101 win over the Eagles. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

willisj@lopers.unk.edu

On Friday, Nov. 17, it was announced that long time Loper men’s basketball head coach Kevin Lofton had resigned from his position effective immediately, just one game into the season.

Todd Gottula, UNK senior director of communications and marketing, said that the University informed Lofton that his contract would not be renewed on Nov. 30, and it was at that point that Lofton resigned.

Lofton had been a part of the program since 1995, and the following game was the first time since 1990 where neither Lofton or long-time coach Tom Kropp was not a part of the coaching staff.

Lofton finished with a solo head coaching record of 107-122, while he was 156-125 as a co-head coach.

Taking over for him is assistant coach Antoine Young, who was bumped to the interim role immediately to serve as the head coach for the rest of the season.

Gottula also said that the University will not be conducting a search for a new coach during the season, and will conduct a national search once the season is over.

Young, a former Creighton basketball star, has been on the staff at UNK since 2018, coming from MIAA Pittsburg State where he was a graduate assistant for two years.

“We’ve worked hard to recruit these guys, so through this process having a familiar face has definitely helped,” Young said. “Obviously you never know how you respond to something like what occurred, but they’ve looked locked in and focused.”

The day after Lofton resigned, the Lopers hosted Chadron State, and won a thriller 113-101 against the Eagles. The game was the highest scoring game for the Lopers in eight years, and the sixth highest field goal percentage in school history.

After an emotional day leading up to the game, the players were fired up to give Young his first head coaching victory.

“I don’t really know what to say, but it means a lot,” said freshman guard D’Aundre Samuels. “People have been talking a lot about our team and how we’re not going to win a lot this year, but we pulled through and got the win, and we’re going to keep getting wins from now on.”

UNK, with their abundance of transfers and young faces, will have to overcome this early season adversity to put together a good season.

“The biggest thing I’ve told them through this is just to remember why you play this game,” Young said. “At the end of the day, you play because it’s fun and it’s something you love doing. A lot of the time no matter what sport it is, we lose sight of that.”

The Lopers are off to a 2-2 start, after winning games against Chadron State and Western Colorado at home, and losing a road game to Wayne State Saturday. UNK begins conference play this week, as they take on Rogers State and Northeastern State on the road.

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Jon Willis, Reporter
Traeton Harimon, Sports Editor
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