Benefield: Kobre hasn’t lost shooting touch

In this 2011 file photo, Montgomery's Alec Kobre goes up for a shot vs. Woodcreek.   Credit: Crista Jeremiason / Press Democrat

In this 2011 file photo, Montgomery’s Alec Kobre goes up for a shot vs. Woodcreek.
Credit: Crista Jeremiason / Press Democrat

By KERRY BENEFIELD

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ron Verlin has been with the University of Pacific men’s basketball program for 21 years. And in those two decades, he has never seen what Alec Kobre did for the Tigers against Cal State East Bay.

Kobre, a junior transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College and a Montgomery High School grad, went 5 for 5 from 3-point range and 8 for 8 from the free throw line in the Dec. 3 game against the Pioneers. Twenty-three points in 24 minutes.

“It’s got to be a school record,” Verlin said. “I have never seen a guy, on five shots, score 23 points. It’s got to be unheard of.”

“In that game, he was unbelievable,” he said.

It’s not like people didn’t expect the sharpshooter to get a hot hand every so often. But scalding hot? Perfect?

Verlin recruited Kobre for his shooting. He knew what the guy could do, and his Tigers needed that outside threat. But even Verlin was surprised by the show that night.

Kobre put up a more modest six points in 22 minutes against Idaho State in the Tigers’ next game. Sunday the Tigers (6-3) will take on Western Michigan at home.

“He has gotten off to a good start so far and I expect him to continue that,” said SRJC coach Craig McMillan. “They expect him to have a big role there.”

Kobre knows a little something about clawing his way into an impact role.

A star for the Montgomery Vikings before redshirting his first year at SRJC, Kobre didn’t make the starting five in his first full season with the Bear Cubs. But he took off in his sophomore year under McMillan’s tutelage.

Kobre was the team’s leading scorer last season and was named an all-state California Community College Athletic Association player and to the Big 8 Conference All-League team. Kobre was named state tournament MVP as he led SRJC to its first state title.

But Division I is a different animal altogether.

Kobre’s 23-point explosion against the Pioneers isn’t a regular occurrence. Can’t be.

So Kobre, who is coming off the bench for the Tigers, has to make sure he’s the guy who can spark a run or put up some quick points the minute he steps on the court. Nine games into the season, he is the leading scorer off the bench for the Tigers with 7.7 points per game and is second in minutes played at a little more than 18 per game.

So far, so good.

Kobre’s early success doesn’t surprise McMillan.

“He has a good work ethic and a great attitude,” he said.

When Kobre was redshirted his first year out of high school, the competitor in him chafed. He didn’t like going through the practices and workouts and never getting to suit up. But the Kobre of today knows it was the best thing for his game.

“My first year, I wasn’t good enough to play,” he said recently. “I think redshirting was the best thing that could have happened. If I wouldn’t have redshirted and I would have played, I probably wouldn’t have seen the floor very much.”

That extra year also gave him three years with McMillan, not two. And ask Verlin about what kind of players — especially shooters — McMillan seems to graduate.

“We have had a lot of very good Santa Rosa players and they have done very well,” Verlin said. “Craig does a great job developing his guys for our level.”

But McMillan isn’t all about developing a shooter’s touch. He pushed Kobre to add some muscle, to work on his defense — to become a more complete player, not just a scorer.

“He’s a very good listener,” McMillan said of Kobre. “When guys do the right thing, they listen and buy in — they are doing things the right way, never shortcutting on anything.”

Kobre did that for McMillan.

“When he got his chance to play, he was more than ready,” McMillan said.

So now Kobre is showing Verlin that he can do it at another level. So much so that Verlin said Kobre could crack the starting lineup.

“He is definitely on the fence,” Verlin said. “I wouldn’t be shocked if we see him in the starting lineup before long.”

But Verlin also likes that he’s got a guy who can come into a game after the starting-gate pace slows a bit and drop in a few quick points.

“I do like that I have serious firepower coming off the bench,” Verlin said. “I have a guy that can put up points, and quickly.”

Kobre, sounding like the guy Verlin described as “a quality young man” who works his tail off and does things the right way, said cracking the starting five is not on his list of priorities. What is? Developing his defensive game and helping his team compete in the ultra-competitive West Coast Conference.

“My goal was never to start, but my goal was to have a positive impact on the team,” he said. “If we can compete in the WCC, it would be huge for me.”

The WCC isn’t soft around the edges.

Gonzaga is ranked ninth in the nation. The Tigers will also have to contend with BYU and Loyola Marymount before the regular season is through.

But Kobre isn’t intimidated. A sharpshooter can’t be.

“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “As a kid, I used to watch them play, and it’s definitely a huge privilege for me.”
But not so big a privilege that Kobre won’t want to put a dagger through their hearts come game time.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com and on Twitter @benefield.