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Playing at state: A son follows his father's footsteps

  • Blog Post by: Howard Sinker
  • March 20, 2012 - 11:20 PM

In 1981, the Austin Packers came to the state tournament undefeated -- and with no chance to win their first-round game against Minneapolis North, the defending state big-school champion and the gold standard in Minnesota high school basketball at the time.

But the team with no chance won. Austin rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to beat North 56-48.

The center on the team was a lanky kid named Lee Aase

Today, when the Austin Packers play St. Paul Johnson in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Williams Arena, the center will be a lanky kid named Joe Aase.

Lee's kid is a 6-foot-8 junior who's one of the Packers' top players. It was Joe's cousin Tom who scored the winning basket on a last-second dunk that you might have seen on Upload over the weekend -- a dunk that also found its way to Deadspin. (If you read this blog, you probably know about Deadspin. If you don't, just be careful, OK?)

I wrote about that Austin team and we talked a bit about the game a few years ago when I went down to Mayo Clinic, where Lee works, for another story. I remembered bits of the story; Lee remembered entire pieces.

The other day, I asked Lee what it would be like to watch his son play at state. Here's what he wrote:

"I know I’ll have a lump in my throat on Wednesday at noon when my son Joe goes out for the opening tip. ...It’s especially neat that his cousin Tom – my brother Mark’s son – will be on the floor with him. We’ve coached and later watched Joe and Tom play organized ball together since they were in kindergarten playing on seven-foot hoops at the YMCA. To have them both starting on Austin’s first state boys' basketball tournament team in 30 years fulfills a long-held hope for our family…and for our hometown.

"I played in the era when socks were long and shorts were short, and the game has changed a lot in a generation, especially with the three-point shot. What hasn’t changed is the excitement of being among the state’s top teams and getting to play on the state’s biggest stage.

"It’s been a great year for the boys, as they won Austin’s first Big Nine title in 13 years. And clinching the section title with style, on a last-second Alley-Oop dunk, will rank among the top moments in Austin basketball history.

"For my high school teammates and me it’s fun to have this opportunity to reflect anew on our tournament run. The Aase cousins and their teammates are making their own memories, for themselves and for our community. We’re not living vicariously through them; we’re just here to enjoy their success and to encourage them to absorb the special experience they’re having.

"We can personally testify that they won’t ever forget it."

Last month, the Austin Daily Herald wrote about Lee and Joe -- and Joe's sister Rebekah, who played for Austin in the 2008 girls' tournament. “I’ve heard his state tournament story probably 1,000 times, but I never felt any pressure," Joe said. "I love basketball and I don’t play basketball because he played basketball. I play because I love it.”

Finally, if you want to see what the state tournament looked like in 1981 -- short shorts, long socks and a mop-haired Dick Bremer in the Robbie Incmikoski role at the 10 1/2 minute mark -- here's a look at Austin "stunning the Minnesota basketball world."

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