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Eastview's 3-sport squeeze

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 11/23/12, 8:53PM CST


Team-first guy Ben Oberfeld will become a rare four-time Lightning basketball letter-winner.

Last season Ben Oberfeld (44) celebrated with Quinn Trusty after the section final. This season Oberfeld has a new set of teammates. File photo by Jim Gehrz • jgehrz@startribune.com

In an age when many kids choose to specialize and focus on one sport at early ages, Eastview's Ben Oberfeld is a breath of fresh air.

The three-sport senior helped the football team to a Class 6A state tournament berth this fall. He plays baseball for a state powerhouse program and manned the court for the Lightning basketball team into the state tournament last year.

Even as an NCAA Division I basketball recruit of Bucknell University, he felt it was an easy decision to continue on with all three activities.

"All my friends kept playing them, so why would I stop?" Oberfeld said.

All that variety has paid off for the 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior, who firmly believes he wouldn't be the same player in any of his three sports if he had given one or two of them up to focus on basketball.

One other motivational factor that separates him from any couch potato: "I get bored when I have too much free time," he said. "I had just enough time off to rest my legs a little bit, and then I was starting to get bored. Then basketball started, so -- it's perfect."

When it comes to basketball, Oberfeld is the spark -- or the explosion -- the Lightning will look to this season.

Size is the first thing people notice when they see Oberfeld, but that's just part of the narrative. While most players with his strength and bulk remain one-dimensional, Oberfeld brings quickness and a finely tuned, all-around skill set to the floor.

"He has a really high motor," head coach Mark Gerber said. "He wants to defend. He wants to rebound. He can run up and down the floor, jump, catch passes and do all those little things.

"If you see him play, he's a nonstop kid. He puts a lot of pressure on other guys."

Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said: "Ben loves to bang and compete, and we think he will be able to contribute right away because he can defend and rebound."

Oberfeld averaged 11 points per game last year for the co-conference champion Lightning. He returns as the lone starter. Oberfeld was essentially the only junior seeing regular playing time on last year's senior-laden state tournament squad, so now he's embracing the leadership role.

"He's the guy with all the experience now, and he's playing with guys that aren't very experienced, so it's completely new for him," Gerber said. "The good thing about Ben is that he's a team guy first. He wants his teammates to do well. He sets a great example."

Oberfeld has been playing varsity basketball since he was a freshman at Eastview.

"He'll be a four-year letter-winner for us, only the second one in school history," Gerber said. "To letter all four years, that's pretty hard to do in basketball."

Now Oberfeld will be lining up next to boys he grew up with in youth basketball. They may not be the South Suburban favorite, but don't count them out in any game.

"I'm really excited to play with this group of guys," Oberfeld said. "We have potential."

The Lightning will host Duluth East at 7 p.m. Saturday to open the season.

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