Kirk etches name in state hoops history

MOUNTAIN LAKE — Mountain Lake senior center Carter Kirk didn’t play organized basketball until he was in seventh grade, but no one would ever know it if they watched him play the sport.

In his final season on the high school hardwood, Kirk has become only the 25th Minnesota prep basketball player in history to score more than 2,000 points and pull down more than 1,000 rebounds during his career.

“My freshman year I didn’t even know what a post move was, but now I think I have a pretty good set of skills,” said Kirk.

Kirk, a 6-foot-7 center, has scored 2,038 points and grabbed 1,232 rebounds in his four years on the varsity squad.

“I think it’s really cool to score 2,000 points. When I scored 1,000, I thought that was great and that if I stayed healthy and things went well I could maybe reach 2,000,” said Kirk, who holds the Mountain Lake scoring and rebounding records. “I had no idea about being the 25th player to pass both those numbers – that’s a big accomplishment.”

In the Class 1A, No. 2-ranked Wolverines’ game last Friday night – a 92-86 triple overtime loss to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, Kirk raised his own single-game marks by scoring 42 points and pulling down 21 rebounds.

“At their gym (in Lake Crystal), they have those scoreboards that show individual points. I looked up at one point and thought, ‘Wow that’s a lot,'” said Kirk.

The 21 rebounds he grabbed that night against the Knights surpassed Beau Herrig’s previous school record of 1,211 rebounds.

Kirk also had 1,996 points before the game against the Knights, easing past the 2,000-point mark to clinch his place in Minnesota state high school basketball history.

“I’ve played AAU the last three summers and that has really helped my game a lot,” said Kirk. “During the high school season I don’t see one-on-one defense very often, so it’s hard to work on moves. But those games on that team have really helped me work on all parts of my game.”

With the Wolverine opponents focusing on their force inside the lane, it has helped Kirk’s fellow seniors produce from the outside.

“I’m confident in myself, and that I can score if I need to, but this year I’ve been trying to pass more,” said Kirk. “It’s good to see the other guys have success and build their confidence, too. I’ll do whatever it takes for us to win.”

The Wolverines have had no problem finding the win column this season, going 19-2 overall and have earned an undefeated 14-0 record in the Red Rock Conference.

“I think that our loss to Lake Crystal was a tough one. We probably should have won that game, but we didn’t, and hopefully that will push us to get better here at the end of the season,” said Kirk. “Last year we lost to a team that we shouldn’t have and then went on to win and make it to state, so I hope that happens again.”

This season, despite Kirk’s record-setting numbers, he is averaging 17 points per game, less than his 25-point average during his junior season.

“Last season, I think that Carter knew we needed him to score a lot for us to win. We were a junior-dominated team that lacked maturity,” said Mountain Lake Area head coach Shawn Naas. “This year, we have 12 seniors and I think that Carter gets as much enjoyment from passing the ball and helping his teammates score as he does scoring himself.”

And Kirk won’t stop playing basketball once he hangs up his Wolverine jersey either. The senior has committed to playing Division II basketball for Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

“I had probably five different offers that I was deciding between, but Marshall is close enough all my family can come watch me play. I think that ended up being a big part of my decision,” said Kirk.

For the rest of this season, the Wolverines will need Kirk and their potent offense, along with a stingy defense, if they hope to get back to the state tournament for a second year in a row.

“I think that last year when we got to the tournament there were a lot of guys that were wide-eyed,” said Kirk. “This year, we all have that experience and I think if we can get our defense up where it should be and we keep playing like we are capable of, in my opinion no one can stop us.”