Finely tuned and ready to go

Lourdes junior center honed game with North Tartan AAU

By Donny Henn

Two impressive seasons of high school basketball earned Laura Melquist a reputation as one of the top young players in Minnesota, and her stack of college recruitment letters keeps growing in testament.

But Melquist needed to prove it to herself this summer.


The talented Rochester Lourdes junior center left her comfort zone and her headliner status behind when she joined up with a star-studded North Tartan AAU 15U team.

It was Melquist’s first season with North Tartan, which has a reputation as one of the top AAU programs in the nation. The Oakdale-based program always draws the top players from throughout the state, and the North Tartan teams spend the summer criss-crossing the country participating in tournaments.

"At first I was really scared," Melquist admitted. "Would I fit in? Would I be good enough?"

Melquist’s team, coached by Gerard Coury, won the 15U state championship and also captured a handful of first-place trophies on the road. The team’s itinerary included tournaments in Florida, Chicago and Oregon, to name a few.

Among Melquist’s North Tartan teammates were Bemidji sophomore center Kayla Hirt, who is already verbally committed to the University of Minnesota; and Parkers Prairie sophomore guard Sari Noga, who averaged 28 ppg as a freshman.

"I learned a lot from everyone, and some of them may have learned something from me," Melquist said. "It really improved my quickness, and made me a better player all-around."

That may come as unsettling news to Lourdes’ rivals in the Hiawatha Valley League and in Section 1AA.

Already proven, after averaging 12.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a freshman, and 17.3 points and 8.1 rebounds last season, an improved


6-foot-2 Melquist could carry the Eagles back to state for the first time since 2005.

Lourdes coach Myron Glass said Melquist has "improved her game greatly." He said versatility makes her a unique player for her size.

"Laura has an excellent shot both inside and out, and we’ve been able to use her as a center and a guard," said Glass, who starts his 26th season with 610 career wins.

The youngest of Neil and Joyce Melquist’s three daughters, Laura said she learned a lot about basketball from watching her older sisters Michelle and Liz.

Liz was a top scorer and rebounder at Byron, where she graduated in 1997. Michelle, a 2000 Lourdes grad, ranks 10th on the program’s all-time scoring list (829 points) and fourth in rebounding (573).

Michelle and Liz were primarily interior players and didn’t develop a strong outside game like Laura. But Michelle had something that Laura has not — yet.

Michelle played on two state tournament teams and Lourdes won it all her senior year.

Lourdes was stopped in the subsection semifinals two seasons ago, and finished one game short of state last season with a five-point loss to Caledonia in the Section 1AA final.


"I always remembered watching my sister go to state and then win it, and that kind of put a burning desire in me," Melquist said. "It really is a big goal for our team this year."

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