By Cara L. Dempski
ELK MOUND — The winners of this year’s boys’ and girls’ Dunn-St. Croix basketball player of the year awards have both played since they were in second grade.
They are both honors students planning to pursue degrees in medicine, and both will be attending universities in Minnesota.
They are also both students at the same high school.
Elk Mound seniors Dane Lew and Elizabeth Fasbender were named the 2016 – 2017 Dunn-St. Croix players of the year for their respective teams.
While the honor is a new one for Lew, Fasbender earned the award for a second year in a row. She shares this year’s award with Durand’s Ambree Schlosser.
Rival coaches have said some good things about both Mounders.
Colfax girls’ coach Joe Doucette called Fasbender “a classy kid, and one of the best players in the area.” Viking boys’ head coach Garrett Maas said Lew can be hard to mitigate, given his size and intelligence on the floor.
Chris Hahn, who has worked with Lew in basketball camps since second grade and coached him through his first three years of high school, said Lew has always shown a strong drive to be the best player possible, and is always working on his skills.
“When he (Lew) was a freshman, he had the skill set of a varsity player, and coupled that with a mature body for someone that age. That allowed him to be able to compete at the varsity level,” Hahn explained.
The six foot, three inch Mounder had a rough two years after traveling to the state tournament as a freshman. He injured his ankle during football season as a sophomore and suffered a knee injury as a junior.
Hahn, and current Elk Mound head coach Mike Kessler, say Lew’s work ethic has made an impression on the team and the school.
The senior is a man of a few words, but seems to be the one everyone’s eyes seek on the court, and on the field, for direction and leadership. Kessler said Lew is someone who is less interested in individual stats than he is in wins and losses, but noted that Lew is more than just a great athlete.
“The best part about Dane is that as good as he is on the athletic field, he is an even better kid,” the coach noted. “If I had a son, I would be the happiest father in the world if that young man turned out to be half the young man Dane is.”
Lew himself said he had a hard time with hurting his ankle his sophomore year, and definitely does not like losing games.
“I love playing the game, especially with my friends, but I hate losing,” Lew stated.
He plans to get a summer job and work on being a one-sport athlete come autumn, when he reports to the University of Minnesota at Duluth for football as a defensive player. Lew plans to major in pre-med and said he is grateful to his family, school, teachers, teammates and coaches for helping him become the athlete and person he is now.
Fasbender also earned high praise from her coach, Jordan Konshaug.
“It is hard to put into words what it has been like to coach her,” Kongshaug stated. “She has put so much time into basketball, and she deserves all the awards and recognition she has received.”
The senior girls’ player is noted as an outstanding team leader, and an excellent role model. Kongshaug expressed pleasure that his two young daughters who play basketball have someone like Fasbender to emulate.
Fasbender plans to attend the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in the fall, where she will major in biochemistry/pre-med with a minor in Spanish. She is considering not competing in track this spring in order to work more and save money for a trip to Costa Rica this summer to continue her studies in the Spanish language. She also plans to complete her CNA course and certification.
If that was not enough activity, Fasbender will also keep physically active by kayaking and training for an upcoming half marathon.
When asked what the high point of her high school career was, Fasbender did not hesitate with her answer.
“It was walking off the court after winning the regional championship,” she stated. “The team I have played with put in the hours, and it was great to see our work pay off.”
The low point? That was the Mounders’ sectional loss to Bloomer at Osseo-Fairchild, an ending that stung all the more when she learned she was only five points shy of her goal of 1,000 career points.
“Basketball has always been a part of my identity and one of my main passions,” Fasbender explained. “I love so many aspects of the sport: the crowd involvement, the relationships I have formed with my teammates, and the feelings I get dribbling down the court.”
Both sets of coaches agreed Lew and Fasbender will be sorely missed, but are proud of both students for winning the awards.