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Daily Globe All-Area Boys Basketball Team, 2014

The first-team 2014 Daily Globe All-Area Boys Basketball Team. To see the second team and the third team, plus honorable mentions, see the April 5 print edition. 

Jon Harmening, 6-5 senior center, Jackson County Central

It’s a rare sign of proficiency for a high school basketball player to score 1,000 points in a career. But how rare is it for the same athlete to pull in 1,000 rebounds, too?

Rare, indeed.

Harmening is one such rare individual. The Jackson County Central senior surpassed both marks during the 2013-14 campaign. He didn’t have very far to go to surpass the thousand-point mark after his junior season, which put him at 996. He had farther to go to surpass a thousand rebounds (he was already JCC’s all-time leading rebounder with 724 heading into his final season), but he accomplished that feat, too, with room to spare.

The lanky post player, who was a second-team All-Area pick in 2013, finished his prep career with 1,535 points and 1,078 rebounds — both school records.

The three-time All-Southwest Conference selection helped the Huskies to a 17-10 record in his final year. He’s not flashy. He just goes about his business.

His coach, Trent Sukalski, describes him as a first-class individual.

“He’s been a tremendous asset to our program. I started him in January as a freshman. He immediately brought an inside presence to our team, even as a freshman,” Sukalski said.

A hard worker with a great team-first attitude. Smooth around the basket. Able to do anything you ask of a player near the basket. Mostly led by example, but was always willing to speak up when the moment called for it.

As a senior, Harmening scored 539 points for a 19.9 points per game average. His 354 rebounds broke down to 13.1 per game. He also had 42 assists, 52 steals and 22 blocks.

Leighton Sampson, 6-5 senior center, Southwest Christian

For two seasons, Leighton Sampson toiled as a dependable and powerful force for the Southwest Christian Eagles. Hard to believe he saw only limited varsity action as a sophomore.

As a junior, he averaged 16.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 shot blocks per game, but it was at the state tournament where he made all of Minnesota take notice, scoring 72 points with 22 rebounds as the Eagles flew to the state Class A championship.

As a senior, Sampson averaged 21.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game for a team that posted a 25-3 record. He converted 61 percent of his field goal attempts and 72 percent of his free throws. And, just for good measure, he averaged 1.4 assists and 1.6 steals per outing.

His coach, Jamie Pap, said Sampson was “better at everything” in his senior year because he became physically stronger.

The 6-5 post player was certainly a sight to behold. Few big men could match his power moves around the basket, his soft and accurate shooting touch, and his workmanlike rebounding skills. He also showed excellence as a passer and ran the floor extremely well. When, after the season had been wrapped up, Pap was asked if there’s anything Sampson doesn’t do well, he was predictably at a loss.

“I’m trying to think … I don’t know,” he said.

The repeat All-Area first team performer led the Red Rock Conference in his senior season in blocked shots. He was No. 2 in scoring, No. 3 in field goal percentage and No. 5 in free throw percentage.

Sampson will play basketball next season at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Carter Kirk, 6-7 senior center, Mountain Lake Area

For four years, Carter Kirk threw his weight around within the Red Rock Conference and throughout southwest Minnesota. And when Carter Kirk throws his weight around, it is an impressive sight to behold. The four-time All-Red Rock selection and two time first-team All-Area pick has compiled numbers that few high school basketball players can even dream about.

Kirk is the all-time school leader in points scored (2,150), rebounds (1,307) and blocks (228) and he is third in assists, with 315.

In his senior campaign, the Wolverines’ big man scored 499 points (19.2 per game) in leading his team to a 24-3 record. He hit 210 of 366 field goals for a 57.4 percent accuracy rate and pulled down 340 rebounds for 13.1 per contest. He also dished out 104 assists and added 36 steals and 58 blocks.

He has averaged no worse than 14.9 points per game, with 9.2 rebounds per game, each season dating back to his ninth-grade year.

“In the games that he has played, we have 90 wins in his four years,” said his coach, Shawn Naas. “Very intense kid. Very competitive kid. When he was a young kid, he was almost uncontrollable, but over the years he has matured.”

During his maturation process, Kirk learned that it wasn’t good enough to rely only on his natural size and athletic ability. He learned the value of hard work.

He is a Class A Academic All-State selection and participant in the Minnesota Coaches Association All-Star Series.

Kirk will take his basketball talents with him to Southwest Minnesota State University-Marshall.

Marcus Potter, 6-0 senior guard, Worthington

The kind of basketball player who is best destined for success is the kind of player who doesn’t need to rely too much on others. Surely, basketball is a team game. But players who know how to create — for themselves and for their teammates — can be productive in so many different ways.

Worthington Trojans guard Marcus Potter was one of those players during the 2013-14 boys basketball campaign. He shot the outside jumper. He passed. He rebounded. He made steals. He penetrated into the smallest of openings. He played defense.

Potter, in short, made things happen for the 9-15 Trojans.

“Marcus, he really made us go. He really put us on his shoulders. He made the players around him better. They started playing better when he started playing better,” said WHS head coach Jared Keaveny.

The 2013-14 campaign was, overall, a frustrating one for the Trojans, who lost many close games despite displaying an undeniable athleticism. But the season was salvaged, more or less, when the sixth-seeded Trojans upset third-seeded Willmar with a 55-point outburst in the second half of their first Section 2AAA game. Potter was one of the keys to victory, and he led the squad in the next game — a spirited loss to Mankato West.

As a senior, Potter scored 357 points for a 14.9 per game average while hitting 44 percent of his field goal attempts. He’s a 70 percent free throw shooter who contributed 5.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. He made 40 steals.

Keaveny said what other teams found out the hard way: “He does a lot of things really well, to the point where it’s tough to guard him.”

Dylan Gehrke, 6-0 senior guard, Hills-Beaver Creek

“Versatile” is the word basketball fans often use to describe Dylan Gehrke, who led the Patriots emotionally, and on the court during the 2013-14 boys basketball season.

Statistics tell only part of the story. Gehrke led the Red Rock Conference in scoring with a 20.9 points per game average. He ranked second in free throw percentage, sixth in rebounds, eighth in three-point field goal percentage, 12th in steals, 14th in blocked shots and 15th in assists.

His leadership revealed itself in many ways. When the first half buzzer sounded during games, he was usually the first player at the door to the locker room. And he would stay at the door to encourage his teammates one by one as they entered. Then he was the last one to go through the door.

“Dylan led us in almost all categories, but the thing about him is that his leadership was so valuable. He was kind of a coach’s dream in that aspect of the game,” said his head coach, Steve Wiertzema.

In 23 games as a senior (H-BC finished 11-12 in 2013-14), Gehrke scored 465 points while hitting 44 percent of his shots from two-point range and 32 percent beyond the arc. He was an outstanding 110 for 130 (85 percent) from the free throw line and dished out 2.3 assists per outing.

As a senior, Gehrke was asked to do more, especially in the rebounding area because the Patriots as a team were a little on the short side. So Gehrke, despite the fact that he’s not a tall player himself, grabbed 189 boards for an 8.2 per-game average — up from five rebounds per game during his junior campaign.

For his career, Gehrke has 1,297 points for a 17.3 per-game average.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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