With obstructions come spoils for CSU’s breakout freshmen

Luke Zahlmann

Set on opposite sides of the court, each standing along the 3-point line, Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore are not only working on their craft with post-practice shooting but seeking to avoid the wall that affects so many first-year starters in collegiate basketball.

Though a figurative barrier for young team members, playing their first season of high-intensity basketball for over 30 games is real.

Ad

Their in-season practices with Colorado State notwithstanding, the process of evading the roadblocks along their path began in the offseason.

“I think they did a great job in the summer of essentially preparing themselves for the battle,” Coach Dave Thorson said. “If you were to go and look back from a conditioning perspective at what we did in the fall, both those guys came in shape, got in better shape and then in the fall, they were leaders when they competed.”

Their path of working out in preparation for the season also included schedule changes. With basketball at the center of both of their lives, Moore and Thistlewood have developed a sleeping, schoolwork and life schedule that enhances their progress on the court.

Player guards
Kendle Moore (3) guards a WYO player, as CSU battles the Cowboys. CSU wins 83-48. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

Choosing to apply their efforts in a way that enhances their on-court prowess is an internal motive.

“They both have great mentalities, you can see, I mean they’re both out here after practice putting in work,” Head Coach Niko Medved said. “I think they love to play, they’re competitors, they’re coachable, they both just have great mentalities.”

As a pair, the two have combined for 40 starts, with Moore being the only player outside of Nico Carvacho to get the starting nod in each of the team’s 27 games.

With those experiences, growth has occurred.

“I think everything is starting to slow down,” Moore said. “Starting from the beginning, I feel like that gave us a lot of confidence, feeling like that coaches trust us… that just motivates us to work hard every day.”

The bravado instilled by the coaching staff started with Medved. Whether it’s the head coach or fellow players, as it pertains to Thistlewood, that message came as an ultimatum.

“My teammates and my coaches believe in me,” Thistlewood said. “They tell me, ‘If you pass up a shot, you’re coming out.’”

Ad

Though a rigid statement, the coaches instilling a shooters mentality in Thistlewood has served as a catalyst for his courageous mindset on the court. Instead of deferring, the wing has been implored to make an impact.

“I can’t thank (my teammates and coaches) enough,” Thistlewood said. “Every day they push me beyond my max and it’s just made me better and better each day.”

A man shoots a basketball
CSU forward Adam Thistlewood shoots from the corner of the court during the game against Southern Illinois Salukis on Tuesday, November 27, 2018. The final score on the game saw a CSU loss 82-67. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

Carvacho, the team’s leader, has echoed the need for positivity from the youngsters.

“(I tell them) ‘stay confident,’ that’s the biggest thing. Once you lose confidence, it’s hard to get it back, so just stay confident and always believe,” Carvacho said.

Off the court, the two have amassed a support system as well.

In an effort to enhance their improvements, the coaching staff for the Rams has divided their attention, creating more focus in small groups. With Moore reserved to working with Assistant Coach JR Blount in his small group, Thistlewood with Thorson, the two have seen their success off the court increase as well.

Those relationships in smaller groups for off-court issues and quandaries in course work is just another part of Medved’s system, an arrangement that has prerequisite steps.

“It might be something as simple as a coach asking, ‘How are you doing?’” Thorson said. “But that doesn’t happen until you have a certain level of respect (and trust). That’s where I think teams go from good to great, great to elite.”

From the beginning, Medved has preached an open line of communication to both his staff and players. Whether it’s bouncing ideas from person to person on the court, or brainstorming off the court, the team has been dead set on being accessible for all.

In practices, games and preparation in the film room, Medved has instilled conversation. The knowledge gained through conversation has only just begun for the Rams’ young players though.

“(My knowledge) is nowhere (close to complete), just like any freshman,” Thistlewood said. “It’s so much different when you actually get out there. I’m a first grader out here, I got a long ways to go.”

With the Mountain West tournament approaching, the pair have a large task looming.

Moore already has a Big 12 Player of the Year award under his belt from Danville High School. Thistlewood garnered a league title of his own at Golden High School. With their backgrounds and personas, Medved isn’t worried.

“I think both of those guys have that “it” factor and I think they’re both going to compete till the bitter end this year,” Medved said.

Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.