In Grant Nelson, Devils Lake had a dominant basketball player who gave the Firebirds the best of big and small.
The versatile 6-foot-10 senior has been selected to the North Dakota Class A all-state boys high school basketball team, as chosen by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
Joining Nelson on the all-state first team are Jamestown’s Boden Skunberg, Fargo Davies’ Cameron Van Dam, Minot’s Jaxon Gunville and Mandan’s Elijah Klein. All of the first-team picks are seniors.
Nelson isn’t a typical 6-10 high school basketball player.
“Grant is probably more comfortable playing on the perimeter,’’ Devils Lake coach Derek Gathman said. “But there were times when we had him posting up on offense because it gave us an advantage in a mismatch. When teams defended him with a 5-10 guard, we’d lob the ball inside to Grant for easy layups.’’
Playing primarily the perimeter on offense, Nelson had team-leading averages of 24.1 points and 2.6 assists a game. He paced the Firebirds with 33 three-point baskets.
“His 3-point shooting percentage (25 percent) wasn’t the greatest, but Grant has good skills, good shooting form,’’ Gathman said. “And he could see over defenses and find open spots for his passes.’’
On the inside, Nelson averaged 18.3 rebounds and 5.7 blocks a game. He had 20 or more rebounds in nine games.
“Our best strategy on defense was for Grant to be protecting the rim and rebounding,’’ Gathman said. “He blocked almost six shots a game and he affected a lot of other shots with his height and intimidation. He did a great job of rebounding. His height helps there. But he also has a good sense of where to go for the ball.’’
Nelson and Skunberg (28.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.8 apg) are unanimous picks. Skunberg is a repeat on the all-state first team, while Nelson was a second-team pick as a junior.
The 6-7 Klein, a UND football recruit, averaged 19.3 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 blocks. He was a second-team all-stater last season. Rounding out the first team are Gunville (25.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 2.3 apg) and Van Dam (14.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.6 spg, 1.7 bpg).
The all-state second team, consisting of all seniors, includes:
Fargo North’s Cayden Rickard (21.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, 3.3 spg); West Fargo Sheyenne’s Blake Berg (15.4 ppg, 6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.3 spg); Bismarck Century’s Cade Feeney (21 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.5 spg); and Dickinson teammates Kobe Krenz (23.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3 apg, 2.6 spg) and Jaiden Wright (18.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.7 apg).