Tunell tops Telegram All-Area Basketball TeamTunell plans on continuing playing basketball at Bethel
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Erick Tunell didn’t have to look far for inspiration when he headed to the basketball court as a boy.
His father was a huge fan of the sport; and his older brother, Alex, set a benchmark for Tunell.
“My goal was always to beat him in 1-on-1, him and my older brother Alex,” Tunell said.
For years, Tunell came up on the losing end of every showdown with his father. Then, as a freshman at Superior High School, Tunell finally claimed his first victory.
“I was super happy. I came home and told my mom all about it,” Tunell said. “He took it nicely. He just laughed and said, ‘Yeah, he did.’ It was a good feeling.”
Tunell, now a senior at SHS, credits his father and brother for pushing him to hone his basketball skills. Even now, Tunell said, playing against his older brother helps him prepare for game situations.
“He is a really good defender and it makes me work on getting by him,” Tunell said. “So both individuals just pushed me and made my goals higher. They’re like the targets that I was trying to shoot for to be like.”
Tunell, the 2013 Superior Telegram Boys Basketball Player of the Year, led Superior this season with 14.2 points per game. He shot 48 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line. The senior also dished out 57 assists and finished the season with 61 steals.
“All around our best player,” said Dave Kontny, head coach of the Spartans. “Erick’s leadership on the floor is to be commended. Had he played in a more offensive orientated system his numbers would be a lot higher.”
Tunell was named to the Lake Superior Conference All-Confernece first team and was chosen to play in the Border Battle All-Star game hosted by the Duluth Amateur Youth Basketball Association. Tunell led the Wisconsin team with 21 points.
“Erick’s work ethic in the offseason over the years (and) playing AAU really elevated his game to the next level,” Kontny said.
Tunell began playing basketball in second grade. He remembers following his brother Alex — two years his senior — to practices.
“I went to their practices and just tried and played around with them,” Tunell said.
He moved on to the traveling teams in the years that followed and then advanced to the junior varsity and varsity levels in high school.
Tunell said he’s enjoyed his time as a Spartan, but he can hardly believe it’s come to an end.
“When you’re younger — a freshman — you see the varsity as kings. Especially on the bus, you just walk back, give them high fives and tell them that they had a good game,” Tunell said. “And that was you this year. You’re that person that they all say nice job to in the hallways; try to wave at you.
“It’s really almost humbling to know that you made it this far, and not many people have this opportunity to play.”
Tunell made his journey to the varsity team with a large group of classmates. He remembers when each player joined the group, starting with Ben Erickson and Anthony Valentine in sixth grade. Bryan Sanders joined the traveling team when the boys were in seventh grade, and in eighth grade Derek Kontny and Jordan Hughes signed on to complete the sextet.
“A great group of guys that I got to play with — all smart, all fun,” Tunell said. “We really clicked well.
“Just going to those tournaments, having 50 games a year, just going to the hotels; you really get to know those people during those younger years and then through high school playing with them. Just always being there and just having fun throughout the season got us to know how each other played.”
Tunell has been successful on the court, but he’s also been mindful to apply himself in the classroom.
“You really have to be persistent in what you do,” Tunell said. “Read for comprehension is what my teachers say. You can’t just read it and have your mind wandering. You have to focus, you have to sit down, put everything away, go to your little study place and really zero in and focus.”
Tunell, and A student, squeezed every minute out of his days to find time for his studies. Over the course of his high school career, he has taken five Advanced Placement classes, two or three College in the Schools classes and a number of other courses for college credit.
Tunell plans to attend Bethel University in the Twin Cities next year, and he is counting on his challenging high school schedule to give him a head start.
“Hopefully I’ll be going to college as a sophomore, maybe graduate early,” Tunell said.
He will continue to play basketball at Bethel and intends to major in exercise science. After completing his undergraduate studies Tunell hopes to continue his schooling to become a physical therapist.
“That’s the plan for now,” he said.