Byron senior Jake Braaten has announced he will attend Minnesota Southwest State in Marshall where he will play Division II men's basketball.
Braaten is a 6-foot guard who helped Byron earn a Class AAA state berth in 2021. The Bears lost to eventual state champion Minnehaha Academy in the state quarterfinals and finished the season 17-3.
"That's a great fit for him," Byron coach Kyle Finney said. "It's a perfect spot."
Braaten decided on Southwest Minnesota State after taking a recent recruiting trip to the NISC school.
"Honestly it just felt like home when I was there," he said. "I really like the coaches. I think (head) coach (Brad) Bigler and (assistant Nick) Smith are both really great guys. And I felt like I fit in with the players."
Braaten averaged 21.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.6 steals per game during his senior season. He shot 57.1% from the floor, 44% from 3-point range and 83% at the line. He was named All-Conference in the Hiawatha Valley League.
Braaten will play in the Minnesota All-Star Series this weekend.
Finney said he is the "best all-around player to come out of Byron that can dominate a game on both ends of the court. (He) is a born leader that everyone follows and is consistently the hardest worker not only in games but practices, too."
One of his AAU teammates, Kegan Heiderscheidt of Sleepy Eye, will also be attending Southwest Minnesota State.
"That was a big plus," Braaten said.
Braaten should have a shot at earning playing time as a freshman. Waseca's Nick Dufault was Southwest's starting point guard in 2021 and the senior could have come back next season (players in 2021 were not charged with a year of eligibility due to the pandemic), but he has declined that option.
"I'm pretty good friends with the Dufault family," Braaten said. "He has good job set up so he decided to go and pursue that. Then he's getting married with his fiancee this summer."
"He sees a role for him right away," Finney said. "They graduate Dufault this year so Jake hopefully will step right into that role."
Braaten had considered a number of other Division II and III schools in the area. He had only visited Division III schools prior to his visit to Southwest.
"When I went to SMSU, I decided to go there," Braaten said.
The Mustangs got to play just 11 games in 2021 and posted a 3-8 record.