Park Center sophomore Dain Dainja battles two Wayzata defenders early in the second half of Friday's game in Wayzata. Dianja had 15 points in the Pirates' 84-52 victory over the Trojans. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
Every summer since he can remember, Park Center’s Dain Dainja has trained with his father and grandpa in Chicago.
His dad, Dana Jackson, a former Gophers forward in the 1990s, and his grandfather Don Jackson, a forward for Northwestern in the '60s, helped Dainja develop his basketball skills through his childhood.
As a freshman sixth-man last season for the Pirates, Dainja knew this summer was the time to refine the athleticism in his DNA as he'd become a starter.
Dainja, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, scored eight of Park Center’s first 17 points in an 84-52 victory Friday night at Wayzata.
“They’ve always taught me to work hard, and this past summer I’ve been working on my athleticism more: getting off the floor quickly, jumping more and making my feet faster,” Dainja said of the Jacksons following a 15-point night.
Dainja and North Dakota State commit Jarius Cook poured in 19 points as vital pieces of a 30-9 run to open the game which pushed Park Center (3-1), ranked No. 5 in the Class 4A Minnesota Basketball News poll, to a commanding victory. Cook sank a trio of three-pointers during that span.
“Dain’s going to be a great player one day, he’s going to be making money playing basketball somewhere,” Cook said. “He really spent the summer working hard. He’s extremely well developed for his age.”
Dainja, five inches taller than No. 9-4A Wayzata’s biggest player, made his frame felt in the opening minute when he caught a pass from Cook in the post, dribbled and budged his way under the basket for a bank-in. He added an offensive board and putback to give his team a quick 8-2 lead.
Supported by a veteran core of guards he played up a level with in middle school, Cook, D.J. Purnell and Khari Broadway quickly took advantage of the added attention in the post. Dainja posted up a defender in the paint and pushed the ball out to Cook for his first three of the night. Cook soon caught fire, totaling five three-pointers in the first half where he scored 20 of his 22 total points.
Jacob Beeninga, who finished with 15 points, hit a long-range shot out of a timeout that brought the Trojans (2-2) within eight points before Dainja showed flashes of his athleticism that halted any momentum Wayzata could gain.
Dainja worked his way along the baseline and laid in a basket, followed by a fadeaway jumper from mid-range. Cook continued to shoot confidently and aided a 52-point half for the Pirates.
After suffering its first loss of the season to No. 1-2A Minnehaha Academy 61-55 last week, Park Center was reminded of the feeling of defeat and channeled that frustration on a Trojans team that beat them a season ago, 59-54.
Dainja said his team fine-tuned its defensive discipline in holding out for over a minute since the loss to the Redhawks. It showed in the first half as the Pirates let the Trojans make mistakes and took advantage of opportune turnovers.
“We just got to keep playing like that,” he added. “We can’t let any of these other teams thinking they're better than us. We just need to keep doing us.”
Park Center senior Jarius Cook puts up a shot from beyond the arc Friday night against Wayzata. Cook had five three-pointers as part of his 22 points in the Pirates' 84-52 victory over the Trojans. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
North Dakota State commit Jarius Cook scored a game-high 22 points to push Park Center to an 84-52 victory over Wayzata Friday night at Wayzata High School.
Cook tallied 20 of his points and sank five three-pointers in the first half to help the Pirates (3-1), ranked No. 5 in the Class 4A Minnesota Basketball News poll, post 52 points in the first 18 minutes.
Sophomore forward Dain Dainja racked 15 points, while Jacob Beeninga had a team-high 15 points for No. 9-4A Wayzata (2-2) as the Trojans only double-digit scorer.
Wayzata guard Jacob Beeninga looks for room to dribble against Park Center Friday night. The Trojans found little room to move offensively as they fell to the Pirates 84-52. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
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