Loren Killion

Loren Killion

Held KHS, UNK scoring records for 25-plus years

Currently third at UNK in scoring (2,100)

NAIA third-team All-American in 1977

Averaged more than 19 points per game for UNK

Kearney High and UNK Hall of Fame inductee

Moments that stands out Actually there were two, the first being when Kearney High won the district championship to go to state in 1973 "because we hadn’t been there for a long time or done well. And then the same thing when we beat Hastings College in the NAIA to go to nationals in 1975. You just don’t forget something like that. ... I really enjoyed those times. I remember that so well, both of them."

And another from high school: "We went to Alliance ... and we be Alliance pretty good. When we came out to leave, some cowboys stole our bus. We went and ate at the Elks and it took a couple hours to get back. ... We just all laughed about it wasn’t that big of a deal."

KEARNEY — Scorin’ Loren can still light it up.

At least he would be if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down all sports, including his passion, masters-age basketball.

"It’s kind of slowed me down. It’s making me think about quitting," Killion said. "I can’t keep going unless I go down to the outdoor courts and shoot by myself."

Killion, who will turn 65 in October, hasn’t had many hurdles to finding games. If the virus hadn’t come along, he likely would be preparing for the Huntsmam World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, an event that annually draws around 11,000 participants. Last year at this time, he was playing in the another World Games tournament in Helsinki. He’s played in other tournaments Portland, Oregon; Melbourne, Australia; Edmonton, Alberta; and Sydney, Australia,

And, he’s not just another player. Scorin’ Loren is The Bomb.

In 2015 he won the Most Valuable Player award in a 60-and-over World Games tournament at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the same venue the NBA is playing in today.

"I’ve been playing in like four tournaments to five tournaments a year .... the last six or seven years, but you could play in 10 if you wanted to until there’s COVID stuff come on. It’s kept us all from doing anything right now," Killion Said.

You can find him at other venues, too. He plays pickup ball at the First Baptist Church, plays in the 4-on-4 Kearney City League and appears in tournaments like the Railyard Rims in Lincoln.

"I just like to play. It keeps me young," he said. "It beats the heck out of just running down the sidewalk or the street trying to stay in shape."

Killion is Kearney’s legend in basketball. For many years, he was the all-time leading scorer at Kearney High and Kearney State College. His Kearney High single-season rebounding record stood until Shiloh Robinson broke it two years ago.

His basketball career took him first to Canada, where he was the leading scorer for a year. Then to professional basketball in Belgium, where he again was the league’s scoring leader. And to Australia, all before hitting the senior circuit.

"I only took about ... 12 years off in my life and that was after I got married and came back home after playing in Australia," he said. "I came home. I played a little bit but got more involved raising kids and in the family business."

But basketball always has come knocking.

His attraction to the game blossomed while growing up in Palmer where a rim on the side of the barn provided the recreation and diversion for the Killion boys.

They moved to Kearney when Loren was in junior high, and he found out his skill level lagged behind.

"I was basically the 15th, 16th man because I had never had much opportunity to play. I remember kids made fun of me — ‘Oh, you can’t run and chew gun at the same time.’ But I just really wanted to play," he said.

Along with his brothers, they played 2-on-2 games in their driveway until midnight, night after night, and his skill level wasn’t the only thing growing.

"We played a lot of basketball and so that summer I got better ... and I was 6-3 already by then," he said.

And he started climbing up the depth chart.

"By my ninth-grade year I was kind of one of the starting players. ... We had a really good team and we scored a lot of points," Killion said.

In 1973, they had one of the best years in KHS history. Killion, Steve Curtiss and Tom Spongberg all broke Tom Heller’s single-season scoring record. They earned a trip to the state tournament, Kearney’s second since 1944, and became the first to win a state tournament game since 1939 when they defeated Omaha Benson 79-51. Lincoln Northeast snuffed their state title hopes in the second round, 61-50.

"We really thought we had a good chance to win the state tournament. We went down there and beat the Omaha Benson Bunnies and we just slaughtered them. ... But the very next day we had to play our nemesis, which is Lincoln Northeast. Old Ed Johnson, he was a great coach and had been there a lot of years, he was a sharp coach he knew what he was doing," Killion said. "Northeast won their next game pretty handily so I think if we could have gotten by them, we probably would have won state."

After high school, Killion had recruiting interest from Nebraska and Missouri.

