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High-scoring Kingsland guard is also a star English student

By Donny Henn

The Post-Bulletin

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS BASKETBALL

How does a newspaper sports writer discover that there’s more to a star high school basketball player than his points per game?

Usually that type of insight comes from the player’s coach or parents. Sometimes it comes from his friends and teammates.

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Rarely, it comes by way of an unsolicited e-mail from his ninth-grade English teacher.

Josh Hagan has established himself as one of the area’s best all-around players in his second year as a starter for the impressive Kingsland Knights, who are ranked No. 2 in Class AA and cruising along at 18-0 under head coach C.J. Boerger.

But Kingsland English teacher Stephanie Derby wanted to let us know that Hagan, a 6-foot-2 junior with considerable "hops," had established himself as an impressive student many years earlier.

"Josh does deserve to be recognized for his athletic skills. I, too, am impressed with them," Derby wrote. "But he deserves recognition as a student as well."

Derby got to know Hagan two years ago in her freshman English class and soon appreciated his "well above average" vocabulary and advanced writing skills.

Josh, who is the son of Bryan and Jody Hagan, is now writing first-person newspaper articles for the Fillmore County Journal as part of a student writing project.

"One or two have been about basketball, but it’s not based on basketball," said Boerger.

Derby, who also helps with the boys basketball team as a statistician, said the English department at Kingsland has appreciated Hagan more for his literary skills than for his dunking ability.

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She said Josh has read books that some of the teachers have read, and he sometimes likes to discuss what he’s read with them.

"A colleague of mine, Karen Cleveland, has been known to stroll across the hall to my room to share some turn of phrase that Josh has used in his writing," Derby said. "Mrs. Cleveland teaches English and German; I don’t think she’s ever seen Josh play."

Mrs. Cleveland might be the only one who hasn’t, at least in the Spring Valley area.

Hagan has been a consistent and often flashy performer for the Knights, averaging 17.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.2 steals through 18 wins. Don’t bother fouling him while he’s shooting because he knocks down free throws at an 81 percent clip.

He broke into Boerger’s starting lineup last year as a sophomore, on a team that included eight seniors. He helped Kingsland to a 23-6 record by averaging 14.5 points and was named all-conference.

"It was pretty nerve-wracking because I knew I was taking a position away from a senior, and I really didn’t want to let anybody down," Hagan said. "That’s why I was really disappointed when we lost to Dover-Eyota (in the subsection finals); I hated that we didn’t get to state for all those seniors."

Hagan is a co-captain this season along with seniors Alex Nelson and Greg Bernard, a reflection of the respect his teammates have for the underclassman, Boerger said.

"Josh has great natural athletic ability, but he absolutely doesn’t sit on that," Boerger said. "I’ve known him since fifth grade, and he has always worked hard on his game."

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Hagan developed an exceptional vertical leap at an early age and was able to dunk as an eighth-grader. He had several attempts to dunk in eighth-grade games but didn’t deliver until he reached the varsity.

The left-hander has had three or four one-handed dunks this year, including one that was caught on tape by KTTC TV. Nelson, the Knights’ strong 6-foot-5 center, has had about the same number.

"Alex can dunk with two hands; his are more authoritative," Hagan said.

"Some people say that I’m kind of a showboat, but I just like to please the crowd. It gives us a boost. It’s only two points, but it’s a fun two points."

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