Kirschbaum takes shot at Division I dreams

Titans forward Zach Kirschbaum knocks down a three-point shot in the first half of a 93-75 loss to the Southwestern Oregon Community College Lakers on Feb. 19.Photo: Eugene Johnson


Titans forward Zach Kirschbaum knocks down a three-point shot in the first half of a 93-75 loss to the Southwestern Oregon Community College Lakers on Feb. 19.
Photo: Eugene Johnson

On the first possession of Lane’s most recent basketball game, Zach Kirschbaum caught the ball at the top of the key and knocked down a quick 18-foot jump shot.

The Titan’s sophomore has hit plenty of similar shots this season, and there would have been nothing extraordinary about it if he were a 6’2″ guard.

The extraordinary fact is that he isn’t.

At 6’10”, Kirschbaum is the tallest player in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges, and one of the most versatile.

He is averaging 10.58 rebounds and 2.88 blocks per game this season, and has dominated opponents on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, but has done so in an unconventional way.

“I like to tease him and tell him that he’s a 5’6″ guard trapped in a 6’10” body,” Lane head coach Bruce Chavka said. “He laughs and rolls his eyes, but he has a tremendous face-up game. He shoots the ball really well.”

As opposed to playing the bruising inside style of basketball most players his height do, Kirschbaum has found success with a finesse normally reserved for a shooting guard.

He possesses a mid-range jumper that forces opponents to guard him closely when out on the perimeter, but also the quickness to blow by them if they get too close.

When playing with his back to the basket, he depends mostly on turn-around jump shots and deceptive post moves to score.

Kirschbaum says that he grew up idolizing the Dallas Mavericks’ 7′ sharpshooter, Dirk Nowitzki, and it’s obvious when watching him play.

“I love shooting the ball. It creates mismatches,” Kirschbaum said. “Big guys usually don’t like guarding on the perimeter or the wing, and when they see me, they don’t expect the jumper. It’s a huge advantage.”

Early in high school, Kirschbaum thought he would spend his basketball career as a guard.

Going into his freshman year at Mountain View High School in Las Vegas, Kirschbaum was just 5’10”.

He admits that basketball had never been a priority to him.

“I was an OK player, but I didn’t take basketball all that seriously,” Kirschbaum said. “I just wanted to go through high school and get my education and everything.”

However, by the end of his sophomore season, Kirschbaum had skyrocketed to 6’8″. He saw his chances of playing basketball at the college level increase too.

In order to play against tougher competition and improve his chances of being recruited by colleges, Kirschbaum decided to transfer to nearby Chaparral High School after his freshman year.

After a senior season in which he was second in the state of Nevada with 15.5 rebounds per game, the scholarships started pouring in.

Kirschbaum ultimately accepted a full-ride scholarship to play at Vanguard University, an NAIA school in Costa Mesa, Calif.

He filled a limited role for the Lions during his freshman season, averaging 1.7 points in 4.7 minutes per game.

Kirschbaum enjoyed his time at Vanguard and had nothing but praise for his coaches and teammates. He said he is confident that by his junior or senior year he would have worked his way into the Lions’ starting lineup.

However, Kirschbaum’s ultimate goal was to play at the Division I level. After his sophomore year at Vanguard, he decided it was time to go all-in.

“I loved playing down there in Southern California, but I knew I could do better,” Kirschbaum said. Kirschbaum transferred to Lane because he knew he would have an opportunity to play more minutes, hopefully catching the eyes of Division I scouts.

Chavka said he has received heavy interest in Kirschbaum from some Division II schools, such as Western Washington University and University of Alaska-Anchorage, as well as Utah Valley University, a Division I school.

“To make it to the Division I level, I think he’s going to need to work on his low-post defense a little bit, just because he will be playing against guys who are just as big as him,” Chavka said. “But I think recruiting will pick up a tremendous amount for him down the stretch.”

Titans forward Zach Kirschbaum knocks down a three-point shot in the first half of a 93-75 loss to the Southwestern Oregon Community College Lakers on Feb. 19.

Photo: Eugene Johnson


Photo: Eugene Johnson