Jan. 20—HOWARD, S.D. — As last year's Howard boys basketball team made its run to the Class B SoDak 16, Logan Mentele was one of the Tigers' main players to come off the bench in key spots.
He also played during their run with a herniated disc.
Mentele recalls a moment during practice in preparation for the Tigers' stretch run last February when he pulled up for a routine jumpshot. Upon landing back on the floor, he immediately knew something was wrong.
"I jumped to do a jumpshot and I just had like a jolt of pain go down my leg and my spine," he said. "And ever since then it was kind of there. It wasn't so bad, but then it just got worse after that."
Mentele opted for surgery over the summer in order to be ready for his senior year at Howard. With an estimated eight-week recovery period following operation on a herniated disc, he was only cleared to resume physical activities only a week before the start of basketball practice.
For someone who is used to moving around and being active playing basketball, having to avoid strenuous activities throughout the recovery period was tough on Mentele, who normally continues to play basketball and is part of the Tigers' track and field team during the offseason.
"It definitely sucks," Mentele said about not moving around following surgery. "I couldn't do much. I couldn't go to open gyms or play basketball with my summer team. It was hard for me because I don't like to sit around. I like to do stuff."
Going back to practice for the season was a welcomed change for Mentele, though he admitted there were some fears about reinjuring his back. The coaching staff, not wanting to take risks with rushing him back into the fold, slowly built Mentele back to full speed. They also made sure he'd be okay and ready to start the season the moments he did take some falls.
"There were a couple of days early on where he felt some soreness that kind of scared him," Tigers head coach Nick Koepsell said. "We sat him down for a day or two of practice, but ever since he came back from that, he's been pretty much full go."
Making it back to the floor was the goal for Mentele. He rewarded his efforts with his abilities during the game, but also being a good teammate and stepping up into a more prominent role with the Tigers, who are in action on Saturday at the Hanson Classic against Winner at the Corn Palace.
"He's a good basketball player," Nick Koepsell said. "He's worked really hard to get back, and his best attribute is his positive attitude. Being a good leader and a good teammate, as a senior, is a coach's dream. He's a great kid."
As Howard now enters the back half of its season, Mentele's shooting prowess will be relied upon to help the Tigers reach their goal of making the Class B state tournament.
Playing 23 games for Howard last season, Mentele averaged 3.8 points per game off the bench. However, he shot 38% from the 3-point line, showcasing the ability to enter the game and make an immediate impact offensively.
"He brings to our team something that the other guys really don't and that's shooting," Koepsell said. "I think being named a starter gave him a little extra juice and was like, 'Coach trusts me here. I'm ready to go.' He's taken it and ran with it."
This season, Mentele is averaging 6.5 points per game for the Tigers as the team's fifth starter. While his strength is being the shooter his teammates can go to in situations, Mentele has been working on becoming a more active player during the game.
But as a senior, above all else, he'll miss sharing the floor with his teammates when the buzzer goes off in his last game. Until then, it's all about finishing out the year and waiting to see what's next.
"There's five seniors on this team that I've been playing with ever since I was young," Mentele said. "It'll feel different the last time I get to play with these guys. The goal is to finish the season with the boys and end on a good note."