Sunday, December 5, 2021
NRHEG freshman guard Daxter Lee (3) tries to drive past Blooming Prairie forward Mitchell Fiebiger. Lee led the Panthers with 16 points, but it wasn’t enough; the Awesome Blossoms won 63-60. Even though he’s guarded by two Blooming Prairie defenders, Lee made his offensive penetration count by scoring, which tied the game at 38-38. Despite going 5-13 this season, he and Coach Lundberg believe the Panthers’ future is bright due to the play of Lee, who led the team with an average of about 15 points per game, and most of their varsity team is coming back next season.

A freshman rarity

Lee leads Panthers in scoring, looks ahead to bright future

New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (NRHEG) boys basketball Head Coach Isaiah Lundberg believes his team can be a top three team in its subsection next season.

A big reason for his optimism is the play of freshman guard Daxter Lee, who was the Panthers’ leading scorer with an average of approximately 15 points per game this past season.

Lundberg noted that it’s rare to have someone that young be the team’s leading scorer.

“This is my third year as head coach, and I’ve never [before] had a freshman be the leading scorer. Even back when we had Oakley Baker, he wasn’t even our leading scorer as a freshman,” he said. “Granted we don’t score a lot, but still, it’s not something that’s very common at least in our boys' program. It’s very uncommon actually for an eighth-grader or ninth-grader to even play on varsity in our boys' program.”

Lee said being the youngest player on the varsity team is kind of cool, but he tries not to think about the age difference.

“I kind of think that we’re all the same age. He’s the same grade as me and I just want to be better than him,” he said.

He added that becoming the NRHEG’s leading scorer was never one of his goals. He just wants to do whatever he can to get some wins for the Panthers.

And when he says he wants to do whatever he can to get some wins, he means it. Lundberg once saw Lee in the gym working on his shooting after a game he’d just played in.

“I’ve never had a kid work that hard after a game or stay after practice as much as he does to shoot and work on his game,” he said.

When asked how long he practiced after the game, Lee said he doesn’t go by time.

“I go by shots made. Normally, I’ll get roughly 150 to 170 shots made after practice or after the game,” he said.

Lee explained that what motivates him to put up that many shots, even after a long game, is knowing that that hard work will help himself and his team in the long run.

“If I want to better than somebody else, then I try to outwork them,” he said. “You might be more athletic than me, but I can’t let them outwork me.”

For Lee, it doesn’t matter when that hard work happens.

“It’s whenever I feel like I can do more. If I can do more, then I want to do more. When I feel like I can get better at any time of the day then I just want to do that,” he said. “I just want to be the best player I can be. I think if I just work hard every day, day in and day out, then I can do it.”

That hard work is already paying dividends.

“My shooting and decision-making have improved. I’m so much less eager to try to force things and do everything right. I try to play loose, but still play focused and hard,” he said.

Lundberg noted that Lee could further elevate his game this offseason by getting stronger so he can take more contact getting to the rim and finish through it, developing his left hand and working on defending without fouling.

Lee agreed, adding that he wants to commit less turnovers, dish out more assists and improve his shooting percentages next season.

 

“I definitely think that I can be 40% three-pointer shooter and an 80% free throw shooter,” he said.

In addition to improving his shooting percentages, Lundberg hopes to see Lee step up and be one of the Panthers’ leaders next season.

“He’ll have obviously enough experience. He’ll have the same amount of experience as everybody else playing varsity,” he said. “He’s got that opportunity to be a leader and let people follow him.”

Lee mentioned that he’ll try to be more of a leader by looking on the positive side more, being more vocal and giving advice to the younger players so when they join varsity, they’re ready to go.

With the benefit of taking on more of a leadership role and continuing to work on his game, Lee agrees with Lundberg’s prediction that the Panthers can be a top team in their conference and subsection.

“Isaiah [Lundberg] tells us every day that we can probably be one of the best teams right now and I believe everything he says,” he said. “If we just play hard and keep working hard, then I think it can happen.”

 

 

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