International Falls' Humbert to pitch for Gophers

International Falls senior Ben Humbert was asked Wednesday afternoon what sport is his favorite. Humbert excels at three of them. Pressed to pick, he responded like so many baseball batters he has set down over the years -- with befuddlement. "Um...

Lakeview Christian Academy basketball player Bjorn Broman signs his national Division I letter of intent to Winthrop University on Wednesday afternoon as his coach Jeremy Uecker watches. Clint Austin /

International Falls senior Ben Humbert was asked Wednesday afternoon what sport is his favorite.
Humbert excels at three of them. Pressed to pick, he responded like so many baseball batters he has set down over the years - with befuddlement.
“Umm,” Humbert said before a long pause. “I don’t know; it’s a tossup between basketball and baseball. They’re kind of neck and neck.”
Humbert was preparing for basketball practice, but he was talking baseball. That’s because the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to pitch at Minnesota. The Gophers lured Humbert with a partial scholarship, the chance to stay close to home and the big stage of the Big Ten.
Humbert’s pitching repertoire includes a fastball that has touched 89 MPH on the radar gun, along with a slider and a developing changeup. Despite being a senior, he still is relatively raw considering his sparse workload the past few high school seasons.
“We’ve had some tough springs,” Broncos coach Eric Walls said. “Ideally, you have a guy like that and you’d run him out there 10, 12 times and that would be pretty darn good, but he just hasn’t really logged very many innings during the high school season.”
Speaking of rough winters, Humbert was reminded that most Division I commitments hailing from the “Icebox of the Nation” are hockey-
“Gotta mix it up,” he said.
Humbert was 3-1 with a 0.59 ERA last spring. He fanned 62 in 35⅓ innings. A right fielder and first baseman when he’s not pitching, Humbert also hit .488 with two home runs and 17 RBIs while posting an on-base percentage of .577. In the summer, he led the International Falls American Legion team to the state tournament with a 9-0 pitching mark and a 0.67 ERA. His 122 strikeouts came in just 62⅔ innings.
Humbert’s future sport will take a back seat to his current one for the winter. Already International Falls’ career leader in scoring (1,595 points) and rebounding (1,022), Humbert and the Bronco basketball team have big goals for 2014-15.
Then, baseball becomes a full-time gig.
“He’s only going to grow and get better with the coaching staff at Minnesota,” Walls said. “He’s got a lot of sheer natural ability, but he’s obviously put in the work, too.”
Humbert is up for the challenge.
“It’s a big jump, but I’m looking to go in there, work as hard as I can and fight for a spot, and make my town proud,” he said.
Broman, Illikainen,Gustafson sign tenders
While hockey is traditionally the sport in which the Northland is known for producing Division I talent, three basketball players signed letters of intent Wednesday.
Lakeview Christian Academy senior Bjorn Broman, former Grand Rapids star Alex Illikainen and South Shore senior Megan Gustafson signed on the first day of the fall signing period.
Broman, who enters the 2014-15 season with 2,720 career points and could rank third in Minnesota scoring history and first in assists by the end of his career, inked with Winthrop University of Rock Hill, S.C. His brother, Anders, ranks first in Minnesota scoring annals with more than 5,100 points and plays basketball at South Dakota State.
The 6-foot-9 Illikainen, who left Grand Rapids after his junior season to attend Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., signed with Wisconsin. The two-time all-state selection averaged 26.5 points and 15.2 rebounds per game as a junior and is the Thunderhawks’ all-time leading scorer (2,185 points) and rebounder (1,402). He is ranked as the No. 95 player in the country by
“Alex is an individual we’ve had our eyes on for a long time and have enjoyed watching him mature into a very good player and fit for our program,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said in a news release. “Wisconsin fans will love watching Alex play. He brings a ‘lunch pail and hard hat mentality’ with him every time. His willingness to do the little things to help his team succeed are evident. You don’t (total) 1,400 rebounds without some toughness and a fearlessness to stick your nose in some rough places. Alex’s offensive game is becoming more diverse as he continues to develop. We’re looking forward to working with Alex and are very excited to be the staff that will be able to help him develop both on and off the court.”
Gustafson, a 6-3 forward who averaged 29.8 points, 18.9 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game in 2013-14 for the Port Wing school, is a two-time all-state selection who has led her team to a 53-2 record and back-to-back Division 4 state tournaments. She is an ESPN HoopGurlz Top 100 recruit (No. 92).
“Megan Gustafson is a left-handed post that is a work horse,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said in a news release. “She is a post that plays well with her back to the basket and doesn’t shy away from anyone or any contact.”

  •  Grand Rapids’ Taylor Kane signed to play basketball at Northern State and Moose Lake-Willow River’s Adri Jusczak did the same at Southwest Minnesota State.
  •  While Minnesota Duluth did not release any signing information Wednesday, various media reports and Twitter posts had Orono’s Kiera Nelson signing to play basketball at UMD and Red Wing’s Reagan Haley doing the same to play hockey for the Bulldogs. Haley, a forward, totaled 24 goals and 59 assists last season in once again guiding the Wingers to the state tournament, where they finished third. Haley’s older sister, Paige, is in her second season playing hockey at Minnesota. Madeline Rooney of Andover also is slated to attend UMD.

Trevor Entwisle, out of Neenah, Wis., also is expected to join the Bulldog men’s basketball team.

  •  Among volleyball standouts, Grand Rapids senior Sidney Mattson signed with Division I North Dakota after committing there last winter. Chaska’s Sarah Kelly, who helped her team capture the Class AAA title last weekend, is listed as heading to UMD.

Mattson’s teammate, Maddie Keute, will play at Minnesota-State Mankato.

  •  Another Grand Rapids athlete, diver Morgan Justus, signed with Minnesota. She had committed to the Gophers in October.
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