Junior Brandon Myer led a fast break against Upper Iowa, finishing with a jam. Photo credit: John Gilbert
When it comes to being lucky, my choice of basketball games was right on. I did not make it to the UMD-Winona State game Friday night, but the back-up plan worked out fine, because UMD played the Upper Iowa Peacocks on Saturday night, also at Romano Gym.
When there is a chance to see Brandon Myer play basketball, you don’t want to pass it up. Turns out, after UMD lost to Winona, I walked into the gym Saturday and the first person I spotted was Roger Hanson, former UMD star out of Duluth Central. I asked what had happened Friday, and Roger said, “Well, without Myer, they were hurting.”
Turns out, Myer was ill, something he came down with early Friday morning, and he couldn’t go. So my luck was that the game I attended, Myer indeed played, and led the Bulldogs from a 34-34 halftime deadlock to a 79-64 victory.
The Bulldogs put up a very balanced attack Saturday. Myer scored 21, Logan Rohrscheib 19 and Sean Burns 17 to set the pace. Myer might have scored more, but he was a bit off his game, connecting on 8 of 16 shots because he eagerly went to the bench several times because he was out of gas. He plays a driving, slashing game, equally adept at pulling up and shooting a 3 as he is driving around defenders and finding an opening to serve up a soft-touch layup. He’s averaging over 21 points per game.
“Last week, I was sick practically all week,” Myer said. “I don’t know if it was the flu or what, but I but I woke up at 2 a.m. Friday and realized I couldn’t go Friday night.”
Superior has not exactly been a breeding ground for basketball stars in recent years, but Myer doesn’t mind breaking that mold.
“Growing up in Superior, the guy I wanted to pattern myself after was Joel Lindberg,” Myer said. “I was in middle school and I wasn’t very big. I didn’t make varsity until I was a junior at Superior. I was about 6-feet tall after my sophomore year, so I went out for point guard. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I learned everything about the game playing guard. And I started out being not very coordinated.
“I’d go out in the driveway to shoot, but my dad wouldn’t let me shoot until I dribbled all the way up the driveway right-handed, and then all the way back left-handed,” he said.
So by the time he made high school varsity, Myer could handle the ball like a guard but as he grew, he also acquired all the slippery moves of a forward, He’s now 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds. My first exposure to Myer was his freshman year, when I thought he stood out as being the most talented player on the team, even though he was limited by coaching decisions. The change to Justin Wieck as head coach met with quick approval by Myer.
In the second half against Upper Iowa, Myer was clearly tiring easily — the flu will do that to you — and he asked to come out a couple of times. But he took charge in the second half. The Bulldogs shot 15-33 for 45 percent in the first half, and 17-28 for 60.7 percent in the second half. While Myer’s points were invaluable, he also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, 11 on the defensive end. It helped that Rohrscheib was hot, hitting 7 of 10 field goal tries, and Burns was 7-13 from the floor. Jake Paper came off the bench to hit 5-of-7 for 10 points.
The ironic thing was that I spotted Roger Hanson when I first entered the gym, because I’ve suggested to numerous basketball fans that Myer is the best Twin Ports developed player to play for UMD since Roger Hanson.
Hallie Maleski, a third-grader at Piedmont, keeps UMD basketball fans entertained during stoppages... Photo credit: John Gilbert
Hallie runs and then does an artful hop-step over her squeegee... Photo credit: John Gilbert
Hallie, who teams with her kindergarten brother Oliver, 5, at the other end, sticks another perfect landing. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Youthful Stars Surprise on UMD home court
Myer and the Bulldogs had to share the spotlight during the game because two youngsters who were tending to mopping any trace of moisture from the floor did an upbeat dance routine along with every trip out to squeegee the floor.
I first spotted Hallie Maleski running out and gleefully doing a hop-step over her mop every time she changed directions. It caught your eye, and made you be sure to look at the next stoppage in play. Sure enough, they repeated their moves, and people noticed.
Hallie said she’s a third-grader at Piedmont, and the fellow at the opposite end of the court was her brother Oliver Maleski, who is 5 and announced he’s in kindergarten at Piedmont. It’s a great side show.