Ogichidaa’s Kello Brown likes to dunkFond du Lac Ojibwe boys on a roll, girls get first win. FDL (3-4) sports a run-and-gun offense unlike most, featuring fast break buckets, transition three-pointers and, of course, slam dunks.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Watching Kello Brown play high school boys basketball, it’s easy to tell the Fond du Lac Ojibwe forward competes differently than most.
He plays above the rim.
Brown tallied a torrid 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in leading the Ogichidaa in a 106-55 hammering of Mesabi Academy Tuesday night, but it was the senior’s career-best nine dunks that was most entertaining.
“Dunking is addictive,” said the elusive 6-foot-5, 189-pound Brown on the bus ride home Tuesday night. “I just love it.”
In a rare region of the state where the art of dunking is hard to come by, Brown seems to do it on a nightly basis. And whenever he flushes the ball, his Fond du Lac Ojibwe teammates love it.
“It just gets us hyped up and gets us going,” said sophomore forward Trevontae Brown of cousin Kello’s highlight-reel slams. “It just gets us playing.”
FDL (3-4) sports a run-and-gun offense unlike most, featuring fast break buckets, transition three-pointers and, of course, slam dunks. That entertaining style of play was something first-year basketball coach Earl Otis caught on to best when he was hired back in October, after six years as the assistant girls basketball coach at AlBrook.
“I like to play that way. It’s tough to coach, but I like it,” said Otis, laughing, who took over for Ken Fox. “Teams try to slow it down on us, but we have a lot of energy. We’re young, but we’re deep.
“And these are all just great kids,” added Otis, who lives in Brookston with his children who attend South Ridge. “I came here because this was like a dream job. I love sports, but these kids really make things enjoyable. It’s definitely worth it.”
Otis said that along with Kello Brown running the floor, Trevontae Brown and senior Dominic
Johnson-Fuller mainly work post duties, while guards Brian Rich, a freshman, and Bruce Martineau, an eighth-grader, control the backcourt. Otis also highlighted the bench play of Devyn Dupuis and Jeroam Defoe, while newly-added Josyaah Budreau and the return of Lee St. John will also be vital.
“With a little more depth now, we’re going to start pressing, too,” added Otis. “We get tired, but getting some guys back here will certainly help us.”
For the first time in school history, the Ogichidaa marched all the way to the Section 7A semifinals last year before a last-minute collapse against eventual state tournament participant and longtime power Chisholm, falling 64-62.
“I played a little bit, but that was definitely the most emotional game I have ever been a part of,” Trevontae Brown said. “That really hurt to lose.”
Kello Brown agreed, saying their fast-paced style of play got them in trouble late.
“We were so overwhelmed,” he recalled of the game played at Romano Gymnasium at the University of Minnesota Duluth, a place many never had competed in before. “We should have slowed it down. We just didn’t play smart.”
This year’s team is already off to a better start than last year’s 14-15 club, with wins over Silver Bay, Mesabi Academy and most notably, former Class A champion Minnesota Transitions Charter to open the season on the road, according to Otis.
“That game was amazing,” Otis said. “I’ve never seen the kids so happy and so many of them all smiling at once. That was such a huge win for this team.”
Yet, Fond du Lac – like all teams – has weaknesses, too. Coaches and players all agreed that defense is what needs to shape up. Keyed by lapses on the defensive side of the ball, the Ogichidaa have fallen to Nashwauk-Keewatin, North Woods, Four Directions Charter and Minneapolis Roosevelt.
“We’re mostly a fast break team, but we’ve had our ups and downs,” said Kello Brown, who moved from Minneapolis during the middle of last season and is now averaging around 25 points and 12 rebounds a night. “Our biggest failure is defense. We know we can score, but if we improve on defense, I think we can be dangerous.”
Meanwhile, the Fond du Lac Ojibwe girls program posted its first win Tuesday night at home in Cloquet, defeating Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School 67-10 in a game that was never close.
Second-year Coach Stacie Marsolek said that, although her team only features one senior and two freshmen, her Ogichidaa (1-6) are hard workers. The team’s lone senior is Francene LaDeaux and freshmen include Alissa Bosto and Taylor Clown.
“This is basically a seventh- and eighth-grade team,” said Marsolek, whose team includes eight middle school-aged players playing varsity. “[Tuesday] was a good game for us. The girls played hard. They always play hard. It doesn’t matter if we’re down by two or down by 50.”
That hard work has been the forefront to Marsolek’s coaching philosophy. As a coach pursing her master’s degree in coaching, Marsolek said that wins, losses and even lopsided defeats aren’t important to her girls, because simply, it’s all about effort in her mind.
“You never lose if you play as hard as you can possibly play,” Marsolek continued. “With this group of girls, I just teach them to play hard, never give up and be good sports. They have a lot of talent. I coached them when they grew up. They beat everyone. They’re just a little young now.”
Fond du Lac had lost to Littlefork-Big Falls, Minnesota Transitions Charter, Silver Bay, Lac Courte Oreilles, Pine City and Four Directions Charter consecutively before Tuesday’s win.
Bosto led the scoring attack on Tuesday with a game-leading 22 points, while eighth-grader Sara Fineday collected 17 and Francene LaDeaux had nine in the win. Marsolek also noted that eighth-graders Quintana White, Josie Wichern, Janessa Martineau and Whitney Mayorga all added baskets as well.
“The girls are a little inexperienced,” Marsolek said, “but they sure are working hard.”