Austin's Bret Lukes, from left, Ajuda Nywesh and Zach Wessels begin celeberating after the Packers' overtime win against Red Wing in the Section 1AAA championship last season at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Austin's Bret Lukes, from left, Ajuda Nywesh and Zach Wessels begin celeberating after the Packers' overtime win against Red Wing in the Section 1AAA championship last season at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

Triple threat: Packer guards are stepping up their game

Published 7:47am Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Packers have a luxury that most high school boys basketball teams in the state could only wish for — they have three guards who can consistently drive to the hoop, shoot from the outside and create offense for their teammates.

Austin's Ajuda Nywesh hits on a baseline lay-up against Mankato West in the first half Thursday night in Packer Gym. Herald File Photo
Austin’s Ajuda Nywesh hits on a baseline lay-up against Mankato West in the first half Thursday night in Packer Gym. Herald File Photo

The Packers’ backcourt of seniors Zach Wessels, Bret Lukes and Ajuda Nywesh doesn’t just produce on the offensive end of the court either. All three provide constant pressure on the defensive side of the ball as they lead a Packer defense that specializes in taking the ball away and turning those turnovers into easy points.

Austin head coach Kris Fadness said his guards make his job easy most of the time.

“You don’t have to do a whole lot,” Fadness said. “Every game I can count on a few things. We’re going to control tempo, the other team is going to turn it over more than we are, and we’re going to get good shots for the most part.”

The Austin backcourt would be dangerous for any team to deal with based on their talent alone. But the group is even more effective because they play so well together. They don’t care who is doing the scoring, as long as the team is winning. Wessels is averaging 15 points per game, Lukes is averaging 14.9 points and Nywesh is averaging 11 points. All three have been Austin’s leading scorer in at least one game this season.

Wessels, Lukes and Nywesh started playing together in fifth grade, and they’ve been a part of a lot of winning teams since then. The Packers have won back-to-back Big Nine titles and the team has played in the last two Class ‘AAA’ state tournaments.

Austin's Bret Lukes is fouled by The Blake School's Blaine Crawford during the second half of their game in the Class AAA quarterfinals of Minnesota State Boys Basketball Tournament Wednesday at Williams Arena. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Austin’s Bret Lukes is fouled by The Blake School’s Blaine Crawford during the second half of their game in the Class AAA quarterfinals of Minnesota State Boys Basketball Tournament last season at Williams Arena. Herald File Photo

Playing together in some tough gyms and big games have brought the trio closer together over the years.

“Our talents have come together well,” Wessels said.

Wessels is the primary play-maker at point guard, but Lukes and Nywesh are plenty capable of making plays off the dribble, as well. If an opposing coach tries to focus on one of the guards, the guard who is drawing defensive attention is more than willing to take a backseat and let his teammates do the damage.

“Sometimes you hear [opposing] coaches calling out names, but we just keep playing and find the open man,” Lukes said. “We just trust each other. No matter what happens, we’re going to be there for each other.”

The Packers (7-1 overall) are ranked No. 5 in Class ‘AAA’ and they’ve already notched victories over No. 3 Red Wing and No. 8 Mankato West. Austin is off to a promising start, but the team is not about to start looking ahead.

“We just play,” Nywesh said. “We’re going to give it all we’ve got every game.”

Some teams may have been expecting the Packers to take a step back after Tom Aase and Joe Aase graduated, but the Packers have held firm this season as they look to be one of the top teams in the Big Nine again. Wessels, Nywesh and Lukes are also hoping to have one more chance to play in the state tournament.

Lukes said nerves really aren’t a factor for a team that has played in as many big games as the Packers have in the past two years.

“We’ve got two years of state under our belt, so there’s not too many nerves,” he said. “We’ve been everywhere.”

Fadness knows how lucky he is to have three standout guards on one team, and the trio certainly makes his job easier.

“You couldn’t ask for more,” Fadness said. “Hopefully we can find places for them all to play next year [in college] if that’s what they want to do.”

The Packers will play in the Warrior Classic at Winona State University Friday and Saturday.

Austin's Zach Wessels spins to the basket on Mankato West's Josh Athey during the second half last season in Packer Gym. -- Herald file photo
Austin’s Zach Wessels spins to the basket on Mankato West’s Josh Athey during the second half last season in Packer Gym. — Herald file photo

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