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One productive Panther

This two point shot from South Ridge senior Nick Carlson earns him 1,000 high school career points. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal1 / 3
South Ridge Panthers fans congratulate senior Nick Carlson on reaching his 1,000 point milestone during the game Friday night at South Ridge High School. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal2 / 3
South Ridge's Joey Janke gets a pass off below the net as Floodwood's Blaine Dahl tries to block his progress. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal3 / 3

Nick Carlson is certainly known for his lengthiness in the long and triple jumps pits during track and field each spring.

Yet, it was the South Ridge senior who soared to new heights Friday, Jan. 19, on the basketball court.

Fittingly for the jump-out-of-the-gym Carlson, the springy Panther guard nailed a 15-foot jumper over the top of the defense that brought both the South Ridge and Floodwood fans to their feet in the stuffed bleachers in Culver.

It was then, among the hoots, hollers, signs and smiles, that Carlson had become just the fifth Panther in school history to join the 1,000-point club.

"There's not too many who have done that at South Ridge," said Carlson, whose name will now be listed on the blue banner that hangs above the east wall's scoreboard, where just a handful of names are listed. "It'll be an honor to be up there. It's a great feeling."

Right after the 6-foot-2 tallied the fifth of what eventually became a game-best 23 points in South Ridge's 60-51 overtime defeat of the Polar Bears, first-year Panther Coach Joaquim Harris had the entertaining game stopped so he could award his do-it-all spark plug and address the celebratory crowd about his feats.

"He comes out here and works hard every single night," Harris said afterward. "He's a natural leader, very humble and a special young man."

Also coaching for several years as the head of the Duluth East girls' program, Harris knows basketball. He's seen his share of players. And when he first laid eyes on Carlson, Harris knew he had someone special on his sideline.

"He's a guard, he's a post, he's whatever we need him to be," Harris said.

Harris added that his " flying under-the-radar" Carlson has two 40-plus-point performances this winter, while it's doesn't take long to see that he can rebound, pass and play defense, too. Sure, he can jump — taking 11th at state in the triple jump last spring and who also has a personal-best in the event at 42 feet, 11 inches. His older brother, Jake, even holds a couple of school records himself.

But perhaps the most-valuable attribute Carlson hones is his kindness.

While the Panthers are 6-8, Carlson continues to stay positive, get his teammates involved and relish the moments of his final prep season of a worthy four-year career. After last week's nine-point loss to their biggest rivals, the 17-year-old spent near an hour in the gym afterward, doing interviews, taking pictures and enjoying his memorable night with a contingent of family on hand.

In fact, while Harris was addressing the crowd moments after Carlson's big shot, Carlson's little cousin, Anika, was on the west side of the court holding up a large decorative sign with basketballs used for his newly-earned 1,000 points.

"It's kind of indescribable," Carlson admitted of the moment.

Carlson received a commemorative poster as well, all signed by his teammates and coaches. He said he might bring it to college next fall, noting he's planning to attend St. Scholastica to play basketball.

One can only assume more points will be scored in his future, but Carlson won't certainly forget his past as a productive Panther.

"I'll remember this for sure," Carlson said. "I have a lot of great memories from basketball."

"He's just so successful, yet humble, at everything he does," added Harris.

Carlson's teammates would agree.

"He makes everyone better around him," said junior Joey Janke, who's older cousin Dominic Janke is also a 1,000-point Panther scorer. "Everyone plays around him.

"It'll be nice to see him up on that banner," Janke said. "I'm just going to give him a big hug."

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