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BOYS' PREP BASKETBALL: Pfeiffer takes on many roles for E'town (02/13)

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By Greg Crews

 

By GREG CREWS gcrews@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN The first time Derek Pfeiffer was called on to start for Elizabethtown, he admits he wasn’t ready.  After starting the first four games of his junior season, the 6-foot-1 shooting guard was relegated to the bench and later demoted to the junior varsity squad. “The amazing thing about Derek is he didn’t get upset, he looked at it as an opportunity to get better,” Elizabethtown coach James Haire said. “He knows nothing is guaranteed. No spots are guaranteed. He has to prove himself every day in practice.” Now, Pfeiffer is doing just that. “It made me want to work harder,” said Pfeiffer, who is the only player to start all 21 games for the Panthers this season. “I worked a lot on my shot and on my ball handling. … I try to go out and hustle and give 110 percent.” Thanks to all of that hard work, Pfeiffer has been able to take on many roles for Panthers this season. He can score when needed, like when he put up 15 points in a win over Marion County on Monday. He can rebound when needed, like when he grabbed seven in a win over Graves County on Dec. 21. And when the Panthers need him to pass the ball, that’s no problem either for Pfeiffer, who has five assists in three straight wins over Fort Knox, Marion County and Louisville St. Xavier. “He’s dependable. If a play calls for him to set a screen, you can depend on him to do that. He’s going to do what you ask him to,” Haire said. “He’s one of our best shooters, too.” Pfeiffer, who is averaging 5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, is the team’s leading free throw shooter (66.7 percent) and third-best from behind the 3-point arc (27.6 percent). He is connecting on 33.6 percent of his shots from the field. “I feel like my shots have gotten a lot better,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s still not falling in a whole lot, but compared to last year, I think I’m doing better.” But perhaps none of the roles Pfeiffer takes on have been more important this season than his leadership role. The Panthers came into the season looking to senior forward Chris Gohman to grab the reins after leading the team in scoring and rebounding last season. Gohman, however, injured his shoulder at the end of football season and has played all of 4 seconds for the basketball team. With Gohman out, Pfeiffer became Elizabethtown’s most experienced senior and many of Gohman’s leadership responsibilities fell on Pfeiffer’s shoulders. “It was a real huge emotional blow. Even the seniors look to (Chris) for leadership,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s put more pressure on me to lead by example and to not do some of the stupid stuff that I did last season. It’s my job to calm people down.” Pfeiffer has indeed been a calming influence this season for the Panthers, who have struggled with their composure at times this season. Pfeiffer is averaging fewer than one turnover per game and his 18 turnovers this season is the lowest of any player who has started more than one game. “Derek is a very steady influence,” Haire said. “He understands his position as well as every other spot on the floor. He is a student of the game.” Haire and Pfeiffer are both quick to acknowledge he is no longer the timid kid who last year would, “freak out on the court,” as Pfeiffer put it, or “wouldn’t say a word to me or even look me in the eyes as a freshman,” as Haire said. No, Pfeiffer has matured far beyond that. And now when he hears, “At guard, senior, No. 14, DEREK PFEIFFER,” he’s ready. Greg Crews can be reached at 505-1754