CEDAR FALLS – Playing college ball just 20 minutes from where he grew up, it could be argued every home game is essentially a homecoming for University of Northern Iowa forward Klint Carlson.
But while the Waverly native's friends and family have generally had easy access to his collegiate games, they haven't gotten the chance to see him go up against his actual hometown team.
That all changes today, as the 1-1 Panthers welcome nearby Wartburg College to the McLeod Center at 7 p.m.
Though he never played for the Knights, Carlson still has deep ties to the program, particularly with its athletics facility. Known locally as "The W," the Wartburg-Waverly Sports and Wellness Center served as the primary place where Carlson molded his game coming up through the prep ranks.
"Growing up I was at Wartburg a lot at the W," he said. "Working out, shooting, I was pretty much there all day every day if I had the chance. It's going to be cool to play them knowing they're from my hometown. It will be fun."
The fifth-year senior has a strong relationship with Knights' assistant coach Jason Steege, as well. The cousin of Carlson's high school coach Nate Steege, Jason is neighbors with Mike and Lori Carlson, Klint's parents.
The game also serves as a reunion of sorts for other Waverly natives.
UNI freshman and fellow W-SR alum Austin Phyfe will face off with former Go-Hawk teammate Camry Moore, a sophomore guard for the Knights. Wartburg junior center Collin Werkman is also from Waverly.
Aside from the local connections, Wartburg coach Dick Peth says there's a great deal of familiarity throughout each roster that will add an additional layer of fun to the proceedings.
"Both of us have a lot of Iowa players (and) so many of these guys played against one another on the AAU circuit or maybe in their high school days," Peth said.
The veteran Wartburg head man is also excited to see his team open its season against a Division I opponent. After making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001 -- ending in a trip to the Sweet 16 -- the Knights return two double-digit scorers from an offense that averaged just under 85 points per game a season ago.
Panther coach Ben Jacobson also sees the value in playing such games, believing it will be an enjoyable experience for both fan bases.
"I've always liked to play those games," Jacobson said. "I think our fans have enjoyed it. I think it's been a good game for the community that way."
FRUSTRATION BUILDING FOR LOHAUS: After taking a medical redshirt following an ankle injury last season, Wyatt Lohaus' hopes of coming back strong have thus far been dashed by yet another injury.
Lohaus remains in a walking shoe with a persistent toe injury, with no timetable set for his return. And while frustration is mounting in the junior guard, Jacobson, despite his own eagerness to see him return, has no plans to rush Lohaus back to action.
"For him, it's frustrating because he was in such great shape and he was practicing so well. Last year, you miss an entire season, you got yourself so ready to play," Jacobson said. "(But) he'll be back when he's healthy and ready to play. That isn't something, at this point or any point with any of our guys that we're going to push or talk to them about. He'll be back when he's healthy and he's ready."