Nick Fossey has made a name for himself with two stellar state tournament performances.
He averaged 11.5 points in Lakeville North’s first two state games, providing the Panthers with energy and making clutch free-throws down the stretch to get the Panthers back to the state championship.
And the public has taken notice. From Twitter users photo-shopping his face onto the clutch of a car to large photos of Fossey celebrating on the front of the newspaper sport sections, the senior guard has become a popular topic for basketball fans.
Many Lakeville North fans knew him from his successful 2015 campaign as a wide receiver on the football team, which ultimately earned him the opportunity to play for Northern Iowa next year. But the name Nick Fossey did not resonate with many in the basketball world until the 2016 state tournament.
Although Fossey will likely play a fairly important role in determining whether or not Lakeville North wins the Class 4A state championship game against Hopkins on Saturday night, that was far from the case a year ago.
Following an injury on the football field his junior year, Fossey could not play basketball until early January. He then played a few junior varsity games, and eventually earned a start for the varsity team.
Fossey’s audition in the starting lineup did not go well.
His play while on varsity only earned him a spot on the bench. Fossey saw no time on the court during Lakeville North’s 2015 playoff run that ended in a fourth place finish.
Even in this year’s regular season, Fossey averaged only 6.5 points per game, which was sixth-best of any Lakeville North players.
Fast forward to the state tournament, and Fossey is second on the team in points per game, trailing only Nathan Reuvers, who has 16 Division-I offers. Fossey has averaged six rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as well at Target Center.
Perhaps his greatest impact has come on defense, though. Fossey came up with a clutch interception in the semifinals after a stellar performance in the quarterfinals, limiting Maple Grove’s Brad Davison to 18 points after Davison had been averaging about 30 points per game late in the year.
For Lakeville North to complete its third upset of the state tournament, winning its second state championship in three years, Fossey may need to play similar to how he has in the first two upsets.
—Speaking of a wide receiver missing time on the court because of an injury, senior guard David Lindstrand missed most of 2015-2016 with a torn meniscus. Lindstrand tore his meniscus on the first day of tryouts on Nov. 10, but he returned late in the regular season. He has only played about seven games since returning from his injury.
He has been in the starting lineup ever since he came back full-time, however, and has looked surprisingly quick as he competes at the state tournament level despite his injury. It is clear he is still feeling the effects of it, but it is impressive to see him out there, averaging about four points per game in the first two games of the state tournament.
—Lakeville North has ended Hopkins’ season twice in the past two seasons, both times at the state tournament. The Panthers came from behind late in the 2014 state championship to defeat the Royals, and upset Hopkins in the 2015 state quarterfinals. This is on the forefront of many Hopkins players’ minds.
Amir Coffey, a Gopher commit, played in the 2014 state championship game, and he has waited two years to get another chance to beat Lakeville North.
“I think all the guys want to get this one under our belt and show (Lakeville North) that we can beat them,” he said after Hopkins’ semifinal victory.
Although Coffey is Hopkins’ best player, stopping him won’t necessarily translate to a victory. The Royals beat Apple Valley, who Lakeville North lost two twice in 2015-16, by playing a team game. But this matches up well with the Panthers who also have a balanced offense.
For coverage of the state championship:
1. Follow me on Twitter: @NickKellyLNHS for updates throughout the night
2. Tune into my periscope at about 7 p.m. as I preview the game with live video. Look for the link on my Twitter feed