Nov. 30—ROCHESTER — Kam Givens wanted another chance to show what he could do playing college basketball, and he seems to have found a perfect fit at Rochester Community and Technical College.
In high school, Givens played two years of varsity basketball at DeLaSalle, which is a Class AAA state power. He was a backup as a junior when DeLaSalle placed third in the state in 2018, beating Austin in the third-place game. He was a starter when DeLaSalle captured a state championship in 2019, averaging about 11 points per game on a team that featured two All-Staters.
He then played the 2019-20 season at Central Lakes Community College in Brainerd. During that season, he was a part-time starter for the Raiders. The uptempo Raiders averaged just more than 94 points per game and Givens, a 6-foot-1 guard, was fifth on the team in scoring at 9.9 points per contest.
But the fit just didn't feel right so he took the next year and a half off from basketball, which included two seasons.
"When I was off, I was just watching film and working out," Givens said. "I was trying to get better."
RCTC coach Brian LaPlante had recruited Givens out of high school. So when the guard left Central Lakes, RCTC was a top choice for him to land.
"It's a good program and it develops players," Givens said. "They want you to get better."
Givens also wanted to get better. So prior to the start of the 2022-23 season, he worked hard on his own over the summer with a personal trainer, who was his AAU coach during his senior year at DeLaSalle. Givens also lives across from a park in Minneapolis and he spent a lot of time working on his game there.
The 21-year-old knew he had to adjust his game to fit with LaPlante's successful style of play, and he was fine with that.
"At Central Lakes, we had a little more freedom and RCTC is more structured," Givens said. "... And coach LaPlante, he holds you more accountable and the defense is more structured. And I like having the structure, it fits me better."
Givens has also been a great fit for Yellowjackets, who are currently 4-1 and ranked No. 6 in the nation among NJCAA Division III men's basketball teams. He leads RCTC in scoring at 23.0 points per game and is shooting a sizzling 56.1% from the floor. He also averages a team-best 3.0 assists and 3.2 steals, while pulling down 4.8 rebounds per game.
"Kam is a scorer and we need that," LaPlante said. "Plus he shoots at a very high percentage, over 50%, which is unheard of for a guard."
"I'm just thankful for the opportunity," Givens said. "I didn't play as well as I wanted to at Central Lakes. I just feel like this is another opportunity for me."
Givens' offensive strengths are his mid-range shooting and his ability to drive and get to the basket. The left-handed shooter also has the ability to pull up in the lane and hit floaters over bigger defenders.
The 170-pound Givens uses his quickness to his advantage to maneuver inside.
"My first step is super quick," he said. "I've always been driving to the rim my whole life so I know if I see someone ahead of me, I know what type of finish to do."
Givens' has hopes of playing at a four-year school after his stint at RCTC. Due to the COVID year in 2019-20, he could spend another season at RCTC. He has been working on his defense, shooting 3-pointers, improving his conditioning and trying to add some weight.
"Kam is a good person and we really enjoy having him on our team," LaPlante said. "We hope he continues to work on his game and his leadership skills. Small improvements go a long ways."
The Yellowjackets have had three national runner-up finishes under LaPlante, the last coming in 2016. They have also had a third- and fourth-place finish.
This year's team is chasing that elusive Division III national title.
"That's the goal right now, we want to win a championship so we have to work for that," Givens said.
He has a passion for basketball, but family is important to Givens. Now his father, sister and stepmother are able to attend more games than when he played at Central Lakes. They paid him a surprise visit and were in attendance on Nov. 22 when Givens scored 21 points in a home win over Madison College.
"They say this was a good move for them, not just for me," he said. "I didn't know they were going to come to that game, they surprised me. They weren't doing any of that at Central Lakes."