Nate Heise has always been an excellent outside shooter. But if foes expect the Lake City senior to just launch 3-point shots this season, they're in for a big surprise.
Heise has continued to transform his body as he has grown over the years and he put in a lot of work this past offseason.
"When he started out on the varsity as a freshman, he was probably about 5-9 and 130 pounds," Lake City coach Greg Berge said. "Now he's between 6-4 and 6-5 and about 190 pounds."
This past offseason, Heise worked with a trainer in Red Wing and spent a lot of time in the weight room. He also improved his speed and agility.
"I had a lot more time to train for basketball specifically," Heise said. "In previous years I've always gotten a little bigger, faster each year and more athletic. But this year I would say what has changed the most for me is getting a lot stronger and being able to jump higher, and just finish through contact."
Last year Heise averaged 21.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game as he helped Lake City win a Section 1AA title for the second time in three years.
"I would say a lot of people labeled me as a shooter, but I'm sure this year will change a lot of people's minds," Heise said. "Just to be able to drive and finish, I think that will be the biggest difference in my game, not just shooting threes."
"I would say going into this season he has really transformed his body, really gotten a lot stronger and a lot more explosive," Berge said.
Heise is primed for another big season and he is pumped to play with his longtime friends in his class. This year's Lake City team features 11 seniors.
Reid Gasnter, a powerfully built 6-4 guard/forward, has been one of Heise's closest teammates over the years. The pair have been on the Lake City varsity since they were freshmen. In that time they have helped the Tigers earn two Class AA state berths, including a third-place finish a year ago.
"He's very special to me because I've known him for so long," Heise said. "And just all the memories we've had. ... We have a really tight bond and it will be hard not playing with him next year."
Heise will play at Division I Northern Iowa beginning next winter. His sister, Taylor Heise, is a sophomore forward on the highly successful University of Minnesota women's hockey team.
Gastner will be playing at Division II Minnesota State, Moorhead.
"I'm very confident when I'm on the court with Reid because I know he'll do whatever it takes for us to win," Heise said. "He's the best defender I know and he does all the little things. I would not be where I am today without him."
The Tigers have high hopes this season. With powerhouse Minnehaha Academy moving up to Class AAA, Heise believes the Tigers are a contender for a state championship.
"We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we think we can be state champs because last year we got third and we've improved since last year and we kind of got a good deal with the field kind of evening out a little bit," Heise said.
The Tigers, however, face the task of playing in one of the best sections in Class AA. Section 1AA is loaded as Caledonia, Stewartville, St. Charles and La Crescent all should be exceptional this season. Caledonia placed second in the state two years ago.
"I would say our section is very, very tough," Heise said. "I would say the toughest section in Class AA ... just a lot of deep teams with a lot of experience. We wouldn't take it for granted being able to win the section, that's for sure."
And what do the Tigers need to do to succeed?
"We'll go as far as our defense takes us, which our coach says a lot, and that's how it will be," Heise said.