Heise to continue basketball at D3 school

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Senior contributing to youth in Oconto County

Times Herald Photo by Chris Caporale

Lena senior Connor Heise commits to playing basketball at St. Mary’s University in Minnesota during a signing ceremony Thursday at Lena High School. He is joined by his mother, Susie Gee, and father, Wes Heise.

For those who know Lena High School senior Connor Heise, it is not surprising that he will continue playing the sport he loves at the collegiate level.

For Heise, who committed on Thursday to play basketball at Division III St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, basketball is more than just a game.

“He’s almost addicted to basketball where he’s in a gym almost every single day,” Lena head coach Jeff Heimke said. “That amount of time, that amount of work is what you have to put in if you’re going to play at that level. Even since our season ended, he’s still in the gym every single morning working on his game, and the time and dedication is what led to this.”

The Wildcats’ season ended in a 79-74 overtime loss to Gresham in the sectional semifinal. Heise fouled out with two minutes left in the extra period and Lena trailing by one.

Heise was a member of the senior class that brought success to the Lena basketball program, including a 20-6 record this winter.

“He kind of had that competitive drive that pushed him, and I’ll definitely remember that competitiveness about him,” Heimke said.

Heimke said Heise works with athletes not only in the Lena School District, but also surrounding areas such as Gillett and Oconto Falls.

The message he has for those athletes is the same that drove him to be successful.

“I want them to know that if people tell you you can’t do something, just prove them wrong,” Heise said. “Work hard because at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make things happen. So I just show them that I’m not the tallest, I’m not the biggest kid, but if you put the time in, you can make a lot of things happen and dream big.”

Asked about what sold him on St. Mary’s, Heise responded, “the location” and “great academics, and that’s the most important thing for me.”

He will study business management and math during his four years as a Cardinal.

St. Mary’s went 6-18 last season and 4-16 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Under head coach Jamison Rusthoven, who previously coached at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, St. Mary’s has a record of 22-77 over the past five seasons. Heise also got to know assistant coach Kyle Brown during his time as the lead recruiter at St. Norbert College in De Pere.

For the next few months, Heise will continue to work to ensure a smooth transition onto a team that lost just four seniors.

“At the college level, everyone is quicker, faster and more physical, so defensively, that’s the main importance right now, getting quicker laterally and more physical,” Heise said.

Heise will play in the Division 5 Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game in Wisconsin Dells on June 17. Heimke will be an assistant coach.