By BRIAN PELOZA For the Kokomo Tribune
---- — Alan Arnett has been a member of three college basketball programs since graduating from Kokomo High School in 2009. While admittedly not the easiest path to take, Arnett wouldn’t change a thing.
He’s played for programs in three different states at three different levels, beginning at NCAA Division I IPFW before transferring after one year to Kankakee Community College. After a solid season at the junior college, Arnett found himself at NCAA Division II Georgia Southwestern University. He is in his second season at the school.
“It’s been a long journey and there have been a lot of bumps and curves,” Arnett said, “but it feels good. Everything happens for a reason and it’s a blessing to be where I’m at right now.”
Arnett is Georgia Southwestern’s leading scorer, while he also draws the opposing team’s best perimeter player on defense. The Hurricanes (16-5 overall, 8-4 Peach Belt Conference) have been ranked as high as 18th this season in the national Division II rankings, and are currently just outside of the top-25.
While a senior, Arnett hopes this isn’t his last year of competitive basketball. He hopes to play overseas in the future, but first wants one more season at Georgia Southwestern.
Arnett is in the process of petitioning the NCAA to gain another year of eligibility. He redshirted during his season at IPFW, but the NCAA doesn’t have the necessary paperwork on file. Arnett and IPFW will both have to file statements to the NCAA in the process.
“My advisor said I have a pretty good chance of getting that year back, it’s just a matter of what the coaches at IPFW are going to do and if they’re willing to help me out,” Arnett said.
If granted another year of eligibility, Arnett said he intends to remain at Georgia Southwestern.
“Right now to get my degree would be the perfect ending,” Arnett said, “but further on is to continue playing, then my story will never end.”
Arnett is averaging a team-high 16.7 points this season. He has posted seven games of 20 or more points with a single-game high of 34.
“I think this has probably been my first year where my coach has told me that when we need a big bucket I’m one of the guys he’s looking for to get the big bucket,” Arnett said. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but I enjoy it.”
Arnett is shooting 49.2 percent from the field, averaging just 11.6 shots per game. He shoots 76.4 percent from the free-throw line, where he averages 6 trips per game.
“Alan is very versatile,” Georgia Southwestern coach Mike Leedy said. “He can make 3-point shots. He gets to the free-throw line a tremendous amount and he’s very efficient and doesn’t need a lot of shots to get his points.”
Still, Arnett is more than an offensive threat, averaging 6.2 rebounds per game, along with 1.7 assists, one block and one steal per outing.
“I think I value him just as much as a perimeter defender,” Leedy said of his 6-foot-5 standout. “He can guard the other team’s point guard, shooting guard or small forward. He’s also a tremendous rebounder from his position. ... He knows how to use that length. He doesn’t go for a lot of shot fakes or ball fakes, and has a really good feel for timing when he’s guarding smaller guards that try to shoot it over him. And he’s physically strong enough to not get pushed around in the post.”
Since his days at Kokomo, Arnett has considered his defense a strength.
“Coach and my teammates believe I’m going to lock down the opposing team’s best guard,” Arnett said. “That’s one of my duties and if I’m not doing that then I’m not doing part of my job.”
In recent weeks, Georgia Southwestern has relied on Arnett extensively with various players missing time due to nagging injuries.
Arnett has averaged 36 minutes over the last 10 games, playing at least 34 minutes in each contest.
“It’s tough, man,” Arnett said. “It takes a lot out of you. I have a lot of responsibilities. It’s just not my scoring that is helping us win. I’m playing defense, I’m rebounding. We always talk about who’s [up] next. I really had no choice but to play those minutes.”
Leedy admitted playing those many minutes isn’t ideal, but the injuries “have put a little more premium on Alan.” Still, when the team is back to full health, his minutes will decline some, but not by a large amount.
“He’s just too valuable to be sitting over on the bench,” Leedy said.
Arnett’s only significant struggle this season came earlier from the perimeter, where he made just one of his 22 attempts from the 3-point line over the first 13 games.
Since that point, Arnett has made 13 of 32 (40.6 percent) from beyond the arc over the past eight games.
“We never lost confidence in him as a coaching staff,” Leedy said. “I think he just needed to see himself make a few in a game to get his confidence back.”
Georgia Southwestern is 8-4 in the Peach Belt Conference’s West Division, 21/2 games behind first-place Montevallo. The conference has two teams — South Carolina Aiken (9th) and Montevallo (12th) — ranked nationally, while Georgia Regents and Georgia Southwestern have also been ranked this season.