It's a tight-knit group of seven quality seniors, Four Winds-Minnewaukan head coach Rick Smith told the Journal.
By Harry Lipsiea
When asked about his team, it doesn't take Four Winds-Minnewaukan head boys basketball coach Rick Smith very long to talk about the squad's senior class. Their experience, steady leadership and talent are a big reason the program is continuing to enjoy tremendous success. Just a year removed from winning its first-ever state title, the state's top-ranked team enters the Region 4 tourney with a 20-1 record.
After a big win, the District 7 Coach of the Year is quick to credit the upperclassmen for their role in the team's performance during the 2016-2017 campaign.
"The way this team has competed has a lot to do with the experience of our older guys," Smith stated after Four Winds-Minnewaukan soundly defeated Harvey-Wells County in the District 7 championship game. "That's a very experienced senior class that has been through a lot of games during their careers. The leadership they provide is unparalleled."
The seven-player senior class is made up of Steve Redfox, Tronis McKay, Jacob Yankton, Irv Tomahawk, Jaylen LaRock, Tannor Dauphinais and Ashton Thompson. Redfox and McKay have been mainstays on the court for the past four seasons in the Four Winds-Minnewaukan program. Yankton is a returning starter from last year's title team while LaRock and Tomahawk have stepped into the starting lineup after contributing as reserves last season. Dauphinais and Thompson each have provided valuable minutes off the bench this year.
"This group will be remembered for the leadership they provide every day during practice and games," Smith said. "We have been so fortunate to have those type of young student athletes in our program."
While the class of 2017 has made a tremendous impact on the Indian basketball program, they have made equal contributions off the court. Smith credits the young men for their efforts in the school and community.
"Like I tell everyone who asks, our seniors are great basketball players. But, they are even better kids," the coach pointed out. "They are polite and respectful to everyone they meet. In the program, we spend a lot of time together during the year and these young men are fun to be around."
It starts in the classroom where the senior basketball players are honor students, Smith noted. The coach has been impressed with the individuals' efforts to get the job done in the classroom.
"These guys are very good students," he added. "They come to class every single day, work hard and complete their work. Our seniors do the right things and understand the importance of being good students."
At Four Winds-Minnewaukan, the basketball players have a unique responsibility as role model for younger students in the school districts. Smith noted that he often hears youth in the area talk about how they want to be like current Indian players when they grow up.
"More than anything what impresses me about these guys is the kind of role models they are," the coach said. "If it's taking pictures with people, shaking hands or signing autographs, they are so respectful. And they are great with kids. They are just top-notch individuals."