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Warriors Athlete of Week: Stats don't concern unselfish point guard

Jenna Degen Sport: Basketball Position: Point guard Year: Senior Age: 17 Height: 5-7 Career highlight: Competing in triple jump in 2013 Class 2A state track meet Other sports: Volleyball, track & field Grade-point average: 3.7 Favorite class:...

Brainerd's Jenna Degen dribbles down the floor against Rogers in December. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Brainerd's Jenna Degen dribbles down the floor against Rogers in December. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls

Jenna Degen

Sport: Basketball

Position: Point guard

Year: Senior

Age: 17

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Height: 5-7

Career highlight: Competing in triple jump in 2013 Class 2A state track meet

Other sports: Volleyball, track & field

Grade-point average: 3.7

Favorite class: Biology

Favorite food: Ice cream

Favorite movie: "Notebook"

Favorite TV show: "Bachelor"

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Favorite website: "Instagram"

Hobbies: Boating, running, editor of Brainonian

Future plans: Become nurse practitioner, hopes to play volleyball and/or compete in track & field in college

Favorite athlete: Beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor

Parents: Mike and Julie Degen

What Jenna Degen brings to the Brainerd Warriors often doesn't show up on a stat sheet: Passing the basketball, being a hound on defense, being a leader.

But her contributions are precisely why the Warriors have won seven of their last nine games and are in the running for their highest finish in the Central Lakes Conference in years.

"It's kind of the point guard's job to forget about your stats and contribute to everyone else's," Degen said. "I like to focus on my defense and obviously my passing because I feel that's where a point guard should make their biggest contribution to their team. And my job is to settle everyone down when things get a little crazy or hectic."

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Warriors coach Troy Nelson said Degen's defense is one of the most unheralded aspects of her game.

"She defends the other team's best ballhandler game in and game out and does a fabulous job," he said. "She frustrates them. When she has to give them space, she does. When she has to get up on them and play with great pressure, she does. She helps limit and disrupts the other teams' offense."

Degen credits her father, Mike, for convincing her that playing defense is important.

"I didn't start playing basketball until sixth grade. I danced before that," she said. "(Defense) was kind of my way of getting to play in my younger years. My dad would say if you play defense they can't keep you out of the game. In eighth grade, I started but just for my defense. They would keep the ball away from me but I played defense."

Degen does contribute several things that show up on the stat sheet. She leads the team in assists (2.46 apg), is third in scoring (10.86 ppg) and collects an average of 3.26 rebounds per game.

Some of Degen's passes make Nelson cringe initially.

"She makes some passes that when she lets it go you go, 'Oh no,' but then you're like 'Oh yes. That was a great pass.'

"She does a great job getting us into what we want we to do and helping us push the tempo. She's really good at pushing the ball up the court to open teammates and helping us get out and run."

Through 15 games Degen has scored 163 points to trail only Kylee Heurung and Katy Johnson in that department.

"She's really a good shooter," Nelson said. "Also this year she's been fearless attacking the rim. Last year she shot 78 free throws the entire year. She's already at (86) this year. She's done a great job of getting to the free throw line."

If she has an open shot, Degen is encouraged to fire away.

"I don't always take it," she said. "If someone has a better shot, I like to pass. I like to do that because I feel like that's my job. I take pride in my passing."

Degen attributes her ability to drive to the hoop to finally overcoming the aftereffects of concussions that she suffered her freshman and sophomore years.

"That really set me back," she said. "That prevented me from being as aggressive. ... I've grown out of the symptoms of post-concussion anxiety. I've been able to overcome that this year. I don't get as scared when I get hit a little bit underneath."

Leadership is another of her intangibles. Degen's one of four senior captains.

"As a point guard you have to be a leader both by your actions and vocally," Nelson said. "She's done a great job being a vocal leader. She calls all of our offenses. She gets them from me. She does a great job communicating with teammates throughout practice and games."

Other notable efforts:

• Robb Pike, Evan Schreifels, Landon Bruggeman, Noah Baker, Ben Hanson and Conner Gunsbury, boys Nordic skiing, received all-conference honors.

• Gaby Haire, Sara Whiteman, Claire Gunsbury, Faith Watson, Emily Nelson, Lydia Herath, girls Nordic skiing, received all-conference honors.

• Brady Mick, boys hockey, made 47 saves vs. Moorhead.

• Jaelyn King, gymnastics, won two events vs. Little Falls.

• Peder Smith, David Supinski & Matt Majerle, swimming, each won two events and were on two winning relays vs. Fergus Falls.

• Kylee Heurung, girls basketball, scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds vs. Fergus Falls.

• Alex Stone, Alpine skiing, won the girls race in the Brainerd Invite at Mount Ski Gull.

• Cody Vleck, floor hockey, scored four goals vs. Anoka-Hennepin.

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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