With his basketball team tucked into the gym at Nicolet (Glendale, Wis.) High School, Allan Hanson wastes no time ratcheting up the intensity at practice.
Many are eyeing the Knights as the Division 2 state championship favorite, but during the opening moments of a practice over a week before its first game, Nicolet is more concerned about watching its layups go through the net.
With two pairs of scorers and rebounders going at once, the team has two minutes to make 40 left-handed layups. If they come up short, they have to do it over. If they fail to reach 40 again, they keep going back until they hit 40. Sweet-talking the coaching staff won’t work. If a player misses a few layups, he’s on the baseline running gassers.
“We come in and we practice like we have a target on our backs,” Knights junior Jalen Johnson said. “Every game we play, we’re going to get every team’s best game. It’s high intensity. We’ve got to bring it because teams aren’t going to be playing around with us this year.”
Eyes on Nicolet
After shooting up recruiting ranking boards in his sophomore season at Sun Prairie, Johnson and his younger brother, Kobe, transferred to Nicolet before the 2018-19 school year.
It was about as high-profile as a move can be at the high school level.
“I didn’t know he was coming here until he went online and announced it,” senior guard Sonny Phinisee said. “Twitter blew up, Instagram blew up, my Snapchat blew up, all that. It was crazy.”
Jalen is ranked No. 9 in the 2020 Chosen 25, and his current list of scholarship offers is a who’s who of college basketball, including Duke, Kansas and Kentucky.
Kobe, a talented sophomore, played on junior varsity for most of last season at Sun Prairie but has garnered attention through his play on the AAU circuit and will figure prominently in the Knights’ rotation this year.
“Kobe’s under-the-radar,” Jalen said. “I think give it about seven to eight months and he’ll be getting known like I am now. He’s a great player.”
WIAA rules deem student-athletes entering their junior or senior years ineligible for varsity competition “unless the transfer is made necessary by a total and complete change in residence by parent(s).”
The Johnson family made the move to the district, where Jalen, Kobe and Nicolet are looking to take the area by storm, and were cleared to play.
“It was just time for a change,” Jalen said. “We have a lot of family out here, so my family and I just felt it was right and at the right time just for a change.”