GIRLS BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK Uncommon players have coach in common
By Donny Henn
Quick quiz: What do Anne Graner, Kristi Boese, Amy Mahlum, Monica McNamara and Katie Ohm all have in common?
If you've been following local high school girls basketball closely, perhaps you recorded that all five stars scored their 1,000th career points this season, in that order.
But there's something else that unites Graner from Plainview, Boese from Rochester Mayo, Mahlum from Kingsland, McNamara from Zumbrota-Mazeppa, and Ohm from Elgin-Millville.
Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock. Give up?
Tim Kramer knows. The Rochester man coached all of them on his two AAU teams last summer.
Graner, Boese, McNamara and Ohm all played together for Kramer's 16-and-under Rochester Suns team, and Kramer also coached Mahlum on his 18-and-under Suns team.
Since Kramer began the Suns program nine years ago with ample administrative help from his wife, Janelle, his teams have become the Rochester area's answer to the Twin Cities' North Tartan program, which has a national reputation for stocking Minnesota's best players in the summer.
The Suns have typically represented an all-star collection of southeast Minnesota's best players. They usually play 25 to 30 games in five or six regional tournaments each summer.
"It's a program usually for juniors or seniors who have decided that they are going to play college ball," explained Kramer, 48, a Hayfield native, and former teacher and coach who has worked for 23 years at IBM in programming.
"(Last summer) Ohm was the first eighth-grader we've ever had, and it didn't take long to figure out that she could play with these people," he noted. "She's the real thing."
Kramer began the Suns with his daughter, Kjersten, in mind. In 1998, she played on a Suns team that finished 13th in the country at the national AAU tournament in Indianapolis. Other players on that team were Sara Peterson of Lourdes, Kris Wilson of Southland, Karen Darveaux of Austin, Jen Mitchell of Mankato East, and Sarah Rippke of Mankato West.
Kjersten Kramer was also a starting guard on Mayo's 1997 state championship team, and later played on a Division II national championship team at Washington University in St. Louis.
Tim Kramer said that only one former Suns player has gone on to play at a Division I college program, former John Marshall center Diane Wick, at the University of Evansville, Ind. But the list of those who have gone on to play Division II ball is long. Kramer's 1999 Suns team included nine DII players.
Peterson and Mitchell are now the starting backcourt and the leading scorers at University of Nebraska-Omaha in the NCC; Wilson and Liz Klucas (Waseca) are likewise at Moorhead State University. Beth Bue (Austin) is a starter at North Dakota State University, and Julia Frie (Byron) is a star at the University of South Dakota.
The list of former Suns players still active in college goes on: Erin Effle (JM) at the University of River Falls-Wisconsin; Holly Wiste (Lourdes) at St. Catherines; Angie Mohs (Plainview) at Luther College; Lindsey Erichsen (Kingsland) at Stout, and her sister, Alyssa, at St. Mary's University in Winona; Bonnie Thoe (Hayfield) at Stout; Emily Buehler (Z-M) at St. Thomas; Grete Runningen (Houston) at Luther; Kristen Kachelmeyer (Mankato East) at Gustavus; Christa von Knobelsdorff (Goodhue) at St. Norbert College near Green Bay, Wis.
"I'm sure I've probably left some out," said Kramer, who rattled off the names and their colleges by memory.
Kramer is aware that summer basketball programs such as his, which draw the best players from small communities, aren't unanimously popular with high school coaches.
"I get a little flak from coaches because they, for the most part, would like to keep their local teams together," he said.
But Kramer is convinced that it can be "a really positive experience" for the players. He thinks it serves some role in preparing them for college.
"It's a way of letting them experience dealing with new personalities, a new coach, and the dynamics of fitting in with a new team that's not as comfortable as the team you came from," he said.
The Suns are set to play again this summer, with one team or two. Beyond that the program's future is uncertain. The Kramers have an 8-year-old son, Kellen, and Tim hopes to coach him.
ANOTHER COOL 20: For most teams, a 20-win season would be exceptional. But it became the rule a long time ago for Rochester Lourdes under coach Myron Glass.
Lourdes (22-1) notched its 14th consecutive 20-win season under Glass, and the 16th in his 19 years as coach. The only years that his Eagles failed to win at least 20 games were his first year, 1983-84 (10-12), 1984-85 (18-6), and 1987-88 (19-4).
Kingsland (19-5) needs one tournament win in Section 1AA to make it five straight 20-win seasons under coach John Fenske, and Rushford-Peterson (19-6), in action tonight in Section 1A, is on the verge of a third straight 20-win season under Mike Jeresek, a former longtime Rushford boys coach.