Albert Lea cager finding niche

Published 8:17 am Thursday, November 20, 2008

Riverland Community College head basketball coach Dan Swift did his best to get A.J. Kortz to come and play for him at Riverland College and Kortz finally saw the light.

Kortz, a 2007 graduate of Albert Lea High School, had a very good high school basketball career, putting it mildly. Kortz was all-conference in both his junior and senior year and was seen as a “very good shooter” Swift said.

“A.J. is the type of player that you just love to have on the team,” Swift said. “He comes early, stays late and works very hard to improve his game.”

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Kortz’s shooting touch impressed Swift initially and the coach thinks Kortz could develop into a solid player who could play at a four-year school.

“A.J. will do anything for the team,” Swift said. “He works his tail off, and I see him going to a four-year college and becoming a quality guard.”

Kortz didn’t come directly from high school to play at Riverland. Kortz made a stop at Minnesota State, Mankato, but didn’t play for the Mavericks. He did practice with the team and after a year decided to try to play collegiately. It was while he was in Mankato he took good look at his future and made the decision to come to play for coach Swift at Riverland in Austin.

The Blue Devils played their fifth game of the season Wednesday against the Gustavus junior varsity squad and lost 64-56.

“Our team is trying to find itself, and each guy is trying to find his role on the team,” Kortz said of his year at Riverland .

Kortz is also finding his role on the team.

“For myself,” Kortz said, “I am just trying to get shots and to get the ball to my teammates so that they can get open shots.”

As far as finding shots, Kortz has found himself as the team’s leading scorer through four games of play, averaging better than 19 points a game.

Kortz is a 6-foot-1 inch guard who weighs in at almost 190 pounds and does more than shoot.

Against Gustavus junior varsity, Kortz not only put up 14 shots but he sunk a 3-point shot, hit from the free throw line and had six steals on the night, as the Blue Devils led the Gusties 38-30 at halftime.

“We show glimpses of being a really good team so far this season,” Kortz said. “We are trying to get the right attitude as a team. That is coming.”

Since coming to play at the college level Kortz feels that he needs to work on his ball-handling and taking it to the hoop more.

“Because I am so used to being a shooter I am not always thinking about taking it in,” Kortz said.

As far as watching other players, Kortz enjoys watching former Albert Lea standout Ben Woodside, who is now playing at North Dakota State University, as well as watching J.J. Redick from Duke, who now plays for the Orlando Magic in the NBA.

Kortz still lives in the Albert Lea area and commutes to Riverland. He is looking at going into the health and fitness field after he graduates.