Austin trio hits AAU circuit

Published 8:10 pm Friday, July 29, 2011

Austin basketball players Zach Wessels, front, Tom Aase and Joe Aase have been tearing up the summer ball courts in several tournaments this summer. -- Eric Johnson/

It wasn’t exactly summer school, but you might say an Austin trio of boys basketball players received an education over the past two months.

Besides logging in time for their high school team in the summer league, cousins Joe Aase and Tom Aase, and Zach Wessels all played on the Minnesota Fury, a U16 AAU team based out of Bloomington, Minn.

Tom Aase, Zach Wessels, and Joe Aase have played in Las Vegas, Chicago and Kansas with the Minnesota Fury this summer. -- photo submitted

Tom Aase, Zach Wessels and Joe Aase played in Las Vegas, Chicago and Kansas while playing for the Minnesota Fury this summer. -- photo submitted

The Fury finished 42-8 overall, while winning three of the nine tournaments they played in. The boys from Austin got to play in Chicago, Las Vegas and Kansas and they also played in front of plenty of college basketball coaches —including Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.

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“I’m sitting in the lane for a free throw and Roy Williams walks in. That was kind of crazy,” Joe, a center who will be a junior this fall, said. “It’s a lot more competition to play against. You’re going against the best players, but you get over it pretty fast. When you get into the gym and your teammate tells you you’re up against a guy that’s ranked seventh in the nation, it’s a little bit (tough).”

Playing on the Fury saw the trio give up a lot of their free time in the summer. When they weren’t traveling across the country to play in a tournament, they were driving up to the Twin Cities for practice twice a week.

While the team played against players who are mostly 16 years old, Wessels, who is a 15-year old point guard and will be a sophomore next year, moved up a level to play with his Packer teammates.

“I think I picked it up pretty quick, but it can be kind of intimidating. Once I’m on the court, I’m fine,” said Wessels.

The rest of the team was made of mostly players from the metro area, but the three Austin players still got plenty of court time together.

“It builds chemistry and it was all worth it,” Tom, a forward who will be a junior this fall, said. “When you’re playing the best, it makes it a lot more fun.”

Each Austin player had something specific they wanted to work on over the summer and all of them our pretty pleased with the additions to their game.

Wessels, who was already strong at penetrating to the hoop, worked on fixing his jump shot form, Tom, who excels on rebounding and defense, worked on his shooting and ball handling, and Joe worked to add a strong post game to compliment his solid outside shot.

“I wanted to get faster and stronger,” Joe said. “I was also working more on my low post game, it’s a work in progress, but it’s getting there.”

All three players are willing to put up with long travel hours where they wouldn’t get home from practice until 11 p.m. They can live with the long weekends on the road because they’re all looking to play college basketball.

There are usually college coaches or scouts at AAU games and it’s a good way for players to get noticed. Joe, who will be a junior this fall, has already been contacted by Division I schools Northern Iowa and Bucknell, so he has plenty of motivation to keep trying to improve.

“Practice for basketball is just like playing. If you like to play basketball, you should like to practice,” Joe said.

Along with playing for the Fury, the three also chipped in on Austin’s summer team, which played in two tournaments in Iowa, and a tournament in St. Paul.

“It’s getting to the point now where you have to play in the summer if you want to be successful,” Austin head coach Kris Fadness said.

Austin beat Waukee Iowa, a state caliber team, by 20 points and it topped Howard-Pulley’s 16 and under AAU team. Howard-Pulley is one of the top AAU programs in the state.

But the biggest accomplishment for Austin’s summer team is when it won the Mankato Breakdown Tournament without Wessels and the Aase’s.

“That was big because it shows we have some depth,” Fadness said.

Austin’s Bret Lukes, who will be a sophomore this fall, also played AAU basketball over the summer.