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Austin’s Gunderson will play at St. Olaf next year

Connor Gunderson has carried the scoring load for the Austin basketball team the past two seasons, and now he’s taking his jump shot to St. Olaf University.

Gunderson, a senior, recently verbally committed to St. Olaf, a Division III school.

“I think I fit in better there, at the Division III level, and if I work hard this summer I have a chance to play right away,” Gunderson said. “The academics stood out there and academics come first over basketball.”

While the Oles do not offer athletic scholarships, Gunderson, who was on the All-State Academic Team, will receive some academic scholarships.

Gunderson is already aquatinted with many of his future teammates as he has been driving up to the St. Olaf campus in Northfield to play open gym and he’s known the coaching staff since two years ago, when they started going to his games.

“They got to know me since day one and they’ve been to almost half of my games,” he said. “They’re a big reason why I’m going there.”

Gunderson, who averaged 18.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while earning All Big Nine honors for the Packers this past winter, heard from some Division I schools over the summer and Division II Southwest Division State in Marshall wanted him to walk on, but the atmosphere of St. Olaf, which has an enrollment of 3,000, helped him make his decision.

“It’s beautiful. I like the hills and it’s bigger than I expected,” Gunderson said. “I’m going to like it, I know that.”

While Gunderson, a 6-foot, five-inch forward, improved throughout his high school career by working hard in the offseason, he’ll most likely spend another summer working on his skills.

“When basketball season is done, that’s when it’s time to work on your game,” Gunderson said. “Next year I’ve got to get stronger and I’ve got to attack the basket better.”

Austin head coach Kris Fadness thinks that Gunderson will make the necessary adjustments to be a fine college player.

“His game has grown every year and will continue to grow as he gets older with more physical maturity,” Fadness said. “He will be a tremendous addition to St. Olaf’s basketball program. I feel strongly that this will be a good fit for him, his offensive talents may allow him to help the Oles right away as a freshmen.”

Gunderson put an exclamation point on his high school basketball career when he played in the Minnesota High School basketball coach’s association All-Star Series recently.

Gunderson’s squad won both games and he scored 15 points in a 108-97 win for his team in its first game and three points in the second game.

“It was one of the best weekends I’ve had this whole year. It was a lot of eating, practicing and hanging out,” Gunderson said. “I met pretty much all 40 of the guys there and it will be fun keeping tabs on them now. A lot of them are Division I players.”

While Gunderson enjoyed some of the process of choosing a school, he’s glad his future is set and now he can focus on playing the game again.

“It’s exciting and it was cool getting a lot of phone calls,” he said. “But I’m kind of glad now that it’s over because it was kind of stressful. I had to worry about playing good (every night). Now it’s over and it feels good.”

Gunderson said he wanted to thank all of his former coaches and teammates for helping him improve on the basketball court.

Fadness said he plans on following Gunderson’s career at the next level.

“Connor has been a model student athlete,” he said. “Connor has also been a great role model for the younger kids in Austin. Hopefully they will aspire to be good student-athletes who want to be good enough to play at the college level.”