It was just like old times for Barton Community College freshman guard Trey Unrau.
Being a gym rat, the initial thing Unrau noticed when the Cougars entered W.S. Scott Auditorium late Tuesday afternoon on the Cowley campus in Arkansas City was the backdrop.
“When we walked into the gym, I knew,” Unrau said. “It was one of those gyms where there’s the black curtains behind the baskets.
“It was kind of like a high school gym. Not big.”
The gym rat put on a big-time shooting display in that small gym during NJCAA Region VI postseason tournament quarterfinal action. Unrau came off the bench and pumped in 7 of 11 3-pointers for a game-high 21 points, leading the Cougars to a 75-68 win over Cowley.
Barton (27-5) advances to Park City’s Hartman Arena for the semifinals, where it plays defending Region VI champion Seward County (25-7) at 5:30 on Friday evening in the semifinals. Cowley eliminated Independence 78-62 on Tuesday night.
Starring at small-town Class 3A Moundridge High School, Unrau was nothing short of a scoring machine, averaging 26.2 points his senior campaign while breaking Jacy Holloway’s career scoring record and finishing with 2,250 points. Holloway, now the head coach at Garden City High, totaled 1,639 points and went on to play point guard at Iowa State University.
Playing under his father, Moundridge head basketball coach Vance Unrau, the gym rat led his team to the state tournament in Hutchinson.
In a first-round game against Rock Creek at the Sports Arena, on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, Unrau tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee during the opening minutes of the game. He would play the remainder of the game, not knowing that the severity of his injury, and his team was eliminated, his playing future suddenly cast into doubt.
Enter Barton head coach Craig Fletchall, who didn’t hesitate to sign Unrau, even after the injury. And now, almost a year to the date, the 5-foot-11 distance shooter with the knee brace is finally getting his footing.
But it’s been anything but easy. Unrau spent countless hours in therapy, rehabilitating his damaged knee. When he finally got back on the court, there were the daily aches and pains while he was relegated to a backup shooting guard role.
“I really had bad tendinitis,” Unrau said, “and it finally went away. I’ve been strengthening the knee.”
All the while, Unrau stayed the course. He would stay after practice and launch countless rainbow 3-pointers. One particular afternoon during the regular season, when the Cougars had the day off after a long road trip, there was Unrau, all by himself, working on his shot.
Averaging around five points per game during the regular season in spot duty, Unrau says he’s starting to feel like his old self.
Unrau gave a sneak preview during the Cougars’ Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division and regular-season finale — hitting 5 of 6 from downtown and finishing with 15 points during their 79-57 victory at Cloud County in Concordia.
After making 2 of 6 3s for six points against Allen last Saturday in an opening-round 93-61 Region VI win, Unrau was off the chain against Cowley.
In his last three games, Unrau has made 14 of 23 from distance.
“Coach Fletchall and Coach (Matt) Hundley, they’ve been waiting for that,” Unrau said with grin.
For the season, Unrau is shooting 44 for 96 on 3s — a team-best 45.8 percent.
NJCAA Region VI
Postseason Basketball Tournament
Seward County vs. Barton, 5:30 p.m.
Hutchinson vs. Coffeyville, 7:30 p.m.