DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Kris Arkenberg calls himself lucky.
But it seems more likely that someone going from coaching junior high basketball to being an assistant coach at the NCAA Division I level in just four years is probably good at what he does.
That’s the case with Arkenberg, an Indian Creek High School graduate who will be on the visitors’ bench Monday night at Assembly Hall when the University of New Orleans men’s basketball team plays Indiana University.
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Arkenberg, 31, is an assistant coach for the Privateers. He has had a quick, and in some ways unlikely, rise through the coaching ranks in his young career, in that he is in his fourth year on the Privateers’ staff following two years at the junior college level.
Prior to that, the highest level Arkenberg had coached was the seventh-grade team at Indian Creek Middle School. He had worked a number of basketball camps around the country, including the Steve Alford Camp at Franklin College, and was a student-manager for a season at IUPUI, where he graduated with a degree in general studies in 2006.
A friendship with one of the regular staff members at the Alford camp led to his first college opportunity at Lincoln Trail junior college in Illinois. After two seasons at Lincoln Trail, he spent one season as an assistant at Panola College in Texas before getting his Division I chance with New Orleans.
So far, he’s made the most of it. Not only that, he enjoys playing an important role in the overall development of student-athletes.
“I think this level is a chance to work with great athletes but still help grow them as young men,” Arkenberg said. “We’re helping develop them as people, to be great workers and great fathers as well as players.
“Professionals have already grown up, and high school players are still really kids, but at this age I think I can have the greatest impact.”
Arkenberg has fond memories of his time at Indian Creek. He graduated in 2001 after excelling in three sports. He was a two-time All-County selection in football under then-coach Sean Zachery; was a basketball standout under then-coach Larry Angle; and was a school record-setter in the shot put for the track and field team.
At New Orleans, Arkenberg works with the team’s guards. He also mentors on academic matters and is involved in recruiting in Louisiana and the Midwest, including Indiana.
Schools in the lower level of Division I often schedule road games against higher-profile opponents, such as tonight’s matchup at Indiana. The games help generate revenue, raise the profile of the program and create opportunities for upsets.
A member of the Southland Conference, the Privateers are known for their uptempo offense and pressure defense.
“It’s all dependent on who you have access to as players,” Arkenberg said. “Down here there are a bunch of guys who are fast, quick and athletic, and so you have to play that way, whereas in Indiana you have a ton of shooters.
“We’ll try to play fast and press as much as we can.”
Besides the game, Arkenberg looks forward to returning to his home state for a chance to visit his parents, Frank Arkenberg and Susan Roberts, and for the opportunity they’ll have to see him coach at Assembly Hall.
But there will be no divided loyalties for
“The whole family are Purdue fans, so I’m still thinking of a way to beat Indiana like I have been for 25 years,” Arkenberg said. “There will be no change in who we see as the enemy, just in what team the family is rooting for.”