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FAMILY FOUND: Oberweiser finds basketball home at UJ

University of Jamestown's Kevin Oberweiser drives around Dickinson State's Melvin Collins on Dec. 14 at Harold Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Kevin Oberweiser was destined to become a leader on the college basketball court. The 6-foot-2 guard just needed to find the right family.

A coach's kid from small-town Montana, the prolific 3-point shooter sought out University of Jamestown men's basketball and head coach Danny Neville in 2017 after being largely underutilized at NAIA Division I Montana State University-Northern.

A more successful marriage would be difficult to prearrange. Oberweiser plugged directly into UJ's starting lineup and finished last season 16th in NAIA Division II with 91 3-pointers made on 46-percent shooting, helping the Jimmies win 20 of 30 games.

Oberweiser's encore performance as a senior this winter is off to a blistering start. The native of Drummond, Mont., has converted 63 3-point baskets through 18 contests and was eighth in the country in total scoring (347 points) heading into Christmas break, averaging 19.3 points per night.

In Jamestown's final game of 2018—a 99-78 victory over Dakota State University on Dec. 20 in Madison, S.D.—Oberweiser converted six 3s and surpassed 1,000 career points with a game-high 30 markers.

"When I brought Kevin in for his visit, he came in and played with our guys and I knew right then he was going to be pretty special," Neville said. "The kind of person he is and the time he puts into playing basketball, no one's really surprised with the success he's had at Jamestown.

"He's a competitor, man."

Oberweiser was a high school multi-sport star at Drummond, a town of about 300 residents located roughly 50 miles southeast of Missoula, Mont. Coached by his father, Jim Oberweiser, on the gridiron, Kevin passed for 1,407 yards and rushed for an additional 384 as senior quarterback for the Drummond Trojans' Class C 8-man football team during a 6-3 campaign in the fall of 2013.

Oberweiser then led Drummond boys basketball to a 21-6 season on the hardcourt, culminating with a Class C state tournament berth in March 2014. Oberweiser nailed four 3-pointers and scored 33 points in his final high school game; a 63-56 loss to Wibaux at the state tournament in Butte, Mont.

"We had a pretty solid team. We were second in divisionals, first in the district and went two-and-out at state," said Oberweiser, who later earned first team all-state honors after posting per-game averages of 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.4 steals. "It wasn't super common to go to state, so it was kind of a big deal."

Oberweiser's prep success landed him a gig playing for MSU-Northern in Havre, Mont., about four hours from his hometown. Following a redshirt season, the Jimmies' future star converted 47 3-pointers and averaged 3.3 points through 60 games for the Northern Lights, who played to a record of 40-23 over two seasons with Oberweiser coming off the bench.

"I absolutely loved my (Northern Lights) teammates there, so it was hard to leave," Oberweiser said. "But I just felt like I wanted to accept a larger role, and I don't know if I fit the play style there real well.

"After talking it over with my family I reopened recruiting and got in touch with coach Neville. It's one of the best decisions I've made, for sure."

In 48 games with the Jimmies, Oberweiser has tallied 808 of his 1,007 career points. It's likely he'll become the 31st Jimmie to surpass 1,000 points while wearing the orange and black later this season.

If Oberweiser is able to maintain his current scoring average over the Jimmies' final 13 regular-season contests, he'll end up with roughly 1,258 career points—1,059 of which coming in his two seasons with Jamestown.

"It's special for a kid like him that really didn't get a chance at his previous school," Neville said. "To take a chance to come here, and he does this with it? It's an awesome story."

The Jimmies, who are receiving votes in the NAIA top 25 coaches' poll at 15-3 overall, return to action Jan. 2 at Hastings College (Neb.). Jamestown is in the national tournament conversation, and no small part of that can be attributed to the play and leadership provided by Oberweiser.

Jamestown last qualified for nationals in 2013.

"It's been fun to play in this type of system. It's definitely something I felt like was doable," Oberweiser said. "It's just all about opportunity and finding the right guys to play with. They do an awesome job of getting me open looks."

Jamestown's final 13 games will be a challenge, with 12 contests counting toward the Great Plains Athletic Conference standings. But after finding his basketball home, Oberweiser doesn't plan on holding anything back over his final two months of play.

"I think the biggest thing is just staying true to ourselves," Oberweiser said. "We just have to stick to the process and keep grinding out these wins.

"It's not always pretty, and they're not always going to be when you are in a conference like the GPAC. We just have to be tougher than the other team and want it more."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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