Inspired by the latest landmark accomplishment likely happening at Fargo South on Friday, I've decided to unveil a notion that has been rattling around in my mind for a few months now. Over that time, as I've reached out to local high school coaches, I asked them a special question. Of the responses that I got to the question, Fargo North's head boys Basketball coach Ted Critchley had a great response:
"Players seem to be training more and more along with challenging themselves to travel in competition across the Midwest if not the United States. ECI started this process but now we have more AAU programs in the state which allows even more student-athletes to take part in this spring and summer competitive periods. I think this challenges players to go beyond their expectations and realities to become even better. I also think the high school coaches are providing more and more activities & opportunities to players which means that they are in the gym and being both intentional and purposeful in their actions which traditionally means significant improvement can be achieved. In summary, players seeking opportunities for their skills and increasing their competition while being given time and opportunity to get better is allowing for North Dakota to transform into an even better basketball state."
Players going on to high-level success from North Dakota is nothing new. Phil Jackson has roots here, Lute Olson as well, Jeff Boschee played at the University of Kansas, and on and on and on. Beyond Basketball, Tyler Roehl was a great running back from here in town, James Johannesson was off to the University of Minnesota before he transferred to UND and current senior Cole Hage is going to the Ivy League to play Baseball. Speaking of Baseball, Hage is just the latest in the lineage of Travis Hafner & Darin Erstad. That goes double for Matt Strahm and Andy Young, who are well into their pro Baseball careers but still aren't far removed from the Fargo area.
Point is, the lineage of exceptional sports coming from Fargo and North Dakota at large is longer and richer than many people realize. But I'm contending that we're in the best time yet and I think it will only keep getting better. I'm not going to pretend like I'm a psychic but when the boys from the undefeated, Babe Ruth champion Dirt Dawgs have grown up even more and focused in on the sports or activities that they're most passionate about, just think what they'll do?! Back to the beginning, the motivation for releasing this right now is that sophomore Adie Wagner from Fargo South is 1 point short of 1,000 while Kindred's star sophomore, Abby Duchscherer, continues to dominate all adversaries.
That's just a taste of the future but thinking of this year's senior class from the F/M/WF there's a haul of college athletes. Sheyenne has a couple set to play Football at NDSU, Moorhead has Seth Anderson who has been said to be five-star talented if he wasn't in Moorhead and he'll in North Fargo next year, Davies' Ty Satter will be a Bison Football player as well. Also from Davies, Grayson Haman is set to play Basketball at NDSU. And those are just the D1 players staying in town! I don't think I forgot any, but comment if I did.
While D2 & D3 are dismissed in much the same way that the FCS is dismissed by the FBS, there is a surging pipeline of players from the local high schools to Moorhead State, Concordia and many of the schools beyond the river border. I don't dismiss those levels of competition because I was nowhere near good enough to play at any of them and the same goes for many of my more talented high school cohorts. Yet the number of players from the 10 immediate area high schools going to the D2's & D3's is almost at an all-time high. I mentioned the future, but some of the production that the players are having will not repeated any time soon either. I mean, Karley Motschenbacher already surpassed 2,000 points at Park Christian this season. You best believe that's not going to be outdone any time soon and she'll be a Dragon in the Fall.
The point is, it's a great time to be a sports spectator in the Red River Valley and with some of the proofs that have already been on display, the golden age for sports in Fargo is just beginning. But the larger question of why it's happening remains unanswered. As coach Critchley mentioned, opportunity & exposure certainly help but I think there's also a lot of credit that can go the way of the colleges right here as well. Starting with the transition to D1, there's been a steady flow of coaches from Fargo to other places and even the highest levels. Their influence in Fargo continues to trickle down and has surely helped the current lot of prep head coaches which helps the players capitalize on their talent. So maybe there isn't a higher level of talent per-say but the way that it is translating to greater and greater attention means that fewer players are being missed. The highest example being Carson Wentz. In any case, it's a great time to be a fan in Fargo! So go take advantage of it!