I was a basketball player in high school and college.
While my profession allows me to cover high school basketball, covering it doesn’t make me miss it any less.
On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to attend the Wayzata-Hopkins section final game at Osseo High School, where my sister went to school.
It was the first Wayzata basketball game I had seen in quite some time. I think at least three years?
When I played, our team was pretty good. My senior year, I believe we won 23 games. We lost to Hopkins in the section final when the Royals had six Division I players on the squad and five in the starting lineup. We lost the section final by 20 points, and the Royals didn’t lose a game all season, en route to state championship.
For the few years after I graduated, Wayzata basketball took a big step backward. The team wasn’t very competitive in the conference or section.
I kind of stopped following it.
But in 2014, St. Thomas University graduate and former basketball player Bryan Schnettler took over for my former assistant coach, Nick Tibesar.
Schnettler was a great player at St. Thomas and he brought a winning culture and attitude to Wayzata basketball. Honestly, it was something the program never had. It was coached by good coaches, but the winning culture wasn’t there.
When I was in high school, the best athletes didn’t play basketball. Those guys played other sports. Now, after watching Wayzata beat Hopkins for the third time in the last year, I think it’s safe to say some of the better athletes at Wayzata are playing basketball.
The coolest thing about watching Wayzata-Hopkins was seeing Schnettler trust in his seniors, but also play the bench just as much as he would in the regular season. He started a sophomore point guard, Jacob Beeninga, and brought in another sophomore guard, Luke Paulson, who buried three 3’s in the 66-51 win.
The Trojans had just two players score in double-figures, but this team was so fun to watch. Between the youth and inexperience to watching the seniors close the deal on Wayzata’s hottest rival, it was great to be in a packed gym and have your team win. It was an absolute joy to watch that team play. The Trojans plays a fun brand of basketball — knocking down 3’s, hustling on defense and making big plays when it matters most.
Wayzata is slowly becoming a basketball school. Football will always come first. Wrestling will be popular, but Schnettler is turning around the culture.
I give the current players a lot of credit for bringing the program back to relevancy to great in a matter of three years. This team earned its first state tournament appearance in 59 years.
This team deserved it, and it will have a date with Lakeville North on Wednesday.
If Wayzata wants to be considered among the best teams in state — which I think it is — it needs to make statement in its first game on Wednesday.