Harry Sonie played primarily off the ball as a shooting guard during his first three seasons at Division III Augsburg. When head coach Aaron Griess asked him at the start of his senior year to switch to point guard, though, Sonie was all for it.
He just didn’t have much experience — and for good reason. Sonie played high school basketball at Apple Valley, where he was teammates with one of the best point guards in state history, Tyus Jones.
“Having me as one of the leaders with the ability to facilitate the offense, it just made sense,” Sonie said. “Coach didn’t wait to make the change. He made it right away.”
It’s one of the many reasons Augsburg’s fortunes have changed this season. After failing to win even a conference playoff game each of Sonie’s first three seasons, the Auggies made a strong run through the MIAC postseason tournament this year.
They finished it off with a win in the conference title game at Bethel on Sunday, giving them a berth in the Division III national tournament for the first time since 1999. They open play at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Rock Island, Ill., against Hope (Mich.) College. The game can be streamed live here.
Sonie’s new job as a distributor is made much easier by the vast array of three-point shooters on Augsburg’s roster.
It starts with MIAC Player of the Year Collin Olmscheid. The 6-8 senior forward averages 20.5 points and is shooting 45 percent from three-point range. He has 1,848 career points to rank fourth all-time in program history. One of the players above him, Devean George, was a senior the last time the Auggies reached the national tournament in 1999 and went on to play in the NBA.
“It’s extremely humbling to think about a guy like Devean George,” Olmscheid said. “Hopefully, we leave a good mark on Augsburg and do even more this weekend.”
Kevin McKiernan, who essentially swapped places in the backcourt with Sonie to take advantage of his off-the-ball shooting skills, poured in 61 threes this season and has made them at a 42.4 percent clip.
As a team, the Auggies made an MIAC-best 258 three-pointers this season. Six different players have made at least 25 from long-distance.
“Obviously we have Collin,” Sonie said. “But teams found out the hard way that if you try to take Collin away too much you’ll get hurt.”
Much of that damage came with Augsburg on the road. The Auggies are 13-2 away from home this season — a “road warrior” mentality, as Sonie says, that should serve them well at the national tournament.
Sonie and Jones, by the way, remain close. Sonie calls him “one of my best friends since kindergarten” and said he goes to Wolves games all the time while Jones was at Sonie’s senior day at Augsburg recently.
Between Apple Valley and the Timberwolves, Jones spent one season at Duke. All he did there was win a national title.
“We’re super competitive, and I needed to make the NCAA tournament,” Sonie said. “Trying to chase his national championship is my next goal.”