Local prep recruits picking their colleges

At 6-foot-8 and 150 pounds, Cody Carlson's problem his sophomore year was obvious."Yeah, I was skinny," he said.The Duluth East basketball player needed to add some weight if he expected to play, and under the watchful eye of his grandfather, he ...

At 6-foot-8 and 150 pounds, Cody Carlson’s problem his sophomore year was obvious.
“Yeah, I was skinny,” he said.
The Duluth East basketball player needed to add some weight if he expected to play, and under the watchful eye of his grandfather, he came back his junior year at about 6-9 and 200 pounds, playing an integral part inside for the Greyhounds.
Today, as part of the first day of the fall signing period, Carlson will sign a national letter of intent to play NCAA Division II basketball at Concordia-St. Paul, a school that has preached patience in allowing Carlson time to develop.
“The coaches showed a lot of interest in me, and I felt like they know my true potential, and how to make me a better basketball player,” Carlson said.
Carlson said Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Bemidji State were among the other schools that showed interest. Carlson was about 6-7 as a freshman, has grown about an inch each year and now might be pushing 6-10 and 210 pounds, but “hasn’t measured in a while.”
After playing sparingly as a sophomore, Carlson scored about 11 points per game last season.
“Cody was always growing into his body, and last year was the first year he kind of broke out of that shell and matured into a real player,” East coach Rhett McDonald said. “The thing about him, for his size, he has great feet and great hands. He’s able to shoot the 3-pointer and can handle the ball really well for a guy who is 6-9. And at the same time, he’s still so raw. We don’t know where his ceiling is. He has tremendous upside, and I think that’s why Concordia is so excited about him, and I would be, too. I’m really, really happy for him.”
The signing period lasts for a week, and some athletes wait to sign because of other commitments or to ensure family can make it.
A look at where some Northland seniors are headed:
-- Cloquet’s Evan Erickson will compete in track and field at the NCAA Division I University of North Dakota. He plans to sign Thursday so his parents can be there. The three-time state meet qualifier holds the Lake Superior Conference meet record in the discus and is also a standout in the shot put, with his Twitter page listing him as a “heavy object thrower.” He also plays hockey and football and is a member of the Lumberjacks’ Section 7AAAA championship team.
-- Superior’s Brandie Goldberg, the 2016 News Tribune softball player of the year, will sign her national letter of intent to play at UMD next week, so that her family can attend. Goldberg went 15-5 with a 1.02 ERA and 257 strikeouts in just 151.1 innings last spring.
-- Superior’s Justin Reinkall will sign a letter of intent Thursday to attend Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Neb., on a baseball scholarship. SCC is a Division II National Junior College Athletic Association program that plays in the Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference.
-- Duluth East’s Sam Laakso has committed to play college baseball with the Des Moines Area Community College Bears. The News Tribune All-Area performer had a 5-2 record last spring, with a 1.96 ERA in 46.1 innings. He also had two saves and struck out 25 for a team that was ranked among the top 15 in Class AAAA much of the season.
-- Two Harbors’ Ayla Lemke plans on signing with Concordia at 10 a.m. today in a school ceremony. Lemke is an all-around athlete who play basketball for the Golden Bears.
-- Hermantown forward Ryan Sandelin has committed to play college hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato, while his teammate, defenseman Dylan Samberg, has committed to Minnesota Duluth. Sandelin had 27 goals and 37 assists for 64 points for the 2016 Class A champion Hawks, while Samberg added 7-15-22.
-- Grand Rapids forward Micah Miller has committed to play college hockey at St. Cloud State. While not tall at 5-9, Miller is known for his speed. Miller had 18 goals and 20 assists for 38 points last season in helping the Thunderhawks capture third in Class AA. Teammates Gavin Hain and Blake McLaughlin, both juniors, have already made DI hockey commitments to North Dakota and Minnesota, respectively.
-- Hermantown’s Jordyn Miller has committed to play both basketball and softball at UMD. One of the Northland’s top all-around female athletes, Miller will compete with the Hawks’ volleyball team in the Class AA state volleyball quarterfinals on Thursday. She plans on signing with the Bulldogs next week, when things slow down - a little.
-- Mountain Iron-Buhl’s Mya Buffetta will sign today to play basketball with the University of Jamestown (N.D.). The heady Buffetta has been a key player in making the Rangers a perennial state power, including a third-place finish in Class A last year.
-- Virginia’s Lexi Ahrens has committed to play volleyball at North Dakota.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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