After Thursday’s practice, Fort Lewis College’s typically affable guard David Kanyinda was in high spirits.
After walking through practice at half speed with a groin injury a week earlier and watching the Skyhawks hang the season’s first loss on Adams State in street clothes, the Albuquerque native was back to his usual self.
While his boundless enthusiasm and frequent braces-clad smile generally affect FLC for the positive, it’s his scoring touch that benefits the Skyhawks (6-1, 2-1 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference).
With a fair amount of guard depth, Kanyinda’s averaging only 17.3 minutes per game but is making the most of them, tallying 13.2 points per game – including a career-high 31 against Northwest Nazarene – good for third on the team. It’s a role the former New Mexico Player of the Year at Sandia High School has come to relish.
“I think to just really know how to pick your shots and everything, even if it’s just not shots but whatever I can do to spark the team,” he said. “It can be coming off shots; it can be steals, whatever.”
Kanyinda came into the program last year after transferring from Lamar Community College, and he hit the floor shooting. His 15.3 points per game were good for 13th in the RMAC, and his 3.1 3-pointers per contest was second best league-wide.
His ability beyond the arc allows Fort Lewis to stretch the floor and create more space inside the arc because teams have to respect his distance-shooting ability, FLC head coach Bob Hofman said.
“When David’s healthy, he has unlimited range; you have to guard him when he comes over half court,” Hofman said.
“He’s also the type of player that can make shots that coaches say, ‘Well, he makes that shot, more power to him.’ But he makes it a lot.”
Other players on the floor keenly are aware of what Kanyinda brings to the table offensively, as well.
DeAndre Lansdowne, his high school teammate, said he looks to get his longtime playing partner the ball quickly after he checks into a game, in the hopes that Kanyinda can snag an open look and get hot almost instantaneously.
“Usually when he comes in, I really look to get him a ball in a scoring position early. ... We want to get him a good, easy shot early to get him going,” Lansdowne said.
Kanyinda’s abilities as a shooter go back as far as his middle school days in New Mexico.
Lansdowne, who’s played with or against Kanyinda since middle school, said even in their formative days, Kanyinda always wanted to shoot.
Lansdowne always was the blow-by, dribble drive, get to the rim type.
Of course, the quick witted Kanyinda had a response to that, too.
“Back in the day, he didn’t shoot the ball,” Kanyinda said. “He refused to shoot the ball. I had to tell him to shoot it.”
The one bugaboo against Kanyinda’s game last year and into this year is his play on the defensive end.
In a system where defensive effort directly correlates to minutes played, Kanyinda had been making significant progress before the injury, mostly based on his willingness to learn, particularly in his off-ball defense, Hofman said.
For Kanyinda, having to learn to expend more energy and focus on defense after four years of being able to get away with less than 100 percent on that end of the floor has taken some getting used to.
The coaching staff has been diligent in poking and prodding the 6-1 guard when his defense isn’t up to snuff.
“Sometimes offense is so hard, that even in high school, defense was where you would take off time,” he said. “But that’s not the case here. That’s never the case, especially in college basketball.”
But his willingness to learn may be boosted by his innate desire to want to help others – the main reason, Kanyinda says, that he’s majoring in psychology.
Aside from his fascination with how the human mind works, Kanyinda views the vocation as a means to improve the lives of others, which he tries to carry on to the floor on a daily basis.
“I’m ready to go to war for any of these guys,” he said. “I’d do anything for these guys, on and off the court.”