Rugby athletes participate in ECI
Last season, the Rugby boys basketball team made its first trip to state in more than 15 years.
That wasn’t enough for the underclassmen on the team.
With aims on returning to state, Brad Heidlebaugh and Tanner Bernhardt joined North Dakota’s 16 and under ECI basketball team.
ECI has teams in a number of age groups that travel throughout the Upper Midwest playing summer tournaments.
ECI Director Lucas Moorman contacted Heidlebaugh about playing and suggested Bernhardt try out for the team as well.
Both spent much of the summer honing their games against strong competition.
“It’s a lot different,” Heidlebaugh said. “It’s really a good experience. You get better and know what you have to work on.”
The team played seven tournaments in total, and Heidlebaugh played with the team in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Sioux Falls, S.D. and St. Cloud, Minn.
Heidlebaugh said Bernhardt’s game took off playing with the better class of competition this summer.
“He looked really good,” Heidlebaugh said. “He used to mostly be a shooter but now he’s in the paint a lot and is a lot smoother and stronger. He’s improved a lot.”
Bernhardt was a reserve on last season’s state qualifying team but will be asked to take on a much larger role for the Panthers next season.
“I’ve definitely made a lot of progress from the workouts and the good competition,” he said. “I had a couple games (scoring in the) upper 20s. It was about the best I’ve played and the most fun.”
The duo played with a number of players from across the state, including Spencer Jacobson from Fargo Shanley and Brock Robbins from Cavalier.
Heidlebaugh said it was a rewarding experience.
“Just playing some good competition, and I made some new friends I wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t have played ECI ball,” he said.
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