Boys Basketball: Ahonen surpasses coach's expectations
Kobe Ahonen Year: Senior School: Brainerd Position: Center Season stats: Finished with 509 points (18.2 per game), 276 rebounds (9.9), 32 assists (1.1), 27 steals (1.0) and 17 blocked shots. He shot 55.3 percent (194-351) from the field, 32.1 per...
Season stats: Finished with 509 points (18.2 per game), 276 rebounds (9.9), 32 assists (1.1), 27 steals (1.0) and 17 blocked shots. He shot 55.3 percent (194-351) from the field, 32.1 percent (17-53) from 3-point and 63.4 percent (104-164) from the line.
Scott Stanfield recalled his first meeting with Kobe Ahonen and his family.
It was at the Brainerd home of Keith and Jenny Ahonen and the Brainerd head coach talked with the family about their son's future as a Warrior basketball player.
Ahonen was coming off a freshman season where he blossomed on the court. Stanfield thought the 6-foot-6 post would be ready for varsity play as a sophomore.
"I remember having the conversation with his mom and dad and telling them he would not be the same player that you see now," Stanfield said. "I told them when he is all said and done he is going to be one of Brainerd's best and he was. It was fun to see him grow and he turned out better than even I had envisioned for him."
Stanfield said he predicted Ahonen would be a 14-point, 6-rebound type of player. The senior captain of the 20-8 Warriors averaged 18.1 points and 9.9 rebounds a game helping him earn Brainerd Dispatch Player of the Year honors.
Ahonen also tallied 32 assists, 27 steals and 17 blocked shots. He shot 55.3 percent from the floor, 63 percent from the line and 32 percent from 3-point.
"I like post players who can shoot from the outside," said Stanfield. "He turned out to be better than I thought he was going to be. I thought he would be a 14 points-a-game scorer and grab six or seven boards. I thought that would be his stat line as he got older, but he blew that out of the water. We haven't had a player approach that average of nearly a double-double every game."
Stanfield, a hard-nosed coach, thought Ahonen's best stat line was 33 charges taken. The previous season record during Stanfield's coaching tenure was Riley Kline's 27 charges taken.
Ahonen recalled having Stanfield come to his house as a freshman. He called that night shocking and motivating.
"It took me the first half of my first season to get used to the varsity game," said Ahonen. "The reason I was able to do it so quick was because I had a great group of seniors that year and they took me under their wing. Logan Madsen and I were partners in everything. We were both in it together because it was both our first year on varsity. All the seniors took us under their wings."
As a sophomore, Ahonen averaged 8.5 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. He added 24 assists, 16 steals and nine blocked shots, while shooting 48.2 percent from the field, 66.3 percent from the line and 21 percent (7-of-33) from 3-point.
Those numbers jumped to 14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds a game as a junior.
"He was a real quiet leader, but his leadership, just through his work in practice and in games, was really important to us," Stanfield said. "He's the hardest-working kid I've ever coached and I've had some pretty good players, but Kobe was just a step ahead of them. His work and his habits and just his character as Kobe-there isn't a kid like him that I've been around. He has unbelievable character and integrity. He never made an excuse for anything. He just kept running and did the things he does well.
"He'll be really, really hard to replace. I've been sitting here for the last few weeks trying to figure out how we replace 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. In high school, that's really something."
Stanfield said Ahonen played with controlled emotion. His calmness helped his teammates, who fed off the three-year varsity veteran. But he never questioned his post player's intensity.
"You could see it in his eyes during timeouts," said Stanfield. "You knew the next few minutes were going to be all his and they were going to be special and he did it all year like that. He didn't have to say it, but after you've coached kids for a few years you can just tell. He had that look in his eye. I never had to say anything."
Ahonen said his biggest improvement as a player came mentally. He knew he wasn't always the fastest or strongest player on the court. His philosophy was if he could be smarter he would have an advantage.
He said he surprised himself with what he was able to accomplish on a basketball court. One of those things was reaching 1,000 career points.
Ahonen finished his career as the No. 7 all-time leading scorer in program history with 1,184 points, just 12 shy of tying Landon Stanfield, Scott Stanfield's son.
"It's an honor," Ahonen said. "It's unbelievable. Stanfield was a big part of my success. He believed in me. He always had me in at the end of games. Having me in at the end of the game, mentally gave me confidence because then I knew he had confidence in me."
That confidence peaked this season as Ahonen became more forceful with the ball. He attacked the rim with purpose and entertained the crowd with his dunking ability.
"Right away, I was timid with the ball," said Ahonen. "I didn't want to be shooting a lot because I wasn't sure what the seniors would think. As years went on, I knew I had to take over at times. When shots weren't falling, I had to get the inside game going."
Stanfield credited a weightlifting program for helping Ahonen take the beating he did during the course of the season.
"He did it in traffic, which is unusual for a high school kid, to catch, gather and drop step dunk," said Stanfield You don't see that very often. Even in the state tournament with the really explosive, good teams, it's really difficult to do and Kobe did it over and over again."
Ahonen finished his three-year career with a 49-35 record.
"I don't have any regrets," Ahonen. "I thought we played well all season. Obviously, there are the Fergus games (two losses to Class 3A's state runner-up). They were close, but they could have gone either way."