EVELETH — The Golden Bears’ Jake Sickel has multiple skills on the basketball court, which he uses to the utmost each night.
The Eveleth-Gilbert senior can drive to the basket and convert at the rim, or he can step outside and drain a 3-pointer.
“He’s always been able to kind of use his strength to his advantage,’’ head coach Adam Roen said of the 6-foot-1-inch Sickel.
With that already in his basketball tool box, the 18-year-old is working on more finesse types of things like open jump shots, 3-pointers and leading his teammates.
“It’s good to see him working on that end of things too,’’ Roen said.
The all-around player has put all of his talents to use since first getting a few varsity minutes as an eighth-grader and starting a few games as a freshman.
Now in his third year as a starter, Sickel reached a significant milestone Friday in Bigfork. With his 14th point midway through the second half, the senior scored his 1,000th career point in E-G’s 98-64 victory.
“That felt great,’’ Sickel said Monday at the high school. “Ever since high school, I’ve always wanted to score 1,000 points. It was really nice to finally get it. It feels nice to have that off my shoulders now.’’
He had some questions about getting it with COVID delaying the season — and even possibly cancelling it. “I had a doubt with COVID. We didn’t know what was happening with the season. Once we heard that we could actually play, I knew that I‘d have a good chance at getting it.’’
Roen said Sickel has been a huge factor in the team’s 9-1 start this season. He averages 15 points a game, more than seven rebounds a game and is in the top percentage in every category in the Iron Range Conference.
“He’s always going to give us his best game every night,’’ the coach said. “You can count on that.’’
Roen laughed a bit about Sickel’s unselfishness in regards to Friday night when he hit the 1,000 mark. The senior had other chances at 1,000 earlier in the contest, but he dished the ball off to a teammate that had a better shot.
“He’s more concerned about the team than he is about himself.’’
Asked if his teammates were trying to get him the ball, Sickel said they were because they knew about the mark.
“We were running a few plays for me to get the ball down low. That’s how I ended up getting it.’’
Sickel of Gilbert has been playing basketball since he was in kindergarten and enjoyed it from the beginning. “Ever since I started, I liked basketball.’’
His older brother Kyle (three years older) had a big influence on him getting into the sport.
“I feel like it was me following in the steps of my brother because I have an older brother that played basketball. We would always play outside by the garage. I just joined basketball and that’s where it all started.’’
Sickel attended a few basketball camps over the years, too, but it was playing the sport outdoors that probably helped the most.
“Whenever it was a nice day, I was always out shooting hoops in my driveway or going to a court with buddies.’’
Roen has also helped him the last few years in the program. “He’s helped quite a bit,’’ most often in practice during group or individual drills where he is going around helping the players out.
Having such a strong start to the season at 9-1 feels good to Sickel.
“Just two years, we didn’t have that good of a season. A few years later we’re having the best season that I’ve had so far.’’
What’s behind the turnaround?
The same team has been together for two or three years now, he said. “It’s just more chemistry and working together that has helped us a lot.’’
Roen became Sickel’s head coach when he was a sophomore and everyone has worked hard to learn from that down year.
“He’s definitely been one of the student athletes that want to change expectations’’ for the Golden Bears. “He’s the main one saying we can be better and we are better.’’
Overall, Sickel has been the glue that keeps the team together and grounded, the coach added.
He does it not only as a leader in the classroom but with his physical skills on the court. “He’s one of the few athletes you can ask to do anything,’’ whether it be bringing the ball up or guarding anyone.
“He is very versatile,’’ Roen said. “He does everything. He just gives 110 percent all the time. He never takes one play off — when the game is done, the young man is exhausted.’’
Sickel, who wants to attend college at a tech school, also has high hopes for the upcoming playoffs.
“We just want to get far in the playoffs. I’ve never made it past the first round.’’