by Bob San
SUN PRESS Newspapers
For Osseo senior basketball standout Ian Theisen, it seems like yesterday that he made the Osseo Senior High basketball varsity squad in eighth grade, a young lad thrust into the limelight of being a player on one of the best programs in the state.
“It was a little scary at first because I had never played with guys five years older than me,” Theisen recalled. “I felt like a little kid. Everything was very new.”
But the senior group led by Aaron Anderson and Joey Sonnenfeld welcomed Theisen with open arms and showed him the Osseo Way.
“I give those guys lots of credits,” Theisen said. “That group of seniors showed me the ropes of how you prepare and taught me really how to be an Osseo basketball player. They showed me how to represent Osseo with class and a lot of pride. I try to model after them. Osseo has established a winning program for many year and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Those seniors trained Theisen well for he went on to a brilliant five-year career and added to Osseo’s winning reputation. Theisen led Osseo to three state tournaments, including a memorable state championship in 2012 in which he hit the game-winning shot in the title game. And his name is etched on numerous school records.
It all started in eighth grade. Theisen’s height (6’9”), skills and athleticism made him the first eighth grader to make the Osseo varsity squad under Coach Tim Theisen. He started out mainly as a role player the beginning of year but by the end of the season he was the sixth man. That Osseo team won 22 games but did not make the state tournament. “That was a down year by our standard,” Theisen said.
The next season, Theisen broke into the starting lineup as a freshman.
“Ninth grade was also difficult because I struggled with a big head the beginning of the year,” Theisen recalled. “But after the first half I got down to doing what I was supposed to do.”
Osseo, led by seniors Sonnenfeld and Terez Van Pelt, Theisen and sophomore guard Bridge Tusler, won the section to qualify for state and took home third place.
The next season is one Theisen and Orioles fans will never forget. That powerful Osseo team of Theisen, Tusler, D.J. Hebert, Will Johnson and Michael Brush and a strong supporting cast rolled through the regular season and returned to the state tournament. There, the Orioles defeated Duluth East 62-51 in round one, edged No. 1 ranked Hopkins 87-86 in three over-times in an epic semifinal, before beating Lakeville North 49-47 in the championship game. Theisen hit a 15-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer to win it all for Osseo.
“It was very weird. I just remember bits and pieces. It was such a blur that sometimes I can’t believe it happened,” Theisen said. “Making that game-winning shot is my biggest highlight, but very close is when we beat Hopkins because it was such an intense game. They had that Hopkins Swagger, all that theatrics and cockiness. So beating them was in a way even better than winning the state tournament.”
Being the state tournament hero was great but it also carried with it some negatives.
“It was kind of hard because nobody really wants to reach his high point as a sophomore,” he said. “It was hard to top that. I kind of struggled with getting caught up in the moment. I struggled trying to keep motivated.”
Still, Theisen went on to enjoy a banner junior season. He became the first Osseo player to reach the 1,000-point milestone as a junior and Osseo won 25 games. But the Orioles could not return to state to defend their title when they lost to a talented Park Center team in the section final.
Then came a trying senior year filled with ups and downs. Theisen, who never missed a game in four years, injured his ankle around Christmas and ended up missing almost two months.
“No one wants their senior year to be injury-riddled,” Theisen said. “It was tough because it was the first year when I missed so many games. When we went through that four-game losing streak it was a helpless feeling because I knew that would not have happened if I wasn’t hurt. It tested my patience.”
Theisen tried to come back after the New Year and became the school’s all-time top scorer in a game against Coon Rapids Jan. 9. But he reinjured his ankle and had to sit out again. It was frustrating but Theisen understood that it was important to heal as much as possible for the late-season run.
“I understood the fact that regular season didn’t matter all that much and I wanted to make sure I was healthy enough to play the section games,” he said. “I am so proud of my teammates because we had an 11-game win streak when I was out. But after the four-game losing streak, I decided I better come back.”
Theisen returned to action when section began, even though he was not 100 percent. But he had to come back for the team and for himself.
“I just could not have my senior year end with me being carried off the floor,” Theisen said. “I had played too hard for that program for that to happen.”
Theisen sparked Osseo and played a pivotal role in rallying Osseo from a large deficit to edge third-ranked Champlin Park in overtime in the section championship game.
“If felt so good,” Theisen said of the section victory. “We were down against Maple Grove and Champlin Park. We took their best shots but we never gave up. It made me proud to be a part of that team.”
Theisen was not at full speed when the Orioles returned to the state tournament. He led Osseo with 21 points they weren’t enough as the Orioles lost to Shakopee in the quarterfinal. Theisen reinjured his ankle in that game and did not play in the all-star series.
“I’d say I was 80 percent at the state tournament,” Theisen said. “After the state tournament, I just wanted to make sure my ankle is completely fine. I don’t want to do anything stupid to jeopardize that.”
Theisen finished his career as the holder of school career records for most points (1,590), most rebounds (1,086), most field goals (618), most wins (128) and field goal percentage (60.5). He is proud of his achievements and feels his hard works are re-warded.
“I felt like I’ve worked really hard playing basketball for Osseo,” Theisen said.
Theisen is humbled by the fact that his name will be mentioned along side some great Orioles who played before him.
“That’s a great company between Sam Dower with his NCAA tournaments, Aaron Anderson, Bryan Foss, Xavier Reed and Carrington Tankson,” he said. “I am blessed to be put into that company.”
“Ian will go down as one of the best to come out of Osseo,” Coach Theisen said. “He obviously left his mark in a lot of ways. His name is littered in the record book and his impact will be felt for a long time. It’s a testament to his work ethic and his desire to become the best. And he will be remembered as the sophomore who hit the 15-footer jump shot to win the state champion-ship. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
Theisen is sad that his basketball career at Osseo is over.
“It’s hard because five years of you life is kind of done,” he said. “After the banquet I said, ‘It’s over now, stop feeling sorry because you had played your heart out. Rest up your foot and get in the best shape you can for South Dakota State University.’ ”
SDSU will be Theisen’s home for the next four years.
“I love the coach, love the system they run, love the recent success they have,” Theisen said. “I fit in perfectly with their style and toughness they want from their player. And I have a very good history of winning too so they know I won’t be satisfied.”
Theisen will be reunited with Tusler, who is on the SDSU football team. Tusler and Theisen will forever be linked in Osseo basketball lore because it was Tusler who dribbled, penetrated and dished the ball to Theisen for his state championship game-winner shot.
“Bridge is one of my best friends,” Theisen said. “I have known him for four years, we took a year off and we are back together for another four years.”
Theisen will be a Jackrabbit this fall but in his heart he will always be an Osseo Oriole.
“There is something about Osseo basketball you can’t put a finger on,” Theisen said. “We are always very close as a team and we always work very hard. There’s something that just makes you want to play your heart out. The name on the Osseo jersey means so much for me. Osseo is a very special place in my heart.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]