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CEU rode guard to winning year

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A sixth straight winning season and the stellar play of first-team NJCAA All-America Tyler Kepkay were among the 2006-07 highlights for the College of Eastern Utah men's basketball team.

Kepkay, who signed to play at the University of Utah next season, led the nation's junior colleges in scoring, averaging 27.9 points per game.

"A significant percentage of our offense was going through him," said coach Bryan Zollinger. "If he struggled scoring, we struggled scoring. We relied on him so much. He scored in double figures in every game and scored at least 20 in most of them."

A 6-foot, 185-pound guard from Vancouver, British Columbia, Kepkay ranked fifth among junior college players in free-throw percentage (88.2) and 22nd in 3-point field-goal percentage (47.4).

"Tyler is a highly skilled player, a great shooter, an excellent ball handler and has a high basketball I.Q.," Zollinger said. "He is a solid athlete who is built well and is quick. But the thing that sets him apart from other players is his work ethic. He is constantly working to improve himself, and he is always in the weight room and on the floor getting his work in."

CEU opened the season with an 11-1 mark, but once it got into league play, wins were tougher to come by.

Playing in the highly competitive Scenic West Athletic Conference, the Golden Eagles finished behind three teams that were ranked in the NJCAA polls — Snow College, College of Southern Idaho and Salt Lake Community College.

Of CEU's 11 league losses, all but one came at the hands of one of those three teams. Two of those defeats occurred in overtime.

"There are good players and the teams are well-coached," Zollinger said. "It's a tough conference."

The Eagles finished with an 18-13 record overall, and 9-11 in league play.

Key players Steve Hassell and Eric Dearden missed a handful of games due to injury during the season, which hurt the Eagles in conference action.

CEU played an up-tempo style, averaging 90 points per game. "We were an exciting team to watch," Zollinger said. "We were very competitive."

The Eagles will have four players returning next season — Dearden, Hassell, Rafael Moreira and Felix Casperi. They have plenty of roster spots to fill and Zollinger is busy recruiting new players to the program.

CEU men's leaders

Points per game:

Tyler Kepkay, 27.5

Jeremy Lathan, 11.8

Rebounds per game:

Felix Casperi, 7.3

Anthony Oliver, 5.6

Steals per game:

Anthony Oliver, 1.8

Tyler Kepkay, 1.8

Assists per game:

Tyler Kepkay, 3.9

Jeremy Lathan, 3.3

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com