Hulne: Packers have a winning pipeline

Published 7:58 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The trek from Austin across the border to North Dakota for basketball players is starting to become a trend and Austin senior and 1,000-point scorer Medi Obang will continue that pattern as he recently committed to play college basketball at Lake Region College in Devils Lake, N.D. next season.

Obang will be the sixth Packer to head to the MonDak Conference in the last five years. Ajuda Nywesh was All-Conference and All-Region at Lake Region, Gach Gach and Duoth Gach were All-Conference and All-Region at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, N.D. and Oman Oman and Moses Issa have also spent time with NDSCS as well.

Jared Marshall, who took over as head coach at Lake Region in Nywesh’s sophomore year, said he was glad to get Obang to commit to the Royals after watching the Gach’s, Oman and Issa head to the Wildcats, who won the MonDak Conference last season.

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“I think you have to give Austin coach Kris Fadness a lot of credit because he does a great job with his guys and prepares them to be successful in our league with his style of coaching,” Marshall said. “It is a constant recruiting battle between NDSCS and LRSC for those Austin kids and I don’t see it changing any time soon. There is a lot of talent coming up in Austin.”

Fadness, who played college basketball at Luther College for two years before getting into coaching, is getting to know Marshall and he’s happy Obang is headed to Lake Region, but he has known NDSCS head coach Stu Engen ever since the two were young up and coming coaches jumping from camp to camp trying to get their names out there.

Fadness had early dreams of coaching at the college level, but he eventually settled in at the high school level, where he has led the Packer to six state tournaments in the last eight years. Engen coached at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Moorhead State University before arriving at NDSCS.

“You make contacts, you build relationships and that’s what coaching is all about. You want to be able to feed (your players) to people that you trust,” Fadness said. “Stu was a heck of a player when he was young back in the mid 80s. He’s well traveled and he knows the game. I think Stu was a little upset he never got a shot at Ajuda, but Gach had a great two-year career (at NDSCS). For both of those guys it worked out really well. I like coach Marshall a lot too we’re developing a relationship as we go. I have great respect for those guys and I think they do right by kids to try and further their careers. The competition level is extremely good at those schools.”

From a players’ perspective, the attraction to heading out West is the lack of distractions. Devils Lake has a population of just over 7,000 and it is 500 miles from Austin and Wahpeton has a population of a little under 8,000 and it is 300 miles away from Austin. Both communities allow players to lock down and focus on books and basketball.

The move worked out for Nywesh and Gach as they each earned four-year scholarship offers after playing at the Junior College level and Duoth looks to be headed on that track as well. If the Austin-North Dakota pipeline continues, there may be quite a few more success stories in the future.