"I almost went to Nebraska ... I went there and there was just something that didn’t feel right," Killion said.

His up-tempo desires clashed with Husker coach Joe Cipriano’s deliberate style of play.

"I just didn’t like that style and I liked Coach (Jerry) Hueser’s style. I mean it was more freelance, more run-and-gun. It worked well."

Before he made his final decision, legendary Kearney State College coach Charlie Foster, a friend of the family, advised him that he could stay at home and contribute right away to a Loper basketball team that was on the rise.

Killion started as a freshman thanks to an injury to Tom Kropp during the football season.

"I took his place the first few games and I never looked back. I started every game of my career, 109 of them. Never missed one. I was sick a couple of them but I still went and tried to play," he said.

Kropp and Killion would be forever linked. They provided the fuse for what would become a basketball dynasty at Kearney State.

The Lopers went to the national tournament Killion’s sophomore year (1975), and he believes they should have qualified the next two years but couldn’t get over the hump. The following year, the Lopers were the national runner-up and started a streak of 10 straight years in the NAIA National Tournament.

But Killion had made his mark with 2,100 points, a record that would stand until Erik Strand broke it in 1999. The same year, Tanner Engel broke his Kearney High single-season scoring record.

Both players were able to take advantage of the 3-point line while rewriting the record book. Killion said his scoring totals at Kearney High wouldn’t have changed that much because he played more like a center. College would have been different.

"Coach Hueser moved me out to forward when I was a sophomore. He saw I had a nice touch outside and had the ability to do that. That’s why I wish we had the 3-pointer. I don’t know what year that came in but that years after I was gone. I was done playing overseas before we had that, too," he said.

Killion’s college career didn’t end at Kearney State. Canada had a fifth-year rule and Killion played there, leading that league in scoring.

From there, he earned a tryout with the New Orleans Jazz. However, the ABA had just folded, the NBA was about to roll back its rosters. New Orleans had 14 players and 12 had no-cut contracts. There wasn’t room for a free agent out of Canada.

But Europe had room, and Killion landed in Belgium.

"I played there one year ... and I was the leading scorer in the country of Belgium. I averaged around 32 points a game there," Killion said.

The next year, Killion brought Kropp with him, even though he might have undersold Kropp to the team management.

"I kind of misrepresented my meters at that time because I thought he was a 2-meter (tall) guy but he wasn’t. They were a little nervous, but after they saw him play for a while we were fine," Killion said. "We would go and play our first games and these exhibitions, we went to Germany and Holland and different places and they didn’t know who the Americans were. They didn’t pick Tom and I out as the Americans until after the ball went up and then they realize he was shooting one side and I’m shooting the other and we’re both scoring 25-30 points a game. They figured it out pretty fast."

Killion went on to play two more years in Belgium, then decided it was time to get involved in the family business, Killion Motors. His stay at home didn’t last long. Two weeks after coming home — and bringing his future wife, Maggie, home with him — he was asked to play in Australia.

"The funny part is, on the way home from Belgium I had told her, I’ve been blessed. God’s been good to me. There’s one more thing I wish I could have done. ... I always heard it had been fun to play in Australia. It was amazing because here, like less than two weeks later, the guy comes in and asked me to do that," he said.

He didn’t hesitate. He played there. He got engaged there. Went to Belgium to get married then came home to settle down.

"She’s the best thing that happened to me. She’s my souvenir. I brought home a good souvenir. ... This October we’ve been married 38 years. We have two great kids and so that’s the best thing that happened," he said.

Keith and Kim joined the family and grew up to have children of their own. Kim, and her husband Clint McQuiston, live in Oxford and have two girls, ages 9 and 6. Keith and his wife Jenny, have a son, age 3.

"They’re what’s keeping me from playing as much basketball nowadays, too, because I love to spend time with them," Loren said.

After selling Killion Motors in 2014, Killion had more free time to travel and play basketball. He found out he hadn’t lost his shooting touch.

"I can still really score. I’m a good shooter so that’s why these teams all pick me up. ... It’s the same old adage when I was in college — put a small guy on me and I can just shoot over him, they put a bigger guy on me and I can still go around them. I’m not as quick as I used to be but those guys aren’t either so I can still, if I want to, take you to the basket," he said. "I figure if I can still run up and down the court and outscore some of those young guys and not let them embarrass me, I’ll play until I’m 70."

@HubSports_Buck