Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Al Rose 

Jake Naslund, a top athlete, excellent student


Al Rose

Jake Naslund ended his career by throwing three innings of no-hit baseball.

Jacob “Jake” Naslund was most known for being a top scorer on the Barnum basketball team that came within one last-second desperation three-pointer from going to State this year. He also played football for a couple of years and was a remarkable baseball player. It is hard to believe that Jake was out-done in the classroom. “I had a 3.98,” related Naslund. “I was ranked seventh or eighth in our class. We had a lot of smart kids.”

Jake’s favorite class was Music Theory. “It was fun class,” he said. “There were only a few of us and a guitar and a piano. It was a break of sorts from the rest of the classes. Mrs. Koski was the teacher. I ended up learning a lot from that class. College Literature was the most challenging class. It taught me how to think deeper into stories and other works like poetry. It was good and I learned how to think differently. Miss Hornseth was the teacher.”

Naslund spoke a little about the sport he played for two years. “We started playing football in seventh and eighth grade,” said. “My earliest memory there is playing around in the backyard with my brother Alex. He’s 22 or 23 now. We played like we were passing and scoring touchdowns. He was on the baseball team with Jake Lambert when Jake broke the all-time single season strikeout record that had stood since the 60s. Jake had a fastball that was live and moved in and he had that filthy curve ball. I was probably in abut the fifth grade, but I remember that. As far as football, I was a back-up quarterback on JV as a sophomore and a starting safety. I really did not to play that much as I was not very big back then. I guess my one highlight was starting to run and I saw Dylan Switzer downfield and I just launched it for a touchdown. The junior year I was a scout team quarterback and was on that team that went to State. We played Minneota in the snow, sleet and wind storm at St. Cloud State and lost big. We were sure they win State, but that sure didn’t happen. I was inspired by Justin Newman. I was his back-up at tight end and he taught me a lot. Josh Hogan and Andy Youngren were inspirational as well. They loved football so much as did Justin. I did manage to letter my junior year. One memory that I have is when I was playing scout team quarterback in practice and there was a time when Andy (Youngren) got me. He hit me so hard I was mad. I realized later that he is just that big and strong and fast and that’s how he tackles. Everyone is so good when you get good enough to go to State. I was just glad to be able to be part of it.”

Jake talked about his favorite sport and the one he is most recognized in and will play in college. “Basketball is my favorite sport,” stated Naslund. “I made the varsity team as a freshman as I got a jersey when we went to playoffs. I lettered my sophomore, junior and senior seasons. A favorite earlier memory is way back when, it was probably second or third grade, I remember showing up late for a game at Carlton. I used to play a point guard when I was younger. I became a “2” or shooting guard. That was probably the sophomore year. When I liked playing the most was when I was matched up against a shorter player. I could drive and score almost anytime then. As far as something that was hard to learn, it was ball handling. My ball handling has always been not my best skill. We worked a lot on that and I practiced on it myself to work toward overcoming that. We worked a lot on defense. Our defense was in the top three this past year - in any class - for least amount of points allowed per game average. It was around 40. That was all Coach (Rich) Newman. That is what he preached. ‘You don’t have to score as much to win,’ he’d say. Good defense is a lot of work, but there’s nothing better than frustrating an opponent on defense. I remember a regular season game at Cook County and I got going and kind of took over. We lost by one point. I scored 25 or 26 points. My career high was 35 against South Ridge with just a couple of three-pointers mixed in there. My three-point shooting was best my sophomore year, probably because I shot more of them. As I got bigger I took more pull-up jumpers and I found those my junior year. My senior year I did a lot more driving to the basket. I was able to average 20.8. The junior year, I’d guess it was about 12 points per game.”

Jake remembered some earlier inspirations. “I remember watching A. J. Palmer,” he said. “I wanted to be like him. He was a senior when I was in fifth grade. He could do it all. He could shoot, play defense and he was a great passer. Josh Earlywine was another great passer. It’s really good to have him as an assistant coach, because he’s close enough to our age to relate and he works well with Coach Newman’s defensive-minded game. He likes to remind us of his all-time assist record at Barnum, but we laughingly remind him that he also had the most turnovers his senior year. I learned so much from Coach Newman; in fact just about everything I know about basketball and life that really matters.”

