In this Friday, March 6 file photo, Rhinelander’s Drake Martin works against Merrill’s Connor Mootz during a WIAA Division 2 boys’ basketball regional semifinal game in Merrill. Martin was voted the RHS boys’ basketball team 2019-20 MVP. He averaged 11.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander High School boys’ basketball award and all-conference winners pose for a photograph following the team’s awards banquet Monday, March 9. Pictured, from left to right, are Travis Towne, Jackson Labs, Quinn Lamers, Drake Martin, Jason Huseby, Peyton Erikson and Payton Johnson.
Senior Drake Martin was voted the Rhinelander High School boys' basketball most valuable player and presented the award Monday during the team's season-ending banquet.
Martin, a 6-2 forward, was second on the team averaging 11.8 points per game. He was the team's top rebounder at 5.0 rebounds a contest and was the team's leader in assists at 3.4 helpers a contest.
RHS boys' basketball coach Derek Lemmens said that Martin's willingness to share the basketball was a big part of the reason the team's production picked up during the second half of the season.
"In a team where we all needed to play together as a team to be successful, I think Drake was really what got a lot of that started," he said. "He really demanded a lot of attention from teams and, what made it even harder (for them) is the fact he was willing to pass the basketball the way he was. He's one of the best passer of the basketball that I've seen in my tenure here. The way he sees the floor, he didn't even hesitate. He saw that double coming, he saw a teammate open and he throws the ball ... I think that a lot of what happened late in the season started by people knowing the guy that was getting the basketball, scoring a lot of points and getting a lot of the attention was willing to make that extra pass."
All of the team's awards were voted on by the players. Martin, along with senior teammate Jason Huseby and junior Quinn Lamers, received the team's Hodag Award. Lemmens said Martin got the award for his work ethic on the floor and his demeanor off of it, Huseby was honored for his selflessness in which he saw very few varsity minutes and Lamers was recognized for his commitment to excellence both on the floor and in the classroom.
"It's kind of cliche, but we could give all these guys Hodag awards," he said. "They really do represent our team, our school and our community in such a positive way. But these three really stood out."
Junior Jackson Labs won the team's most-improved player award. The 5-10 guard worked his way into the starting lineup during the second half of the season and averaged 5.4 points and 2.2 rebounds in roughly 23 minutes per game while making 44.8% of his 3-point attempts.
"When he started showing up, he started working his way in the starting lineup," Lemmens said. "I thought that what he brought to our team, by the end of the year, really changed our team and changed who we were as a team. He just did great things to continue to grow all year long."
Travis Towne, a 6-4 junior, won the team's hustle award as he averaged 5.7 points and 3.4 rebounds off the bench for Rhinelander this season.
"I thought this could have gone a couple of different ways but, at the end of the day, I totally agree with this and the (RHS assistant) coach (Kurt) Zalewski-like breakaway layups this guy starting getting late in the year, and then second-chance baskets really proved that," Lemmens said.
Senior Payton Johnson won the team's Mr. Defense award.
"We put him on the other team's best player when he was on the court. It's kind of what he knew was his calling card. He took pride in that," Lemmens said.
Rhinelander went 9-15 on the season and tied for third in the Great Northern Conference with a 6-6 league mark. Though the Hodags went through struggles this season, Lemmens said the team played its best basketball toward the end of the season and that several metrics, such as field goal, free throw and shooting percentage all increased significantly over the team's final 13 games.
"That second half of the season, every time we stepped on the court, we were ready," he said. "That's what you want to see, they way that we grew. At the end of the day, we didn't accomplish some of the goals that we wanted early on as a team - conference championship - but I hope these guys are really proud of what they became as a team."
Lemmens ended the banquet by recognizing the team's four seniors - Martin, Johnson, Huseby and Peyton Erikson.
"I'm hoping they take everything that they've learned, our seniors that have played their last game, they take everything they've learned in their time with us and I hope that they not only feel it was worth it all, but they are better because of it," he said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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