2018-04-12 / Sports

Okerlund repeats as Dream Team MVP

Glen Lake trio leads all-county club after trip to East Lansing
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

One of Leelanau County’s most memorable boys basketball seasons in recent memory featured four 1,000-point milestones, a 45-point performance, a Northwest Conference co-championship, two district trophies, a regional title and the peninsula’s first state-finals appearance since 2010.

Five players — Xander Okerlund, Cade Peterson, Garett Miller, Thomas Hursey and Reece Hazelton — had a hand in all of the above.

County coaches saluted the quintet last week, assembling the 2018 l Dream Team in a joint effort with the Enterprise sports staff and a representative from the Northern Sports Officials Association. Honorees are nominated by their respective coaches then ranked by each of the seven voters, with the No. 1 spot being the county’s most valuable player.

And, for the second straight year, that MVP distinction was bestowed upon a 6-foot-4 Glen Lake shooting guard: Okerlund.

“He’s probably the best catch-and-shoot player in the area,” said Suttons Bay senior and third-year Dream Team honoree Thomas Hursey. “It’s unbelievable how good of a shooter he is, and he uses his length to his advantage incredibly. It’s great to watch and even better to play against.”

Okerlund, a cerebral and well-prepared scorer, lived up to his billing and then some in his junior season. His lethal 3-point shot, crafty pull-up game and ability to drive and even dunk made him a matchup nightmare.

He reached double figures 24 times, the most of any peninsula player, and propelled Glen Lake (24- 3) to the Class C final by pouring in a team-high 122 points in seven postseason games.

Only two players, Hursey and back-to-back scoring champion Garett Miller of Leland, finished higher in the county scoring ranks.

“His shooting numbers are unreal,” Miller said of Okerlund, who shot 38.2 percent from 3-point land and 73.6 percent from the free-throw line.

Okerlund was one of three Glen Lake players to earn 2018 Associated Press Class C All-State honors. He and Hazelton each garnered an honorable mention while Peterson — a 6-foot-6 senior center who led the county in dunks and total blocks — was named to the all-state first team.

The peninsula’s second-leading rebounder made his fiery presence felt in the playoffs, scoring 111 points and showcasing exceptional leadership skills in the process. It’s safe to say Peterson’s preseason aim to “leave a footprint” was a success.

“We are going to miss Cade, but the footprint he left on our program will never be forgotten,” said Glen Lake coach Rich Ruelas, whose Lakers outscored their first five postseason opponents by a combined score of 317-189.

Impressive as Ruelas and Peterson were, the playoff push may not have been possible without Hazelton.

The sophomore swingman scored 101 of his 367 points in the tournament and was a weapon on the wing all winter, shooting a Dream Teambest 42.8 percent from downtown.

“His energy, his swagger is unmatched in the county,” Okerlund said. “As a sophomore, he played with an edge and a lot of poise.”

A similar description is suitable for Miller, a relentless scorer who put up 20.4 points per game for the Comets (7-14). The senior was the lone peninsula player to reach double figures in each of his regular-season starts and score 20 points in 10 games.

Most memorable among those 20-point outings came in a loss at Kingsley in which he scored 45 points, the most by a county player in years.

“Everyone knew who their No. 1 option was, but you had to make arrangements to cover him,” said Suttons Bay coach Ron Anderson, who watched Miller score 57 points in two losses to his Norsemen (11- 13). “If not, he could go off for 40 points on you.”

Like each of the other four Dream Team honorees, Miller put up his share of shots in the offseason.

And the same can be said of Hursey, who played alongside Miller for three summers on a Leelanau AAU team coached by Miller’s dad, Dan Miller.

Respect between the peninsula’s top two scorers is mutual.

“He’s a great guy and an all-around athlete,” Garett Miller said of Hursey. “Fun to play with, that’s for sure.”

Hursey, a Ferris State golf commit, had his share of big games this winter.

In fact, he led Leelanau County with four 30-point performances — including a 32-point outburst in the final game of his varsity career.

One could argue two of Hursey’s teammates, seniors Garrett Keith and Garrett Shananaquet, deserved to join him on the Dream Team this season — but the big men split votes and finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

Dream Team consideration also went to a pair of All-Cherryland Conference performers, Brett Dyer of Northport (12-7) and Austin Tarsa of Lake Leelanau St. Mary (4-15).

2017 Dream Team

Thomas Hursey (Suttons Bay)
Austin John (Northport)
Garett Miller (Leland)
*Xander Okerlund (Glen Lake)
Cade Peterson (Glen Lake)

2016 Dream Team
Thomas Hursey (Suttons Bay)
Jamie McFarlane (Leland)
Garett Miller (Leland)
Travis Moore (Glen Lake)
*Trevor Petroskey (Suttons Bay)
Marcus Stowe (Northport)

2015 Dream Team
*Jacob Brown (Northport)
Devin Capron (Suttons Bay)
Jack Garthe (St. Mary)
Travis Moore (Glen Lake)
Trevor Petroskey (Suttons Bay)
Cam Stowe (Leland)

* = Dream Team MVP

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