Naslund spoke to the opposition and his teammates. “The toughest players this year were Jackson Lindquist and Taylor Mattison,” Jake stated. “Lindquist was a very good three-point shooter and Mattison could really go to the hole and he was a great rebounder. Mattison could also hit pull-up jumpers and even nail some threes. Before that there was also Jake Stainbrook. He could really jump. I was only able to get one jam (dunk) this year. I still get teased about that. It was against Silver Bay. It may look easy, but it is not as it takes a lot of timing. I liked playing with Daniel Warpula. He could really pass the ball and he liked to push it up-court. We liked to run. Bobby Minkkinen and I could really read each other and anticipate each others’ moves. He was a very unselfish player. I was told I was unselfish and should have shot more but if you see the court, you’ll often find someone else open and closer to the basket that will get a higher percentage shot. Brandon Newman was another very unselfish and smart player and he fed me a lot. I’ll miss playing with my friends. And there’s the Barnum fans. In the semi-final game this year against Royalton they had the ball and we got a standing ovation for defense as they couldn’t score for a minute. And after that heartbreaking loss to Browerville the fans were right there to hug us. I’m playing in two leagues now. The Will Starks league is very competitive. There’s a couple of DI players like Dyami Starks from Duluth East and Chad Calaterra from Cloquet. The other league is at St. Scholastica. One name people might recognize there is Corey Johnson.”

Naslund wrapped it with his third sport. “I played baseball all four years,” he said. “The freshman year it was left field. In the elementary years it was mostly infield and some pitching and shortstop and that’s how it was for the junior and senior years. I liked coming in against Marshall in the playoffs this year. We had fallen behind quite a bit and really didn’t have much to lose. I was able to throw three innings with no hits, no runs and only one walk and I think six strikeouts. My dad was a very good baseball player and was on a team that won the Polar League title. He won the league batting title. He played against a couple of guys that eventually went professional as pitchers. He got a hit off of each of them. He played third base. I think I ended up hitting about .500. I started off hitting lead-off and then moved to the three spot. I think I think I led the Polar League with three home runs and I did get Polar League First Team. What I liked most about baseball is just the playing of the game. There’s nothing like handling a grounder and throwing out the runner at first. I also liked stealing whether it be second or third. I’d guess out of about 20 attempts I was thrown out two or three times.”

Jake talked about pitching. “The hardest thing about pitching is getting it over,” (the plate) he said. “It can look so easy, but it’s not, especially if you’re struggling. Everyone will say, ‘Just throw to the mitt,’. Sometimes you feel like saying ‘Here’s the ball; go ahead.’ My best pitch was a pretty good fastball. That’s better though when you have a good curve ball. The toughest guy I batted against was Trevor Nummela from Moose Lake-Willow River and also Rudy Ketchum from there. He could really hit his spots.”

Naslund outlined his future hopes. “I’m going to St. Scholastica,” he stated. “I filled out questionnaires from there and UWS Superior also contacted me. I liked St. Scholastica more. Jonah Dahlman from Braham is there. He’ll be a senior this year. I’m going into Sports Medicine. Jon Fundine, our trainer, did so much for us. Also, as I had three or four injuries I went to one doctor all those times and he was very good. I want to be able to help people like that. I’ll miss the students and teachers and everyone. I want to thank my dad, Dan, and my mom, Leslee. They’d go everywhere from down south to up to Grand Rapids to see me and to support the teams. They gave us so much support. There’s nothing like Barnum fans. They loved and supported us. There were many times they’d be at Lou’s (Rustic Diner) and insist picking up the bill. I’ll be back to watch great players like Brandon Newman, Daniel Warpula and who could ever forget Rodney Mullen nailing those four three-pointers in about minute during that last game of ours. It should be another great year.”


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