The Lake Region State College women's basketball program has received a letter of intent from a high school standout with Royal roots.
By Harry Lipsiea
Lake Region Family is a term that faculty, students and alumni all alike use to describe the spirit and tradition at Lake Region State College. The Royal women's basketball team recently added a standout high school athlete to join the program for the 2016-2017 campaign.
Carrington High School senior Maara Nelson has joined the Lake Region Family. It's a term that that has a special meaning for the three-sport athlete and her parents. By signing her letter of intent at LRSC, she becomes a second generation Royal.
Maara's mother, Jacqui (Short), attended the college from 1989-91. She was a member of two national tournament teams.
If that weren't enough connection to Lake Region State College, Maara's father, Moe, is also an alumnus. Attending school from 1990-92, Nelson played guard for the Royal men's basketball team for coach Terry Porter.
"It's pretty cool to say I am going to the same college as my parents," Maara told the Journal. "Not everyone gets to say that."
Nelson has been a standout during her career as a Carrington Cardinal. An All-Region performer in volleyball and basketball as well as a state champion hurdler, she has made her mark as a high school athlete. She is now gearing up to play at the next level on the hardcourt.
Lake Region State College women's basketball coach Danny Mertens is excited about what Nelson brings to the table.
"Maara is a talented athlete who will add a lot. She brings much-needed height to the guard position. With her athleticism, she gets up-and-down the court very well," Mertens said of the 5-foot-9 perimeter player. "Defensively, Maara is extremely solid. She locks down on opponents and can guard larger or smaller players. She is fundamentally sound."
A season ago, Nelson helped lead the Cardinals to the State Class B Tournament. She brings proven success to the Lake Region State College women's basketball team.
"Maara is a winner and a leader. Being able to get kids who know how to win is huge for a college basketball program. Experience winning is something you can’t teach," Mertens said.
Success was a big key that drew Nelson to Lake Region State College. The women's basketball program's winning tradition is something that the athlete wanted to be part of. LRSC has qualified for the National NJCAA Tournament each of the past three seasons.
"I like the feel and mentality of the women's basketball program at Lake Region," Nelson said. "The chance to travel and get so many different experiences is so exciting. I really like Danny as a coach and wanted to play for him."
Carrington is traditionally one of the strongest programs in the state. Coming from a quality high school system is very helpful with the transition from a high school to college basketball player, Mertens pointed out.
"Coach Braaten has a really nice program at Carrington and he does a good job of coaching the fundamentals," he said. "Being able to recruit players from a strong program is something you look for as a coach."
'Best two years of my life'
Maara admits that her parents' positive experiences at LRSC impacted her decision to sign to play basketball at the Devils Lake college. She noted that they had nothing, but good memories of their time at the school.
"We talked a lot about it. They were definitely supportive of my decision," Nelson said. "Both of my parents told me how much they enjoyed school and basketball there. So, they helped me choose Lake Region. It just felt right. It’s a really nice school."
Jacqui was a post player for the Royals. She enjoyed her time on the hardcourt as the team enjoyed success.
"I can't say enough positive things about my time going to school and playing basketball," she stated. "There were so many positive relationships that I made on and off the court. Going to two national tournaments was an awesome experience."
The member of the 1989-90 and 1990-91 basketball teams was a positive part of the program, Duane Schwab, former long-time head coach of the LRSC women's basketball team, said. Jacqui started her career at Lake Region during Schwab's first year as head mentor of the Lady Royals.
"She was a strong, physical post player," the coach said. "Jacqui was a good shooter and an intelligent player. Most importantly, she is a smart, great person. It was great to have her as part of the program."
Maara's father, Moe, was a guard for the Royal men. Attending the college was enjoyable on-and-off the court, he said.
"Nothing, but great memories," he pointed out. "It was a fun playing a college sport. I also loved the school. One of my favorite parts of Lake Region was the teacher-to-student ration. Going to school there, you felt really comfortable. There was a hometown feel."
Moe was a quick, strong player, Schwab recalls. The coach noted that while watching Maara play as an underclassmen several years ago, she had a similar style of play of her father.
"I was really impressed when I saw her play. Maara is very strong and quick like Moe was," Schwab said.
For Moe, it was a pleasurable opportunity to visit the LRSC campus this year. The college and its facilities have been upgraded significantly since he attended in the early 1990s.
"I was like a kid in a candy store," Nelson pointed out. "The school has come a long way from when I went there. It was very impressive."
Jacqui hopes Maara is able to create positive memories like she had during her college days at Lake Region State College.
"It was phenomenal," the former player said. "Probably the best two years of my life."
Lake Region roots
Whenever you can bring a second generation player into the program, it's a positive, Mertens said. By signing Nelson, he was able to add a highly-regarded recruit and keep a family tradition going.
"I think it's something that is really positive for the morale and success of Lake Region State College basketball," the Royals head coach commented. "To incorporate all of those things and for the program to come full circle is really neat to see."
It says a lot about the college for the child of a former player to attend LRSC, Schwab pointed out.
"To know that former players had positive experiences and respected our programs enough to recommend it to their kids is special," the coach said. "I was lucky to be around so many great students through the years. It's been great to see their children follow in their parents' footsteps and keep those Lake Region roots going."
For the former LRSC players, it will be a special moment seeing their daughter wear a Royals uniform for the first time. Knowing that Maara will continue her college basketball career at Lake Region State College is a great feeling, Moe said.
"We're really looking forward to it. Being able to drive to her games and see her play will be great," he said.
Jacqui added, "We couldn't be happier for her to become a Lady Royal. We are very proud of all that she has accomplished."
Maara is relieved to have made her decision to play at LRSC. Now, she can focus on closing out her career with a bang. The Cardinals are currently ranked fourth in the state jumping out to an 11-0 start.
After graduation, the senior will be ready to get going as she transitions into her freshman year at college.
"I can't wait. I'm really excited to play at Lake Region. Just like my mom and dad," she said.
Mertens shares in that enthusiasm.
"It's a great feeling to have her join the Lake Region family. She is a great kid and an excellent student," he pointed out. "I'm confident she will be a great leader and role model in the school and community."