All-Area Boys Basketball: Finstuen helps put Pine Island on the map
As a first-year head coach four seasons ago, Pine Island boys’ basketball coach Jim McNamara had a talented freshman waiting in the wings in Broc Finstuen. But McNamara wasn’t about to just hand over the reins to the youngster.
“We kind of knew right from ninth grade, and even the summer before that, that he was going to be a special player,” McNamara said. “We decided early on to have him start with some JV and prove he deserved it.
“The first game, he played two halves of JV and one varsity. Second game, one half of JV and two on varsity.”
By the third game of his freshman year, Finstuen was a varsity starter.
He was young. But even back then, Finstuen had a chip on his shoulder.
“On JV, I was like, ‘I want to be on varsity. I need to be on varsity. I need to show ‘em how good I am and I don’t belong on JV right now,’” Finstuen said. “(McNamara) saw that and that’s when he moved me up to varsity.”
The freshman had lofty goals. Finstuen wanted to be the one that put Pine Island boys’ basketball on the map and make it to the state tournament. And in his final season with the Panthers, the 2017 Republican Eagle All-Area Player of the Year led Pine Island to uncharted territory with a school-record 23 wins, a share of the Hiawatha Valley League Gold division title and a spot in the Section 1AA semifinals.
“There’s never a kid that’s been willing to put in the time as much as Broc. He’d be at the gym seven days a week if he could find someone to open it up,” McNamara said. “Whether it’s at 6:30 in the morning or in the evening, he put in the hours.”
Averaging 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this winter, the 6-foot-4 forward admits he struggled to find his shot early in the season. But, Finstuen had a feeling things were different for the Panthers this season.
“Everybody was buying into everything and everyone was working hard in practice. Not one day did we come in just lollygagging,” Finstuen said. “Everyone worked their butt off, even if they knew they weren’t going to get minutes.
“We had 17 players and we wouldn’t have done anything without those 17. All the records that we broke, it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for those guys. It was always about the team. If one person wasn’t showing up, there’s always someone else that’d show up.”
From the onset of his varsity career, Finstuen’s court vision set him apart for a Pine Island lineup that had three players average double figures.
“He’ll make a pass and as a coaching staff, as the ball is leaving his hands, we’re thinking, ‘Where is that ball going,’” McNamara said. “It’s going to someone open. It’s going to someone no one saw.”
It also helped when he found his stroke and hit a school-record 65 percent of his shots.
“Broc’s decision making was the best it has ever been this year,” McNamara said. “He averaged 19 points a game and took 100 less shots than he did last year. If he didn’t have a great shot, he was willing to pass.”
McNamara continued, “He trusted his teammates more and I think he saw the benefits of it and didn’t have to force the issue too much. … He trusted in what we were trying to do.”
Pine Island ended up falling two games short of a state berth after taking a loss in the section semis to top-ranked and top-seeded Caledonia. After finishing his career with 1,809 points, 968 rebounds and 425 assists, Finstuen managed to help Pine Island become one of the top teams in one of the toughest sections in Minnesota.
“We fell short, but we made it farther than we ever have in Pine Island history,” Finstuen said. “That was really fun. We had a really great season. We accomplished a lot.”
Finstuen had big goals as a high-school freshman. And he’s got more big goals ahead as he is committed to play at Central Wyoming Junior College. Several Division II schools made offers, but Finstuen wants to bet on himself and see if there is a D-I offer out there.
“A lot of people have told me I can’t make it to Division I. Once (Central Wyoming) came up, I knew I had to take that opportunity,” Finstuen said. “I’m going to go there for a year and I’m going to work my butt off to get a Division I scholarship. … It’s not guaranteed. It’s all on me if I want to work that hard. I have to do my thing out there. The rest will take care of itself.”