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For Hoops Classic, friends Tanner Hudson and Andy Kerkman will be foes

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For Hoops Classic, friends will be foes

Thanks to his AAU basketball team, Tanner Hudson was able to strike up a friendship last summer with Andy Kerkman.

Now the former Omaha Sports Academy teammates get the chance to square off this weekend.

“I have not played against him in a high school game, so that will be pretty fun,” said Hudson, a senior standout at Riverside High in Cedar Rapids, Nebraska. “It should be pretty fun to play against him and see how it goes.”

Hudson and Riverside, which is ranked second in Class D-2, will face Kerkman and Clearwater-Orchard at 10:45 a.m. at Saturday’s Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island.

Hudson and Kerkman live about an hour apart, so they drove together to practices in Omaha or to games over the summer. This winter, both are putting up big numbers for their teams.

Hudson, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound wing, averages 20.5 points and 7.4 rebounds for Riverside, a combination of the former Cedar Rapids and Spalding High Schools. The 6-8 Kerkman averages 20.8 points and 14.6 rebounds. Kerkman, who committed to Augustana, has had double-doubles in 19 of 20 games for 13-7 Clearwater-Orchard.

“Their record is kind of deceiving,” Riverside coach Joe Imus said. “They’re going to be one of the better teams we’ll play all year, and being close to district time, it’s only going to help us out.”

Riverside is 16-2, with its only losses to Humphrey St. Francis, unbeaten and No. 1 in D-2. Riverside finished third at state last March, but Imus said his team is much more balanced this season.

Last season, Imus said, the Charger offense relied heavily on Hudson, who averaged 25.1 points. “Overall, we’re a better offensive team than we were a year ago,” the coach said. “Tanner isn’t having a worse year. His teammates are kind of picking it up more this year.”

Besides Hudson, Riverside is getting 15.2 points from Noah Valasek, 9.4 from Riley Swerczek and 8.6 from Jake Kennedy.

Hudson leads the team in scoring, rebounding and 3-pointers made with 43. He has hit 14 3s in the last four games, and he’s also had his two highest-scoring games of the season in the past week, scoring 32 against Nebraska Christian and 30 against Ansley-Litchfield.

“My shooting has picked up a lot since last year,” Hudson said. “I’ve become more of a balanced player instead of just attacking the paint.”

Imus said Hudson’s ability to slash into the lane is his strength. He can drive and score or kick it out to open teammates if the defense sags on him.

“Tanner’s played a lot of basketball, so his IQ is pretty high,” Imus said. “He understands what it is and why it is.”

Imus also coached Hudson in football as Riverside won the six-man state title. Hudson was an all-state offensive end the past two seasons.

But he said he’s looking to play basketball in college. He said a lot of the state’s NAIA programs have shown interest.

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