Lots of talent to spare
Ironwood’s Border Bash to include many of best players from U.P., northern Wisconsin
By JASON JUNO
Ironwood Daily Globe
IRONWOOD — Where can you find three members of the three-time defending state champion North Central boys basketball team, the entire All-Upper Peninsula boys Dream Team and Wisconsin’s leading boys basketball scorer?
They’re all coming to Ironwood for the fourth annual Border Bash all-star boys and girls basketball games to be held at Gogebic Community College on Wednesday, June 7.
The contests pit the top seniors in the U.P. against the top talent from northern Wisconsin.
The U.P. contingent will include four area players — Trent Bell and Dre Tuominen of Negaunee in the boys game and Bailey Froberg of L’Anse and Carsyn Osterman of Baraga in the girls.
This is a separate game from the U.P. All Star game to be held several weeks later that pits U.P. players against each other.
Both games, though, only includes seniors — or by the time the games are played — recent graduates due to MHSAA eligibility rules.
While the U.P. will certainly have its share of talent at the Border Bash, so will Wisconsin, with an NCAA Division I-bound player from Ripon and three all-state girls, one of them a 2,000-point scorer.
“I think this year there’s going to be more talent on the floor than any of the previous three,” organizer Russ Maki said. “There’s a lot of all-state players. You have the three from North Central. It’s going to be quite the deal.”
Here’s a preview of the players in each game:
Jason Whitens, Dawson Bilski and Bobby Kleiman led North Central to a state-record 83 straight victories — a string that hasn’t ended yet — while carting off the past three MHSAA Class D state championships.
“This happens once every 100 years, so why not invite all three of them?” Maki said.
“I talked to their coach, Adam Mercier, he said they’re pumped.”
Whitens and Bilski were named U.P. co-players of the year in Class D in April. Whitens had planned to sign his national letter of intent last week to play for Division I Western Michigan University, which offered him a full-ride scholarship.
He finished his high school career with 2,062 points, good for fifth on the U.P. all-time scoring list.
Bilski is planning to play for Division II Michigan Tech.
Whitens and Bilski both made the all-class All-U.P. Dream Team. Joining them in Ironwood will be the rest of the five-person Dream Team — Bell, Tuominen and Iron Mountain’s Carson Wonders.
Bell is an MTU recruit while Wonders will play at Northern Michigan University. Tuominen is going to Bay de Noc Community College, which is restarting its basketball program this fall.
“It was a pretty special year in boys U.P. hoops this year,” said the team’s coach, Brad Besonen, of Ewen-Trout Creek. “To get the cream of the crop should be fun.”
The Wisconsin group will be no easy foe for Northern Michigan.
They have the leading scorer in Wisconsin for the 2016-17 season, Washburn’s Trevor Cook. He averaged 35.2 points per game and was selected to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association all-state team.
They also have Bennett Vander Plas, a 6-foot-8 center from Ripon.
He was the only unanimous selection to the WBCA Division 3 All-State team.
He plans to play at Division I Ohio University on a basketball scholarship. Vander Plas averaged 19.5 points, 12.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
Three other players are 6-4, including all-stater Eddie Muench of Ripon.
U.P. Class ABC Player of the Year Jordan Kraemer of Norway headlines the Northern Michigan girls team.
She is Norway’s all-time leading scorer with 1,384 points and the first Knights player to ever win that peninsula-wide honor.
The team also includes Froberg, a Gogebic Community College signee, and Osterman, the Copper Mountain Conference Player of the Year who is signed to play at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Osterman was a unanimous pick on the All-U.P. Class D First Team.
Joining the group will be North Central’s Allisa Willa, who has signed on to play at NMU.
Headlining the Northern Wisconsin team is Northland Pines’ Lexi Smith. Also an NMU recruit, Smith finished her high school career with 2,081 points, ranking 12th all-time in Wisconsin. The 5-10 senior was a Fourth Team selection on the all-class Associated Press all-state team.
“There are better overall players in the state, but none are better pure scorers,” Mosinee coach Tom McCarty told the Wausau Daily Herald. “Her numbers are even more impressive when you consider she gets every team’s full attention.”
Smith was the fourth leading scorer in Wisconsin at 25.4 points per game and included a 48-point game against West Iron County.