By Gary R. Rasberry
With every star player, there comes a point during the season where that person needs to step up and be a leader on the court in key situations.
This season, Dane Sommer received the call and he performed admirably.
For his part in helping the Minster boys basketball team make the state final four for the first time in a generation, The Daily Standard honors the Minster senior with its 2005 Dream Team Boys Basketball Player of the Year selection, the first Minster boy to win the honor and the first player from Auglaize County to win the award that began in 1994.
The run to Columbus capped off a four-year varsity career that saw Sommer evolve from a spot-up shooter to a complete player.
Sommer played his first two years with older brother Dustin. The pair were known for their prolific shooting, especially behind the three-point line with the confidence to keep shooting even when shots were not falling in stretches. That's what the top players on teams do, they have the confidence to know that the next shot is going to fall.
Dane led the team in scoring last season at 16.4 points per game, but this season, changes were coming about on the team.
Lee changed the style of the Wildcats' play, going with a faster and pressing-oriented defense. Sommer, who at 6-3 now was more of a wing than a guard, stepped up.
Although still very dangerous with the open look on the perimeter, Sommer's ability to get teammates involved made him the complete player that coaches strive to find. Sommer dished out 3.2 assists per game, good for eighth in the area, but it was also an upgrade in his defense that picked up, leading the area with 3.68 steals per game.
"In the past years, I penetrated and passed off in the paint in the flex offense," said Sommer. "This year it was more open. It started off a little slow but once we got used to it, I liked it a lot. I knew with the changes, I had to pick it up on defense."
With his assists and steals up and playing a more balanced overall game, Sommer's scoring average did dip to 14.6 ppg., but that was of no concern for the Wildcats' leading scorer because his teammates were getting more involved and the team was still winning.
"I didn't have to shoot it as much as I used to," said Sommer. "Zac (Boeke) could hit the three. I could dish it off to Justin (Spillers). It was a lot easier for us to put points on the board.
"Scoring is one thing, but playing defense and passing the ball are another. I think I can pass the ball really well. In the state semifinal, I had 12 assists (along with 22 points, helping him earn All-Tournament Team honors) and in the regional final, I had nine. Scoring wasn't really a big deal with me this year," admitted Sommer.
After fighting to earn sectional, district and regional championships, Sommer then got the opportunity to play at the Schottenstein Center for the state semifinals. It was a feeling that was undescribable.
"It was unbelievable. I have been down there for games before," said Sommer. "I never really realized how big and how amazing that play is. Twelve-thousand people were there for the game and it was amazing when you could get everyone to cheer if you make a big play. It was a great feeling."
Dane had plenty of praise for coach Lee for helping him mature as a player.
"He has been a great leader," said Sommer. "He taught me so much. When I was a freshman and a sophomore, it was all about the scoring. He talked to me about defense and playing the man-to-man and to play aggressive all the time. He taught me to give 110 percent."
"I think you saw the real Dane Sommer from the regional tournament on," said Lee. "What he did in the regional semis and final and the state semis, he just did so many other things for our ballclub other than scoring."
Sommer reached the milestone of 1,000 points in his career during the regular season finale with New Bremen. It put Sommer in unique company as brother Dustin is the school's all-time leading scorer and father Fred is in the second position.
"Growing up, Dad always said he was the top scorer in the family," said Dane. "Now Dustin is on top and I finished 11-12 points behind dad."
Dane is hoping that a fourth Sommer joins the list as younger brother Logan, who stands 6-2 as a freshman, played on the junior varsity this past season and sat on the bench with the varsity during the state tournament run.
"I hope Logan can make it (to 1,000)," said Dane. "That way, we can have all four of us on the list."