DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – If you’re a basketball fan in Wisconsin, you know his last name. His father Jeff played at UW-Green Bay and is the men’s program’s third all-time leading scorer. His aunt Chari is the women’s team’s all-time leading scorer for the Phoenix. But Dawson Nordgaard has quietly carved out his own identity on the basketball court.
“I see myself as a big man that can take everyone towards him, and then I can kick it out or make a move to score. Just open up the outside perimeter a little bit for other players.” Nordgaard had a major growth spurt over the past three seasons and started his senior year at 6’ 9”, which has made him more of a post player at this point in his career. “Obviously using my height to my advantage and using all the skills that I have naturally to separate myself.”
Jeff added, “He’s taller than me. If I was his height, I might have had a great career, but he’s 6’9” and he’s more of an inside player right now. I think he’s got the ability to develop into a perimeter player, but he’s just scratching the surface of what he could be I think. He’s got a few inches on me and he’s got a frame that he can put some muscle on, and now with the way the weight programs work in colleges. We won’t necessarily recognize him in a couple years.”
It’s clear that Dawson has the pedigree on the court, especially when you consider that his mother Alexis played D1 basketball at Butler, but Nordgaard took the long road to get to where he is. He’s gone from being an unknown player on the bench to earning a scholarship at Michigan Tech.
“I remember freshman year, I didn’t think I would be anywhere close to where I am right now,” said Dawson. “I wasn’t even a starter freshman year, and to just go from that, to where I am now, it’s really been great.” Jeff added, “You know he was a “B” player all the way throughout. And I talk about this to other younger kids and coaches and tell them, don’t give up. You never know what they might turn into.”
Nordgaard started to realize his potential as a freshman at West De Pere High School, but it was one moment in his own backyard when he knew he could take his game to new heights by beating his dad in 1-on-1. “It was great. I remember the feeling of finally beating my dad 1-on-1, he always asked me to play. And ever since I’ve beat him, he still hasn’t beaten me yet.” Jeff added, “No, I haven’t (beaten Dawson in 1-on-1 recently). I figured out that I need to screeners to get me open at my age. I’m too slow and out of shape. Here’s the deal. He’s so long defensively, that he can defend me at the three-point line where I usually have the advantage. And when I try to attack, he’s just too long and blocks my shots. And I never get my shot blocked. I went up against Rashard Griffith, Vitaly Potapenko, Amal McCaskill, and never got my shot blocked. But my kid blocks my shot.”
In his prep career at West De Pere, Nordgaard averaged just over 14 points a game as a starter leading the Phantoms to a 33-15 record, and there’s one game that stands out the most, a regional playoff win over Pulaski.
“I love my high school career. I think last year in the playoffs. I had a game-winner and I remember one of my teammates shot the ball, and I got the rebound and put it in. It was a buzzer-beater and then the fans rushed the court and it’s probably my favorite moment of my career.”
Dawson was recruited by several D-3 colleges, but as a late bloomer on the basketball court, his talents were starting to get noticed by D-2 schools. The decision to head to Houghton, Michigan, was originally a tough one, but eventually, a no-brainer, especially after he made his recruiting visit. “It’s only four or five hours away, so it’s pretty close. And I love the campus too. It’s really nice next to a river, really cool looking, and I really like the place. It feels great that my schools paid for and to go to college debt-free and play basketball too? It feels really nice.”
Jeff added, “Alexis and I are really proud of him. This is a great opportunity for him and he’s come such a long way. He was 9th man as a freshman, the 7th man on the JV as a sophomore, and then was a two-year starter on varsity. And now a scholarship basketball player? He’s really come along way and we’re so happy for him.”