ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN
From four square to Times Square, Treg Duerksen has made the huge transition from a small town in Kansas to the bright lights of New York City.
The former Goessel High School basketball standout finds himself living large in the biggest city in the United States?and he?s enjoying every minute.
And he?s managing to play a little basketball while he is there, too.
Duerksen is the second-leading scorer for Columbia University, an Ivy League and NCAA Division I school.
Talk about a culture shock. Duerksen went from a high school graduating class of 25 to a city with more than 10 million.
?Definitely, academics was a big part of my decision to attend Columbia, and I really wanted to play Division I basketball,? Duerksen said. ?But the academics are really what swayed me to come here.?
Between the small town and the big city, he served a two-year stint at Neosho Community College in Chanute, where Duerksen was part of a fast-paced, up-tempo game.
This season, he will compete against teams such as Princeton, Penn and Seton Hall, and has already traveled to Stanford, Calif., for a tournament.
?I think Treg was a little bit in awe at first because of the big city and the change in offense from what he was used to at Neosho,? said Todd Kennedy, an assistant coach at Columbia.
But Duerksen said it was the sheer size of New York that threw him off track.
?It was definitely a big adjustment going from the farm to the city, I?ll tell you that,? Duerksen said.
?I think the biggest adjustment was the number of people there are here. There are always people around, and you just have to get used to that a little bit. Once you get up here and are around it for a while, you get used to it.?
Kennedy said Duerksen has made the adjustment, and that the Goessel native has been a nice addition to the team.
?He adjusted very well to things here and is doing a good job for us in the starting lineup,? Kennedy said.
Duerksen is not only starting for Columbia, he?s also the oldest member of the starting five, which consists of two freshmen, two sophomores and the junior transfer from Kansas.
The team?s youth was another factor that drew Duerksen to Columbia. ?When I came out here for a visit, I saw that they had a really young team and I thought that this would be a team with a lot of potential,? he said.
Through Columbia?s first 12 games, Duerksen was the team?s second leading scorer, averaging 9.8 points per game, including a career-high 21 in an 83-81 loss to Western Carolina.
Earlier this month, Duerksen helped Columbia beat Wagner, the first team with a winning record the Lions have beaten this year.
He scored 15 points, including three of six three pointers, and played all but two minutes of the game.
?I wouldn?t say that we live and die by the three, but we do work for the open shot, and it is nice to have a player as reliable a Treg there to shoot,? Kennedy said.
Duerksen leads the team in 3-pointers made and attempted?24 of 64 for 37.5 percent.
Columbia is happy to have Duerksen on board.
?We needed someone who could play both ends of the floor, and Treg has given us that,? Kennedy said. ?He has really been a nice addition to the team.?
The season has been an up and down one for Columbia. The Lions were beaten by Stony Brook, then lost a close game to Seton Hall.
Duerksen started the season slowly, averaging just four points in the first four games of the season. But since then, he has averaged close to 13 a contest.
?The beginning of the year was pretty much a learning experience for all of us,? Duerksen said. ?As a team, I think we can compete with the other teams in the Ivy League, especially once spring rolls around and we have a little more experience under our belts.?
Columbia was selected a pre-season seventh or eighth in most polls after losing four starters off last season?s team.
Duerksen is second on the team in steals and third in rebounding.
The junior is currently majoring in economics.
So, what?s next for Duerksen after Columbia?
?I think I?ll have to go back (to Kansas) to get a little more safety,? he said with a laugh. ?It?s a little bit too tough around here for me.?