Moving past adversity; Austin freshman team overcame injuries to get to Great State

Published 11:33 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2016

After taking first place in the Pacesetter Minnesota state boys basketball tournament and fifth in the Great State tournament last season, the Austin ninth grade boys basketball team had high hopes headed into this summer.

Then the team lost two starters — Ngor Deng and Gavin Owens — to injuries and another player had to play with an injured thumb in the Pacesetter state tournament. That left Austin’s ninth-graders with just eight players left to play three games in one day.

Despite being shorthanded, Austin was able to win its first two games and after it lost the third contest, it took second and state and advanced to the Great State Tournament, where it will play in Target Center Saturday.

Email newsletter signup

Despite being shorthanded, Austin never made any excuses.

“We just kind of played through it and we didn’t think about [the injuries] much,” said Austin’s Jeremy Flores. “Most of those guys don’t get to play that much in our other games and it was nice for them to get the opportunity to show that they can also ball it up.”

Jeremy Flores controls the ball during a game Wednesday night at Ellis Middle School.

Jeremy Flores controls the ball during a game Wednesday night at Ellis Middle School.

Isaac Kenyon and Medi Obang were two of the players who stepped up in the Pacesetter tournament and they’re looking forward to playing in the Great State tournament. Kenyon said the team couldn’t worry about the players who were out with injuries, and they simply had to step up their game.

“I had to step up more for our team. We had the confidence to get there,” Kenyon said.

This may be the last weekend this particular group of players shares the court together as they will likely be split up onto different high school teams as they enter their sophomore year. The team has been playing together since they were fourth-graders and they’ve had a lot of success. They’ve also gotten to know each other very well.

“We see each other almost on a daily basis,” Flores said. “We really like being around each other and the guys on the basketball team are like my best friends.”

Eric Kossoris is the coach of the Austin ninth grade team and he said it’s been a solid group to work with.

“It’s a big accomplishment to get to Great State,” Kossoris said. “This is a really good team, they play well with each other, and they’re easy to coach. It speaks a lot to coach [Kris] Fadness developing an amazing program.”